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.
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .