Category: Publishing

Ana Schnabl: Mojstrovina (The Masterpiece)

The latest addition to my website is Ana Schnabl‘s Mojstrovina (The Masterpiece). The novel is set primarily in 1985, five years after Tito’s death but with Slovenia still part of Yugoslavia and the communists in control. Adam, a university lecturer, has written a novel (called Masterpiece) which he has submitted to Ana, an editor at a major Slovenian publisher. She has obtained her position by agreeing to spy on potential dissidents for Sofia and Vitomil, a married couple working for the secret police. They now want her to spy on Adam but she and Adm (both married with children) start an affair. How will the novel, Sofia and Vitomil and, indeed the respective spouses affect the affair? Schnabl tells a superb story about a love affair made complicated, analysing it psychologically in some depth and also the complications the novel and Sofa and Vitomil bring to the situation.

The Independent Publisher Crisis

I have pointed out several times that the most interesting books being published in translation into English are being published by small, independent publishers. While all parts of the book trade are being hit by Covid-19, the independent publishers, often run on a shoestring with few not very well paid staff, are being particularly hit.

Yesterday’s Bookseller had an article on this topic. The Bookseller did a survey on the topic and it does not make for happy reading.

Two publishers, the excellent Jacaranda, publisher of books by writers of colour and Knights Of, publishers of children’s books, have started a crowdfunder. Please help if you can.

Several of the publishers mentioned in the Bookseller article will sell you their books directly from their website rather than your going to online behemoths (though you can also get the books from your local book shop, many of whom will now deliver). In the US Bookshop uses local bookshops as does Indiebound, while in the UK Hive supports local bookshops.

The publishers mentioned in the Bookseller article who sell on-line include:

Dead Ink Books, the experimental literary publisher
Bluemoose Books, publisher of the legendary Ben Myers, Ronan Hession and Ian MacPherson’s Sloot
Galley Beggar, publisher of Toby Litt, the brilliant Ducks, Newburyport, Eimear McBride, Alex Phleby and Gonzalo Garcia
Pluto Books,a publisher of radical non-fiction
Orenda Books, publishers of literary and crime fiction
September Publishing who publish books in which to lose yourself and find yourself again
Fledgling Press who publish and promote debut authors and new voices who have never been published before
Seren who publish a host of Welsh writers, writing in English, including Caradoc Evans, Clare Morgan, Dannie Abse,Emyr Humphreys, Kate Roberts, Niall Griffiths snd Russell Celyn Jones but also a lot of other interesting authors from other countries.
Firefly Press, the Welsh children’s publisher.
Lilliput Press, the Irish publisher of both fiction and non-fiction, including Sam Coll, James Joyce, Benedict Kiely, Flann O’Brien and Colm Tóibín
Guppy Books, publisher of children’s books

It would not be fair to omit those excellent independent publishers whose books you can buy directly from them but who did not appear in the article. These include but are certainly not limited to the following. Some of them also sell subscriptions, which are usually a good deal. Note that some publishers are not included as they do not sell directly to the public from their website. My apologies to any publisher inadvertently omitted.

404 Ink
And Other Stories
Boiler House Press
Carcanet Press
CB editions
Charco Press
City Lights
Coffee House Press
Comma Press
Dalkey Archive Press
Deep Vellum
Feral House
Fitzcarraldo Editions
Fly on the Wall
House of Anansi
Influx Press
Les Fugitives
Melville House
New Island Press
New Vessel Press
Nightboat Books
Noemi Press
Open Letter
Peter Owen
Peepal Tree Press
Peirene Press
Serpent’s Tail
Soho Press
Tachyon Publications
Tilted Axis Press
Tramp Press
Tupelo Press
Two Lines Press
The Unnamed Press
Vagabond Voices
Valley Press
Wrecking Ball Press

I must also mention the Borderless Book Club, a group of presses who meet online using Zoom to discuss translated literature. Here is their forthcoming programme, which shows you that you get discounts when ordering the books under discussion.

I urge you to support these publishers and initiatives. Without these and other independent publishers, the outlook for quality literary fiction will be grim. Over the past few years, we have enjoyed something of feast of new books in translation, even if, as I frequently remark, there are still far too many worthwhile books that have not been translated into English, though, in many cases, have been translated into other languages. if we lose any of these publishers, it will be a great loss.

End of the year lists

I frankly find end of the year lists of best books a little tiresome. Firstly, all too often, authors plug the books of their friends, other authors with the same publisher/agent or authors who plug their books. UK satirical mag Private Eye is good at poking fun at these. Secondly, many of them seem to cheer the same book. How many times do we need to be told that A Sense of Ending is the best book? Then you get the author/critic who says that the only essential book is some totally obscure book of Slovenian poetry (only available in Slovenian) which no-one has heard of, even in Slovenia, let alone in the English-speaking world. Yes, we know you are a genius. Finally, and most pertinent for me, most of the books I read in any year were not published in that year. I notice, from my website, that I seem to have read thirteen books published this year, all but one originally written in English. This is probably a record high for me.

Having said all that, of course, I do enjoy a sneak look at what the authors and other pundits are recommending, partially to agree, partially to sneer. I like the idea of combined lists. Fimoculous used to do lists of lists and not just for books but apparently has had enough. This year, the novelist Ivan Thays, in his wonderful blog Moleskine, gives a list of lists, mostly taken, as he states, from that other wonderful blog The Literary Saloon. It is an interesting bunch, though I have come across a few other interesting ones, which I looked at but did not note. Maybe I will try such a compilation next year. But then maybe I won’t. The sad thing is that, this year, as far as I can tell, there has not been any great novel published, though there may have been one we failed to notice and only become aware of in a year or two. Which is why I tend to ignore best of lists. As for the books on the lists, I have found that new books by the tried and tested authors have been sadly lacking. But I have probably not yet read the worthwhile ones and won’t do so for a few years.

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