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 . . .
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. . .