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
After a while, all of the various “book market” presentations from the various countries start to sound the same . . . I know that’s a jaded, semi-ignorant thing to say, but there are only so many times one can here about the average number of books printed per inhabitant, or the total number of copies sold in a given year before all the numbers blur together into some meaningless mess of abstract geometry. (Was it Estonia that produced 27million books in 1991? Or was that 27 thousand? Or . . . )
I’m not trying to imply this info isn’t useful, and it is great when people hand out brochures afterward with all these stats in black-and-white, but what really sticks out to me are the activities various countries are undertaking to get the info about their books out to other editors and publishers. Like the Lithuanian/Latvian/Estonian 300 Baltic Authors presentation, or all the materials from Fundacion TyPA, or, in the case of the Czech Republic, the Czech Literature Portal, which is loaded with all the information a prospective foreign publisher might want.
The site hosts tons of profiles and excerpts from Czech authors, longer essays on Czech literature (such as this one about Czech lit since 1945), author interviews, info on literary periodicals, and, well, information about the Czech book market.
I truly believe that face-to-face meetings are still the best way for publishers to find out about books they should translate, but in the other 300-and-some-odd days in which an international book fair isn’t taking place, sites like these can be extremely useful in promoting a country’s literature and presenting their book scene to the rest of the world.
Now if only all the eBook proponents and new digital media people would hook up with these various foreign agencies . . . Although most of these sites are filled with great content, they tend to be pretty static and traditional. And there are a lot of techies out there who aren’t just interested in the production of e-content, but are looking at ways of using new technologies to engage with readers in exciting ways. I may be typing out of turn here, but it seems like these two groups (foreign literary agencies and new tech people) could benefit from each other . . .
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. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .