Posts filed under 'bookstores'

Weekly Dispatches from the Front Lines of World Literature

On our itinerary are independent bookstores in Boston, a bistro on the Tripoli port, and the curious outskirts of Paris.

This week, we’ve come across a spoil of literary riches! Big international names come to show in eastern USA, cultural collectives take full advantage of the historic wonders of Lebanon, and, in France, the académie Goncourt is always up to something. Our editors at the front are here to share the treasures.

Nina Perrotta, Assistant Blog Editor, reporting from the USA:

New York may be the undisputed publishing capital of the US, but the nearby city of Boston, just a few hours away by car, is also home to a thriving literary scene. Birthplace of the 19th century American Transcendentalism movement (notable members include Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott), Boston boasts one of the country’s richest literary traditions, and it remains a hub for writers and independent booksellers today.

Early last year, one of the city’s most prominent bookstores, the Brookline Booksmith, launched the Transnational Literature Series in partnership with Words Without Borders and the Forum Network. The series “focuses on books concerned with migration, displacement, and exile, with particular emphasis on works in translation,” and hosts conversations between writers and their translators. Previous Transnational Literature Series events have featured Ivana Bodrožić with translator Ellen Elias-Bursać, Olga Tokarczuk with translator Jennifer Croft, and Luljeta Lleshanaku with translator Ani Gjika.

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Looking Ahead to International Translation Day in London, with Jonathan Ruppin

Brexit has brought our relationships with other nations to the forefront of public debate, so some readers might seek to broaden their horizons.

Ahead of Asymptote’s celebration of world literature in the UK on September 29th at Waterstones Piccadilly, the founder of the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club—and our event’s chairman—reflects on the last year of reading and publishing literature in translation. Get all of the event details, RSVP to attend, and invite your friends here

Megan Bradshaw (MB): The title of a recent article from The New Statesman asks, “Translated fiction is not a genre. Why do bookshops tell us it is?” Would you say that giving translated fiction its own category—and a separate Man Booker prize—is counterproductive?

Jonathan Ruppin (JR): I don’t think this is true: it’s almost never shelved separately. But it’s certainly worth pulling out in regular promotions, because this boosts visibility and sales, and there are many readers who are drawn to translated fiction for the broader horizons it offers. The new Booker Prize is doing a wonderful job highlighting the importance and relevance of the novel as a global art form, something that matters a great deal given the safe and parochial nature of what is usually promoted in reviews and in shops.

MB: Last March, the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club tackled Pushkin Press’s reissue of a short story collection by the Russian writer Teffi: Subtly Worded. Many native Russian speakers forewarn that her signature wit will get lost in translation. How did the Book Club receive her?

JR: The book was definitely one of the best-received selections in our first year or so of existence, although everyone seemed to prefer a slightly different selection of the stories. But, more than any other book, we were aware that her intricate use of wordplay had to mean that a lot was lost in translation. But she’s still an extremely rewarding writer to read in English.

MB: A survey commissioned by the Man Booker International Prize found that translated fiction is outselling its English-language counterparts. The same survey also noted that UK sales of Korean books has increased, from 88 copies in 2001, to 10,191 in 2015—many of those sales were for Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, from Portobello. Is the rise of Korean literature here to stay?

JR: That depends almost entirely on whether publishers commit to it. Independent publishers are forging ahead with titles from outside Western Europe, but the bigger companies still rarely do so. And any greater interest in Korean books will come with greater exposure for translated literature overall, or perhaps Asian literature.

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