This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf
Just for the tango alone, Argentina would rank as one of my favorite countries in the world. And when you throw in their literary history—Jorge Luis Borges, Macedonio Fernandez, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Julio Cortazar, Juan Jose Saer—there’s a lot of reasons why I’m excited about next year’s Fair, when Argentina will be the official Guest of Honor.
This morning’s “Business Breakfast” provided a great introduction to the Argentine Book Market. Most of the presentations were stat-focused with information about the number of titles produced (20,000/year), overall number of copies (70,000,000/year), value of imports and exports (Argentina imports a lot more books than they export), and the overall size of the Argentine book market (the country accounts for 27% of all Spanish-language books published in Latin America).
But these numbers just scratch the surface. . . . For a variety of political and economic reasons, Argentina’s publishing scene is as incredibly fascinating and complex as the country’s recent history.
The prevalence of “micropresses” is one intriguing aspect of the Argentine book scene. As Octavio Kulesz of Teseo touched on this in his presentation, these micropresses came into existence in the wake of the financial collapse of 2002. And there sure are a lot of them: according to Trini Vergara of V&R Editoras, more than 80% of the publishing houses operating in Argentina fall into this category, whereas only 3% are “big” publishers, 2% are “mid-sized,” and 12% are “small.” Granted, when you look at overall production, this breakdown shifts considerably (micropresses account for 5% of all titles published, whereas big houses do 42%), but this diversity of voices and editorial vision make up what Constanza Brunet of Marea Editorial termed “bibliodiversity.”
One of the things I’ve always been fascinated/concerned with is the relationship between Argentina and the Spanish-language market as a whole. Although Argentina produces some of the most fascinating authors, most Spanish-language books are published in Spain and then exported to Argentina, and sold at a somewhat prohibitive price. The idea of splitting Spanish-language territories will hopefully be discussed at length next year, along with the opportunities eBooks offer for overcoming some of these distribution issues.
All that’s pretty fascinating, but getting back to the actual literature—Argentina is totally loaded with amazing writers. There are the classic authors like those mentioned above, but also including Manuel Puig, Ernesto Sabato, Silvia Ocampo. And there are any number of contemporary writers worth reading, such as Andres Neuman, Alberto Manguel, Ricardo Piglia, and Elsa Osorio. And the world is really catching on. Over the past decade, there’s been a significant rise in the number of Argentine titles translated into other languages. According to Fundacion TyPA, in 2001, 20 different titles were translated and published outside of Argentina. In 2007 that number had shot up to 120. (And to clarify, this is just number of titles—many of these books were translated into multiple languages.)
Copies—and more information about Argentina in general—can be found at Hall 5.1 D975.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .