Apparently translated fiction has a new vibe, which Library Journal‘s Barbara Hoffert likened to the “cool band you haven’t heard yet” vibe. On October 26, she took a look at the state of fiction in translation and profiled ground-breaking presses, including New Vessel Press, Deep Vellum Publishing, Open Letter Books, And Other Stories, Gallic Books, and Akashic Books.
Hoffert notes that many English-language readers stay away translated works, for fear of feeling intimidated. New Vessel Press, founded in 2012 by Ross Ufberg and Michael Wise and located in New York City, is specifically challenging this notion. Ufberg and Wise use their prolific language skills to find stories that will connect to all readers while providing diverse perspectives: “our books are not about what an American thinks of Paris but what a Frenchman or Turk or Russian thinks.”
Focused predominantly on translation, And Other Stories is a British-based press that emerged in 2009 from “a reading group of translators, academics, and others interested in unexpected, under the radar-type books,” as publisher Stefan Tobler explained. Akashic Books, created in 1996 and located in Brooklyn, NY, publishes non-mainstream authors and has also found success in publishing translated works, namely with their “Noir” series which features international authors in collections about a specific city, such as Tehran Noir.
Chad Post, publisher of Open Letter Books, noted that the success small presses have had with translation is due to the fact that they can take more risks than larger publishing houses: “small presses are getting a crack at many fine authors,” a fact obvious with Open Letter Books’ smash hit Rock, Paper, Scissors by Danish author Naja Marie Aidt. In addition, Deep Vellum Publishing’s Tram 83 by Fiston Mawanza Mujila and Gallic Books’ The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra are receiving numerous accolades, bringing these authors and presses mainstream recognition.
As Hoffert said, “a hunger to understand a world up close and personal is motivating many readers.” In addition, younger readers are turning towards translated works, getting rid of the intimidating and elitist air surrounding translation and replacing it with the youthful hipster vibe of reading something that no one else has heard of. Though still small in numbers, literature in translation is finding its home at these small presses.