April 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

First off, thank you to the Mexican government’s Ministry of Culture for awarding Deep Vellum a substantial grant to support the translation of Carmen Boullosa’s Texas and the first two books in Sergio Pitol’s “Trilogy of Memory”: The Art of Flight and The Journey. This is the biggest grant Deep Vellum has received yet, and validates Deep Vellum’s commitment to publishing and publicizing Mexican literature. So excited, and so honored.

Thinking of drizzly London as I write, looking out the window at a beautiful Dallas spring day, 70 and sunny with a cool breeze. But London Book Fair, I’m coming for you! My flight arrives Saturday morning around 10am, and if you are reading this and have a hookup for Chelsea FC tickets, hook it up!

If you are in London or are attending the London Book Fair and the events surrounding it next week, come say hi. I’ll be ghosting around the Translation Centre in Earls Court 2 all week, and you’ll have the chance to hear me speak on a couple panels with some of my favorite publishers (And Other Stories! Archipelago! Frisch & Co.! Pushkin Press!) and some of the world’s greatest translators (Rosalind Harvey! Daniel Hahn!). Information on the events below:

THE FUTURE, Monday 7 April, 3:30-5:00pm, The Society of Authors (84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB)

How the translation industry can make the most of an evolving publishing landscape.
Speakers: Will Evans (Deep Vellum Publishing), EJ Van Lanen (Frisch & Co), Rosalind Harvey (translator, TA Committee), Stefan Tobler (And Other Stories). Chaired by Daniel Hahn.

MEET THE PUBLISHERS, 08 Apr 2014, 10:00 – 11:00, Literary Translation Centre (Earls Court 2)

A panel of top European, US and UK publishers reflect on the state of the Anglophone publishing market and give tips for translators hoping to ‘break into’ or secure work in the current climate. Our speakers will also consider the importance of risk-taking within the industry.

  • Stephanie Seegmuller (Chairperson), Associate Publisher and COO, Pushkin Press
  • Sophie Buchan, Publisher, Weidenfeld & Nicolson Fiction
  • EJ Van Lanen, Founder and Publisher, Frisch & Co.
  • Jill Schoolman, Founder and Publisher, Archipelago Books
  • Will Evans, Founder and Publisher, Deep Vellum Publishing


Speaking of Archipelago Books and how amazing they are, Publishing Perspectives has posted a wonderful piece on Archipelago and Jill Schoolman, who founded the press 10 years ago, and who provides an inspiration to me in starting and running Deep Vellum. If you read my piece in the Brooklyn Quarterly, “I Want You to Start Your Own Publishing House,” the structure of this article on Archipelago provides another good primer on how think about the many facets of publishing and how to put all the pieces together:

To hear Schoolman explain what she’s trying to do with each title, is to understand from where all the energy needed to run an operation such as this comes. The search for “a singular voice,” Schoolman says with eyes full of electricity, is what drives the engine at Archipelago Books. The mission is not a philosophical one. Nor is it one based on the naive idea that if we all understood one another better the world would suddenly turn utopian. No, this is less everyone shoulder to shoulder singing “We Are the World” and more Mrs. Ramsay from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, after growing upset at her children for manufacturing differences between people, saying that “people, heaven knows, were different enough without that.” The goal, it seems, is to introduce to the world a voice it hasn’t yet heard, or perhaps—in the case of their Musil, Cortazar, and Rilke titles – a voice one hasn’t yet heard in a particular way. As readers experience these new voices, Schoolman hopes, they will begin to see that, though we are different, we are not nearly as different as we sometimes – usually with very little evidence – make up our minds to be.

Congratulations on 10 amazing years, Archipelago, and here’s to the next 10, and the 100 after that!

Speaking of my piece in Brooklyn Quarterly, it has started some discussion about the role of publishers and the literary world that promotes literature. Check out M. Lynx Qualey’s ArabLit blog (the best source in English to learn about the vast and diverse Arabic literary world) for her piece, “Dear Will, Why I’m Not Starting My Own Publishing House“:

So if I were going to contribute to this ecosystem — of giving literature in translation a greater chance with English-language readers — I wouldn’t start another publishing house. I’d make this whirligig more entertaining. I would brighten the face of ArabLit; I would spark more discussions about trends in Arabic literature; I would run more zizz and contests; I would create book-club materials; I would organize events; I would run more excerpts, short stories, poems. I would also target some of this at young people who might be interested in MG and YA literature in translation.

That’s cool with me, we need as many sources helping to promote translations as possible, and salons/blogs/reviewers like M. Lynx play an invaluable role for any publisher to learn about the artists and the audience both, but the piece misses the larger point that I was making that these days publishers need to play a more active role in creating the community aspect of reading and literary culture, which I argue in the BQ, especially we indie publishers, a point that Scott Esposito picks up on in his blog Conversational Reading in a piece titled “Publishing Literature is Publicizing Literature“:

I see M. Lynx Qualey’s point, but I think this is a little off-base. The word “publish,” after all, includes the definition “to make public announcement of” and “to disseminate to the public” (which leads many authors to quip that they’ve been “privished” when their book is buried in a publisher’s list).

In other words, any publisher who is doing right by his or her work should do exactly what Quayley is asking for. It should be a built in part of their business. And, in fact, good publishers do all the things (or at least as many as they can) that she puts in her list of things that could promote Arab literature. I’d add that publishers have a great incentive to do this—they get to stay in business.

Glad to start a conversation, this is one worth having, and I would love to see more discussion on the theme of finding new ways to reach audiences outside of the traditional publishing industry model (the publishing industry is dead/dying/broken, long live the publishing industry).






Welcome, Jón Gnarr & Brooklyn Quarterly Manifesto

March 21, 2014 § Leave a comment


Photo Credit: Hörður Sveinsson

Photo Credit: Hörður Sveinsson

Deep Vellum will publish a trilogy of autobiographical novels by the Mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland: Jón Gnarr. “The World’s Coolest Mayor,” Jón is one of the most famous people in Iceland, he gained his fame as a singer in a punk band who went on to be a comedian and an actor, who in 2009 formed a joke political party, The Best Party, with some friends as a response to the international economic crisis that devastated Iceland’s economy, and they ended up winning most of their races (his campaign for the mayorship is captured in the 2010 documentary, Gnarr, which you can stream on Netflix!). His campaign was covered in the NY Times and the Guardian, among pretty much every other media outlet in the world too. Jón is an inspiration to me personally, and to millions of people around the world who have followed his election and vocal support for the freedom of speech and human rights around the world.

Check out some funny Buzzfeed-esque picture pieces about how awesome Jón is here and here.

Our friends at Melville House are publishing a nonfiction work by Jón in June, after his term as mayor is up, about running for and becoming mayor, entitled Gnarr: How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World:

“If there’s two things we like at Melville House, it’s comedy and political activism, and we’ve published a lot of each,” says Melville House co-publisher Valerie Merians. ”The American political scene is a pretty humorless place these days. We can learn a lot from Jón Gnarr.”

Keep an eye out for that, and get ready for Jón to invade America this summer and fall (including some time in Texas this fall!!!!!)!

The trilogy we are publishing, The Indian (2006), The Pirate (2009), and The Outlaw (to be published in Iceland in fall 2014) recount with humor and wit his childhood and adolescence as a child with learning disabilities who did time in a home for retarded children (he has severe dyslexia and ADHD), through the bullying he received as a teenager before discovering punk rock and starting to get in trouble. In Jón’s own words, the basic plot of each book:

The Indian is used here a lot in schools. As you know I was misdiagnosed with a mental retardation and grew up alone with old parents. They are both gone.
The Pirate is about early teens, punk, anarchism and such. The main core of the story is the bullying I was victim to.
The Outlaw is late teens. I was sent to a juvenile home in the remote West for two years. It is really brutal and lonely.
These are the types of books that will resonate with disaffected teenagers and parents of children with learning or behavioral issues as much as fans of capital-L Literature. It is an honor to be able to publish these works in English for the first time, and I can’t wait for you all to read them (hell, I can’t wait to read them!!).
Welcome to the Deep Vellum family, Jón, you’re going to fit in quite well around here.
ALSO, in the meantime, I’ve published a manifesto (of sorts!)! For the Brooklyn Quarterly! I get into why I started Deep Vellum. In case you’ve ever wondered why I’m crazy enough to start a publishing house and in Dallas, and why the hell I love translation so much and why it might matter, this is the piece to read. From now on, no more writing manifestos, from here on out I only trumpet the quality that is out there, the good stuff being published, calling attention to the awesome tangible real amazing things going on rather than the nonexistent lack. I’ve said my piece, now let’s get into it! Here’s the introduction!

A modest proposal: If translation is the act that allows dialogue to take place between individuals, then translated literature is the means by which entire cultures engage each other. I started Deep Vellum Publishing as an arts and education nonprofit organization with the mission to enhance the open exchange of ideas among cultures through translation, and to connect the world’s greatest un-translated literature with readers in original English translations. Not too radical, right?

But Deep Vellum was founded in Dallas, Texas, and Dallas has presented me with more challenges than I had anticipated. In Dallas, I fight a war on two fronts; every day, not only do I find myself defending translations (which I was expecting), but I also find myself defending the value of literature itself as a necessary ingredient in a city’s arts culture.

The attack is threefold. First comes the inevitable leading question, “Why should I read something that wasn’t written in English?” This query is itself a more insidious version of the second (and more common) refrain: “I don’t read translations.” But then I am still surprised by the third statement I often hear in Dallas. After asking how Deep Vellum is allowed to be an arts organization—a question that takes me aback—people utter a follow-up proclamation that actually left me speechless the first time I heard it: “Literature is not the arts.”

Why read anything not written in English? I don’t read translations. Literature is not the arts.

We, as a culture, have a problem with the way we value literature. This leads to a problem in how we value world literature, in how we value translation, in how we ignore translation’s invaluable contribution to our entire society.

This problem won’t solve itself, and it’s on each of us to do something about it. Here’s how.

You can read the manifesto in full here. Please read it, and please pass it along to anyone you know who might be interested in learning more about publishing. I want to throw open the doors to the publishing establishment and take over. Let’s do this!

2014 Best Translated Book Award Longlist Announced & Wildcatter Exchange March 14-15 in Fort Worth!

March 12, 2014 § 1 Comment

The 2014 Best Translated Book Award longlist for fiction has been announced (the BTBA poetry shortlist will be announced soon)!! Launched as part of Open Letter Books’ Three Percent blog in 2007, the Best Translated Book Award honors the best work of original translation of both Fiction and Poetry published in English during the previous year. The winning author and translator each receives $5,000.

Without further ado, in alphabetical order I present to you the 25 titles on the 2014 longlist, with the cover art (because a plain list is so boring), translators, publishers’ information, and author’s home country, all pulled from the announcement on Three Percent:

Best Translated Book Award 2014 Fiction Longlist

Horses of God by Mahi Binebine, translated from the French by Lulu Norman (Morocco; Tin House)

Blinding by Mircea Cărtărescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter (Romania; Archipelago Books)

Textile by Orly Castel-Bloom, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu (Israel; Feminist Press)

Sleet by Stig Dagerman, translated from the Swedish by Steven Hartman (Sweden; David R. Godine)

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy; Europa Editions)

Tirza by Arnon Grunberg, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Netherlands; Open Letter Books)

Her Not All Her by Elfriede Jelinek, translated from the German by Damion Searls (Austria; Sylph Editions)

My Struggle: Book Two by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Norway; Archipelago Books)

Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary; New Directions)

Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull (Ukraine; NYRB)

The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor (Argentina; New Vessel Press)

The Infatuations by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain; Knopf)

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters (Japan; Other Press)

In the Night of Time by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (Spain; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray (Guatemala; Yale University Press)

Through the Night by Stig Sæterbakken, translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella (Norway; Dalkey Archive)

Commentary by Marcelle Sauvageot, translated from the French by Christine Schwartz Hartley & Anna Moschovakis (France; Ugly Duckling Presse)

Leg Over Leg Vol. 1 by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies (Lebanon; New York University Press)

The Whispering Muse by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Iceland; FSG)

The Forbidden Kingdom by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent (Netherlands; Pushkin Press)

The Devil’s Workshop by Jáchym Topol, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker (Czech Republic; Portobello Books)

The End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (Spain; McSweeney’s)

Red Grass by Boris Vian, translated from the French by Paul Knobloch (France; Tam Tam Books)

City of Angels, or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud by Christa Wolf,translated from the German by Damion Searls (Germany; FSG)

Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt (China; University of Oklahoma Press)

As Chad Post noted in the announcement, this is a pretty amazing list of books, and these 25 books alone could provide you a year’s worth of reading material, and it would be the best reading year of your life:

Speaking of diverse, I want to use this post to point out a couple of interesting facts about this year’s list:

  • Twenty-three different publishers have a book on this list, which is unprecedented;
  • There are translations from sixteen languages on this year’s longlist;
  • This year’s longlisted authors are from twenty different countries

Last year’s winner, Hungary’s Laszlo Krasznahorkai (for his magnificent Satantango), is on the list again with Seiobo There Below (both published by New Directions), with the chance to become the first BTBA back-to-back winner (though from different translators). Also at this link is a list of the full 25 books on Riffle, which if you’re not using yet, provides a great alternative to the Amazon-owned Goodreads. Typographical Era also has a fantastic rundown of all of the longlist titles with links to buy from their publishers and a good information blurb on each book.

So who’s your favorite to win?! I’ve only read three of these titles (Blinding, Tirza, and The Devil’s Workshop), but the rest of the 22 have been on my to-read shelf all year! My money is on Blinding or Seiobo There Below, but this year’s field is wide open. Curious to see who will make the shortlist,to be announced on April 15…

Dallas’ own translator Sean Cotter is on the list for his translation of Mircea Cartarescu’s Blinding (Archipelago Books), translated from the Romanian. I’ll be writing a “Why This Book Should Win” post for the Three Percent blog, and it’s an easy argument to make: Sean’s translation is imaginative, creative, and flawless. He has captured the manic, mad majesty of Cartarescu’s mind and the labyrinthine shadows of Bucharest so lovingly described throughout centuries of history, a history of Cartarescu himself, his ancestors, his family, his city, and his active, whirlwind mind. There has never been anything written in the English language to prepare you for the originality of vision and language that you will find within the pages of Blinding. If you live in Dallas, grab a copy at The Wild Detectives and prepare to have your mind blown to pieces.

Speaking of Sean Cotter, he and I are participating in a panel talk and reading of our translations this Saturday, March 15 in Fort Worth, as part of the inaugural Wildcatter Exchange, a celebration of Fort Worth’s rich literary history with the written and spoken word. All events, including ours, are held in Fort Worth’s historic South Main neighborhood, and are free and open to the public. If you live in North Texas, in any of the four corners of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, this will be a great chance to hear Sean read from Blinding, and to hear me read from my translation of the Russian journalist Oleg Kashin’s first novel, a politically-charged hilarious sci-fi influenced romp through the insanity of contemporary Russia, called Fardwor, Ruissa! A Fantastical Tale from Putin’s Russia (Russian title: Роисся вперде: фантастическая повесть). I’ll ask Sean some questions about his translation style and what he’s learned from a life lived in translation, and we’ll field questions from the audience about our work and our inspiration. World literature fans in North Texas, I expect to see you there: details can be found on the Wildcatter Exchange’s website, and you can hop on Facebook and tell us you’re coming too!

Wildcatter Exchange

Deep Vellum Literary Roundup: March & April 2014

March 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

The gears are turning, the magic is working, and the alchemist at the center of Deep Vellum is trying to turn literary dreams into (printed) words. Consider it a translation, if you will.

Things are good. The weather in Dallas has been hilarious (80 degrees Saturday, 20 degrees on Sunday), but that’s Texas in the spring.

Did y’all know Houston is awesome?! I ventured to Houston for the first time in a long while and finally got to visit the book wizards who run the best bookstore, BRAZOS BOOKSTORE, in our nation’s most diverse city (that’s Houston, btw). I walked away from their store with two books, one I’ve been meaning to grab for a while (Carlos Rojas’ The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca Ascends to Hell, pub. by Yale University Press, translated by the legendary Edith Grossman [another aside, Rojas is/was a professor at my alma mater, Emory University!]), and one by a press I was not familiar with until I was hand-sold (!) by one of their fine booksellers: Zubaan Books, an imprint of Kali for Women, India’s biggest/best feminist publisher. Brazos’ head buyer, Danielle, recommended The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet by Vandana Singh, a collection of stories she read as part of her own “2014: The Year of Reading Women” and loved. So I bought it and can’t wait to check it out. In other news, Brazos Bookstore is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, so stop by and wish them well, and if you’re in the Houston area the first weekend in April, go party with them, they’re having THREE well-earned, much-deserved birthday parties. I wish I could be there, but I will be on a jet plane to London then. Such is the life.


The next six weeks or so are jam-packed with events and goings-on in the literary world, at least in our little corner of the Southwest.

March 14, Deep Vellum will moderate and participate in a panel discussion on translation and reading at the first-ever Wildcatter Exchange, a celebration of the written and spoken word in the South Main neighborhood of Fort Worth. If you are in the Metroplex Saturday, March 14 at 3:00pm, stop by the Landers Machine Shop at 207 E. Broadway in Fort Worth, say hi to me, I’ll be reading from my translation of Oleg Kashin’s Fardwor, Ruissa! A Fantastical Tale from Putin’s Russia (an excerpt from which was published this month in the New England Review) and Dr. Sean Cotter (professor at UT-Dallas, translator of Mircea Cartarescu’s Blinding and Nichita Stanescu’s Wheel WIth a Single Spoke, both from Archipelago Books). Hopefully another local writer (and translator) will be chatting with us. The events of the Wildcatter Exchange are free, check out their schedule and come celebrate Fort Worth’s rich and evolving literary history!

Wildcatter Exchange

On Tuesday, March 18, Deep Vellum is honored to participate in the legendary SMU Lit Fest 2014 on a panel discussion about publishing with some of our area’s most prominent publishers and all-around-literary figures: Joe Milazzo (President of PEN Texas; editor for {out of nothing} & Black Clock; with a forthcoming novel from Jaded Ibis Productions); Matthew Limpede (Carve Magazine); Thea Temple (The Writer’s Garret; Firewheel Editions); and Ronald Moore (Baskerville Publishers). The event is free and there’s a reception afterwards! Food! Drinks! Publishers! By jove, you’d think you were somewhere other than Dallas, eh?!

SMU LitFest 2014

Another cool event I just found out about and will certainly be attending is the Dallas Literary One Night Stand, a night of celebrating local literary magazines & journals hosted by the fine folks from Carve Magazine at The People’s Last Stand (in Mockingbird Station) on March 27. Featured will be editors and contributors from The BoilerThe First LineReunion: The Dallas ReviewCamera ObscuraThe American Literary Review, and of course Carve Magazine. This ought to be an awesome event, it’s free, there’s food and drinks, and literary people. In Dallas. Did I mention that all this is happening in Dallas and Fort Worth?! AMAZING!


The morning after the Dallas Literary One Night Stand, I’ll make the short (in our part of the world) jaunt to Norman, Oklahoma to join in the Puterbaugh Festival of International Literature & Culture at the University of Oklahoma (a university that astounds me with its profound commitment to the publication, discussion, and dissemination of world literature, I might add). Andrés Neuman is this year’s Puterbaugh Fellow, an honor previously bestowed on an insane list of literary legends, including some future-Nobel laureates, including Kenzaburo Oe, Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Mario Vargas Llosa, and many of the notorious non-Nobel legends who deserved the Nobel, but went on to a different form of literary immortality, like Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, and BORGES(!). Needless to say, this honor puts Andrés Neuman in some pretty exclusive company, and I am honored to be able to participate in a translation workshop with OU students alongside Neuman and George Henson, one of Neuman’s translators, who is also translating Sergio Pitol’s El arte de la fuga (The Art of Flight) for Deep Vellum. This will be a special festival in celebration of Neuman and of world literature in general, I am beyond stoked to be a part of it!

Puterbaugh Festival

And as I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be participating in a panel at the London Book Fair’s Translation Centre on Tuesday, April 8 entitled “Pitching to Publishers.” This is my first time attending the London Book Fair, and more than anything, I am excited to meet in person all the internationally-based translators who will participate in programs at the amazing Translation Centre all week, especially  Samantha Schnee, who is translating Carmen Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft for Deep Vellum (though she lives in Houston now, Samantha is a Houston native!).

As soon as I get back from London I’ll head downtown for the newly-rebranded Dallas Book Festival (formerly known as the Dallas International Book Fair) held at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library from 12-5pm. There will be fun and festivities, and I will be hosting a talk on independent publishing and translations, and am also judging the Miriam Rodriguez Short Story Contest along with my good friend Joe Milazzo.


In other news, The Wild Detectives is now open! Next time you’re in Dallas’ lovely Bishop Arts District, make a stop at the orange bungalow on 8th St. and say hey to those beautiful fellas and pick up a book or three, have some wine, eat some food, drink all the coffee, and enjoy their gorgeous space.

WD House

Deep Vellum’s upcoming discussions, panels, talks, public appearances, shindigs, etc.:

  • March 14: Fort Worth, TX – Wildcatter Exchange w/ Sean Cotter
  • March 18: Dallas, TX – SMU LitFest 2014 w/ Joe Milazzo, Matthew Limpede, Thea Temple, and Ronald Moore
  • March 27: Dallas, TX – Dallas Literary One Night Stand w/ Carve Magazine & more
  • March 28: Norman, OK – Puterbaugh Festival w/ Andres Neuman & George Henson
  • April 8: London, United Kingdom – London Book Fair Translation Centre: Pitching to Publishers panel discussion
  • April 12: Dallas, TX – Dallas Book Festival at the Dallas Central Public Library

Mikhail Shishkin on Sochi: “Every regime hides behind the great poets”

February 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Over the weekend, Deep Vellum author Mikhail Shishkin had a piece published in the Wall Street Journal with his take on the Sochi Olympics, “Sochi Olympics: Russian Writer Mikhail Shishkin Holds His Applause” (translated by Cory Merrill). Never one to shy away from condemning the inhumane and insane Putin regime, Shishkin reflects deeply on nationalism and patriotism, and the need for every regime to validate its own illegal existence using art: the poets, writers, painters, dancers, and philosophers you saw on vivid display as the representatives of Russia’s cultural history in the Sochi Opening Ceremonies. But they were all victims of oppressive regimes. A timely read, written in Shishkin’s incomparable voice. Whether it’s literary fiction or op-ed nonfiction, nobody can match Shishkin’s style, nobody.

One could attach the label ‘Déjà vu’ to everything that is going on in contemporary Russia. Once again we have an autocracy. Once again the courts serve the authorities instead of the law. Once again, the censors, the spirit of enslavement. Once again, the lie, the showing off, and the life principle: “It is better to stoop too low than not low enough.” In the new Russian empire, even the old Soviet anthem, personally selected by Stalin, has been restored.

The current Olympics painfully resemble the Moscow Olympics. Once again, state propaganda, as it did then, assures us that “sports are outside politics.” But under a regime that has political prisoners, everything is politics, including sports.

As a child, I rooted for the Russians against the Czechs. But in my mid teens, I came to realize that this wasn’t simply hockey—for the Czechs, this was battle. “You’ve got your tanks—we’ve got our pucks.” Sport was a weapon of the Cold War. Hockey victories prolonged the regime’s life, and losses shortened it.

Along with eternal questions like “Who is to blame?,” there is another dilemma that occupies Russian minds: Should we wish victory or defeat for our state? If you love your fatherland, then should you wish victory or defeat for it? In the minds of the people, it remains unclear where the Fatherland ends and the regime begins.

My school friend died in Afghanistan. They told him that he was defending the homeland over there. We would go to see his parents. Every time his mother would start crying: “What homeland? What homeland?” We would say nothing.

I remember a news report when the war in Chechnya began. A Russian soldier, still just a boy, said, “I am here defending my homeland.”

A regime, no matter the ideology, Orthodoxy, communism, Orthodoxy once more, always manipulated its people by means of patriotism—the trick worked flawlessly. And it continues to work. Now television propaganda is preparing Russians to defend the homeland in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. From what, Ukrainian occupiers?


It’s especially vile how every regime hides behind great writers. Pushkin and Tolstoy raised the intrinsic value of Russia to fundamentally new heights for Russians. It is one thing to feel that you belong to a country whose history consists of wars and an endless bloody battle for power. It is quite another to feel that you belong to the country that produced “Eugene Onegin” and “War and Peace.” That country is worth defending in endless wars.

Thus every regime hides behind the great poets. And so the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics was not without Natasha Rostova’s first ball.


“I want my country to be victorious in sport. But I do not want the anthem of dictators to be performed for the whole world upon that victory.”

Mikhail Shishkin’s newest novel in English, The Light and the Dark, was released last month by Quercus (translated by Andrew Bromfield). His first novel in English, Maidenhair, was released by Open Letter Books in 2012 (translated by Marian Schwartz). In all seriousness, Maidenhair is the best work of Russian literature I have read since Master and Margarita. It is that good.

DV Goes German & Translation in the Pacific Standard

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

German Book Office New York

Deep Vellum is going to Germany!

Courtesy of the fine folks in the German Book Office in New York, Deep Vellum has been invited to participate in this summer’s Editors’ Trip to Germany! For a week in June,  I will get the chance to meet with editors from all of Germany’s many publishingd house across the country, starting in Berlin and ending in Frankfurt, to gain an understanding of what makes each publishing house in Germany unique, what types of literature each house’s editorial style favors, and which authors Deep Vellum should be publishing. You can read more about past Editors’ Trips at Publishers’ Weekly or the Frankfurt Book Fair blog, it seems like an unparalleled opportunity to gain a richer understanding of German literature and to meet fellow editors fighting the good fight in Germany, and the chance to develop long-lasting relationships that will hopefully go far in getting more German books published in English. AND I can’t wait to meet my fellow American editors who have been selected for this year’s trip as well!

And while I read seemingly dozens of articles in praise of translation or condemning Americans’ lack of reading translations every week (and I keep being invited to write these myself, and I find myself increasingly wary, trying to find the new narrative in the midst of all the talk and turmoil), it’s always refreshing to read one that just flat-out praises those doing it right, like the end of this article, “You’re Missing Out on Great Literature,” by Anna Clark in the magazine Pacific Standard:

For a nation that takes pride in its immigrant history and its multicultural sensibility, the hostility to translated literature is downright bizarre—and not at all serving American readers. This country, after all, is hardly monolingual, and great numbers of us have intense curiosity about the wider world.

The good news is that extraordinary literature in translation is published by a handful of top-of-the-line independent publishers. I’m particularly a fan of the work released by Europa Editions and Open Letter Books. I’m eternally grateful to Europa for publishing Alina Bronsky, the Russian-German author, and Elena Ferrante of Italy, whose novels are among the best I’ve read in years. I want to put them in the hands of everyone I know. Meanwhile, Open Letter’s list includes the classic Catalan writerMercè RodoredaDubravka Ugresic, the Croatian essayist and fiction writer; and Alejandro Zambra, who is celebrated as the greatest of Chile’s young generation of writers.

Dalkey Archive Press is another strong force in enriching our literature, with its Best European Fiction series and important translations of, for example, Jung Young-Moon of Korea. Archipelago Books publishes beautiful editions of the likes of Karl Ove Knausgaard of Norway andMircea Cărtărescu of Romania. And the eclectic list of Melville House includes crime fiction from Poland, novellas from Italy, “Arctic adventure” from France, and revolutionary drama from Iran.

In response to the persistent and puzzling absence of literature in translation from mainstream media, other lively outlets emerged to fill the void: World Literature TodayAsymptote, the Quarterly Conversation, and the blogs Three Percent and the Literary Saloon are among the best. The beautiful magazine Words Without Borders just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Cheers Anna, I couldn’t agree more. I’m reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend right now, the second of her books I’ve read, and it is breathtaking.

I’m also reading the anthology In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky, and man, it reminds me why I started doing this in the first place: TRANSLATION. I love the act of translation, I believe in translation, and I want to support translators in their craft forevermore. It is a great book, with so many interesting voices, experiences, and opinions within.

Thank you, translators, all of you, thank you.

Good News Update!

January 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

Deep Vellum is still busy behind the scenes getting everything ready to launch officially later this year, with the first Deep Vellum book set to appear this fall. And working behind the scenes isn’t so glamorous. It means writing a lot of grants, sending a bunch of emails into the void, hoping for a response, and for the most part toiling alone for a goal that is still months and months away. Which is why it’s always refreshing to get some good news, it makes the whole startup process that much more meaningful:

1) Deep Vellum has received a grant from the Prokhorov Foundation’s Transcript program to support the translation and publication of Mikhail Shishkin’s Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories. We are over the moon, elated, stoked, and honored to be recognized by the Prokhorov Foundation, who have used the Transcript program to promote Russian literature in all world languages of the last four years. And quick shoutout to Dzanc Books’ new Disquiet imprint, which is publishing Zakhar Prilepin’s San’kya in April, and which received a Transcript grant for their project earlier in 2013. This is an honor and a big deal, and thank you, thank you, thank you a million times for Transcript’s support!

2) Just today I found out I have received a grant to travel to the London Book Fair in April and to participate in panels and talks at the esteemed Translation Centre on Monday, April 7. This will be my first time at the LBF, and I am excited to meet the translators who gather there and to find out what is out there for me to publish for the years to come, along with taking meetings with foreign publishers and cultural organizations I have not yet met in Frankfurt. Infinite thanks to Samantha Schnee, translator of Carmen Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft, for making this happen. See you in London!

3) This isn’t really news, but it is a powerful reminder of how important translation is in every aspect of our culture: Texas Monthly has an incredible article this month about how, 150 years after it was first published in Russia, inmates in Texas are learning life skills through the themes and characters in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The article, “When Prisoners Read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, It’s Pretty Powerful,” describes the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, which operates a yearlong course teaching business skills to inmates to prepare them for life after prison, including a book club reading Dostoevsky’s timeless classic. It is an incredible story and reminds us all how important translated literature is in broadening our world view and deepening our understanding of the human condition. Check it out:

Every graduating class of PEP reads Crime and Punishment. The book “provides a powerful platform from which intense discussions are launched,” explained PEP’s CEO Bert Smith, “from the twisted rationalization of criminal behavior by the criminal to the profound psychological and personal consequences of the crime, and ultimately to the role that the love of another person can play in restoring hope in the criminal’s life.” Jeremy Gregg, the chief development officer, said that the sheer difficulty of the book gives the men a sense of accomplishment, which helps in their rehabilitation.

Read Some Russian Women Poets for #readwomen2014

January 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Following up on my #readwomen2014 update yesterday, Three Percent published a review I wrote of a fantastic collection of poetry published by Zephyr PressRelocations: 3 Contemporary Russian Women Poetsby Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova, translated by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin, and Sibelan Forrester.

The collection is quite diverse and offers a little something for everyone, each poet has their own style that differs from the others in the collection.

Diversify your #readwomen2014 list with translations and poetry. Relocations is a damn good place to start.

A brief excerpt from my review:

Two women dominate the history of Russian poetry: Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. Both authors transcended the label of “woman poet” and live in the realm of the eternal untouchable legends of Russian poetry. To wit, I remember a Russian professor in college correcting a short essay I wrote on an Akhmatova poem because I used a feminine noun to describe her, as what in English we would call a “poetess.” My professor crossed that word out emphatically and wrote in the column in bold Cyrillic letters: “Akhmatova is a POET,” using the masculine-gendered noun to correct a term Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva were both outspoken in rejecting. In the strictly-gendered Russian language, this choice of gender is not a trivial distinction, and provided a lesson in gender politics that has stuck with me to this day.

Yet since these two grand dames, standard bearers of the rich Russian poetic tradition and shining lights of 20th century poetry, passed away, there have been precious few Russian women poets translated into English. This is where Zephyr Press comes in, and bless them for it.Relocations: 3 Contemporary Russian Women Poets is their latest bilingual collection of contemporary poetry by Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova. Relocations was released around the same time as their edition of Anzhelina Polonskaya’s Paul Klee’s Boat, and in just two books, Zephyr Press has published more Russian women poets than all other American publishers in the last 20 years combined. And they’ve been doing it for a while now.

On Small Presses & Translations + 2014: The Year of Reading Women in The Guardian

January 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Following up on the big brouhaha over the “Global Novel” panel from the Jaipur Literature Festival I posted yesterday, The Guardian’s Books section (comfortably nested under the just-broad-enough Culture heading) has posted a couple more articles about trends in translation, independent publishing, and the need to read more women authors that is completely putting to shame our weak American literary coverage in the big newspapers and media outlets. These themes are vital to the health of English-language literary culture, and are all but completely ignored in the American press. The Guardian is a legit newspaper, and yet they’re still finding ways to cover books and changes in our literary culture, without throwing all their attention on “non-books” (a great term I picked up from Joe Milazzo at our lengthy coffee- & taco-fueled meeting today) spewed out by the corporate publishing conglomerates (barf).

From yesterday, “Small presses growing translated fiction’s readership“,  an article that counters Jhumpa Lahiri’s idea that nobody is putting any energy behind translation in English, rather it is primarily coming from smaller publishers who are completely ignored by most traditional book review outlets in the States. These smaller publishers are revolutionizing readership not only of translations, but focusing a lot of attention on the importance of building communities through books, through literature, through translations, through the coming together to celebrate the Written Word. This article interviews some of my favorite translation-heavy publishers, like my role model Stefan Tobler of And Other Stories, the legendary Dalkey Archive (seriously, one of the best backlists of any publisher ever), Europa Editions (whose extensive Elena Ferrante list alone is worth its weight in gold) and Peirene Press (who consistently put out interesting, shorter works of translated brilliance), all of whom see building a vibrant literary community as a vital ingredient for their publishing endeavors to succeed:

Due to the healthy state of Anglophone writing, the UK is not an easy market for translation, but Matthew Reynolds, who chairs the Oxford-Weidenfeld translation prize, notes that the number of entries “has gone up from 90 or so a few years ago to 135,” and Daniela Petracco of Europa Editions is also optimistic that “British readership is opening up”.

Who is behind this shift? Interestingly, probably not the reader. Cailin Neal of Dalkey Archive says that “the influx of small presses and journals who publish works in translation is clearly visible, and bookshops and review editors are taking note”. Best European Fiction 2014 is itself a market creator, presenting stories from 28 European writers translated into what the launch’s convener, Rosie Goldsmith, calls the “European lingua franca of American English” with added contributions in British English, this year from Tom McCarthy for England and Robert Minhinnick for Wales.

Though their books are also sold in bookshops, both Peirene and And Other Stories operate on a subscription system, the support of loyal customers guaranteeing their ability to publish. This is not the Kickstarter-style deal used by UK publisher Unbound, in which each author’s work is put up for their readers’ approval and financial commitment before it is commissioned. Tobler and Ziervogel’s subscribers put their trust in the reputation each publishing house has developed for a carefully-selected, innovative list. Their readers also get rewards: both publishers run book groups, Peirene holds supper clubs, and their pop-up stalls appear all over the UK, reaching readers who, Ziervogel says, “haven’t been inside a bookshop for ages, sometimes for years. Many publishers,” she continues, “still believe that their main job is publishing books. I believe that my job as a publisher is to build a community of readers for my books and authors. My job is to build a brand that reader trust.”

And Other Stories goes one step further towards reader/publisher integration. A “grassroots social enterprise”, it organises groups of readers worldwide, who are “instrumental in unearthing a number of great books to publish … Thanks to your discussion online and in person,” says the publisher’s website, “new books will make it into English”.

This new internationalism is twinned with decentralisation, a move away from the world of London publishing. When Deborah Levy was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker prize for a book Tobler published, many noted that this was the first nomination for a publisher based in High Wycombe. Ted Hodgkinson of the British Council says we are “increasingly aware, perhaps thanks to the internet, of being part of an international community of readers”. When I talked to Chad Post of Open Letter a few years ago, he pointed out that the internet has also ensured that readers of the 3% of US books published in translation the each year can access writing they might never find in their local bookshop.

Today’s Guardian posted an article, “‘Year of reading women’ declared for 2014“, that I’ve seen discussed on Twitter from many of the reviewers mentioned who have vowed to read only only women authors in 2014 (#readwomen2014), to counter the prevailing trends in publishing and literary criticism that heavily skewer towards the male (and the white, and the Anglophone, but those are arguments for another time). The cure? Read only women in 2014:

From a small American literary journal’s vow to dedicate a year’s coverage to women writers and writers of colour to author and artist Joanna Walsh’s burgeoning #readwomen2014 project, readers – and publishers – around the world are starting to take their own small steps to address male writers’ dominance in the literary universe.

Figures last year from Vida, the American organisation for women in the literary arts, show the huge imbalance in how male and female writers – and reviewers – are treated: at the New York Review of Books, for example, in 2012 16% of reviewers were women, with 22% of the books reviewed written by women. A similar investigation in the Guardian found that the UK is no better: in March 2013, 8.7% of books reviewed in the London Review of Books were by women, rising to 26.1% in the New Statesmen, and 34.1% in the Guardian.

This is a huge problem, and for all world literature, not only Anglophone literature (translation publishers take note of the following). I checked the 2013 Translation Database hosted by Three Percent, which records every original translation (i.e. no retranslations of classics, no re-releases) released in English that year from any publisher (and if you seen any missing, submit it and they will add it), and only 27% of the translations published in 2013 were by women. This problem is one of the main reasons that I will always strive to publish equal numbers of women and men authors in translation, it is the very least I can do to tilt the gender balance towards equanimity.

And a cool followup to the “2014: Year of Reading Women” idea comes to us from M. Lynx Qualey‘s ArabLit blog, the go-to resource for news, reviews, and gossip from the huge pan-Arabic literary world, “The Year of Reading (Arab) Women“. Qualey asks those participating in the “Year of Reading Women” not to whitewash their reading lists, and to make sure they add a diverse array of translations from outside of Europe, offering a list of works translated from the Arabic by women authors that you can add to your list of women to read this year, sorted by month!

Which women’s voices will this #readwomen2014 prioritize? Does it touch on any of the reasons why we gravitate toward male protagonists? Will it be, in the main, a celebration of English-language women’s voices? Of women at the center or the peripheries?

But despite my reservations, there’s a good enough chance that I’m wrong — in my lukewarmness — so if you’re keen to play along, this is a list of twelve suggestions of Arabic-writing women. Bonus points where the translator is also a woman. So here it is, one for every month of the year:

January: Hanan al-Shaykh, Story of Zahra, trans Peter Ford. You just cannot go wrong with Story of Zahra, which is also one of the five books on my “how to get started with Arabic literature” list.

February: Adania Shibli, Touch, trans. Paula Haydar. Or, if you prefer, We Are All Equally Far from Love, trans. Paul Starkey. Shibli is for those of you who are literarily-minded, who enjoy a woman’s narrative that lives outside traditional Western story-building. With its surprising poetic imagery, Touch could just as easily be classed as a collection of prose poems.

March: Samar Yazbek, Woman in the Crossfiretrans Max Weiss. Raw, honest, terrifying, hopeful portrait of the first few months of uprising in Syria by one of its leading novelists.

April: Hoda Barakat, Tiller of Waters, trans. Marilyn Booth. It’s true, Barakat is big on the male protagonist, but with an amazing empathy and sensitivity both to characters and to objects of daily life.

May: Sahar KhalifehOf Noble Originstrans. Aida Bamia. Winner of the prestigious Mohamed Zafzaf prize, Khalifeh is a strong and prolific author with many novels in English translation. My suggestion is her most recent, in particular because it shows an important historic moment from a woman’s point of view.

June: Alexandra Chrietieh, Always Coca-Cola, trans. Michelle Hartman. This book is very much a piece of women’s writing, centered more on the contradictions of daily life than in rising and falling action. It’s also very funny.

July: Iman Humaydan Younes, Wild Mulberries, trans. Michelle Hartman. There’s also another book of Younes’s coming out this year, trans. Hartman, Other Lives. 

August: Radwa Ashour, Woman of Tantoura. I would like to recommend Radwa Ashour’s Farag (which is supposed to be out as Blue Lorries in May), trans. Barbara Romaine, but BQFP has been sliding on deadlines lately. But whenever it’s out, do get it. Ashour’s Spectres is also a wonderful metafictional view of women’s lives.

September: Najwa BarakatSalaam!, trans. Luke Leafgren. This difficult and powerful novel finally brings an important Lebanese author into English.

October: Iman Mersal, These Are Not Oranges, My Love,  Khaled Mattawa. I would like to recommend Mersal’s Until I Give Up the Idea of Houses, but alas it’s not yet in English. Poems from Oranges here.

November: Miral al-Tahawy, Brooklyn Heights, trans. Samah Selim. All of al-Tahawy’s books deal with women’s lives (this one in New York and Egypt), but this one is additionally translated by an award-winning (woman) translator.

December: Betool Khedairi, Absent, trans.  Muhayman Jamil. I once had a torrid love affair with this book, which takes us from a vibrant and beautiful mosaic of Baghdad and moves toward the present.

After a quick perusal of this awesome list, I noticed the Dallas Public Library (<3) has both a physical and digital copy of Betool Khedairi’s Absent for checkout (well, now one is checked out, suckas), and that’s the book description that struck me the most. I always try to take up people’s recommendations for books that they had “torrid love affairs” with. I love that kind of passion in reading.

Thank you Guardian, thank you M. Lynx. Get to reading translations of women, y’all.

The Global Novel & Translation Discussion from Jaipur

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

The Jaipur Literature Festival took place over the weekend, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve never thought about it before: “Jaipur, India has a literary festival?” But The Guardian published a super-fun recap, “Translation in America & American Lit Dissed at Jaipur Literature Festival,”of one of Jaipur’s more interesting panels from the weekend: “The Global Novel” (which you can watch in full online here), with Chinese/British writer Xiaolu Guo, Indian/American Jhumpa Lahiri, and American/American Jonathan Franzen.

And my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been BLOWING UP with everybody chiming in about this panel. Why? Well, probably because everybody dissed American literature, including Guo dissing J-Franz to his face, and Guo and Jhumpa Lahiri both emphasized the lack of American attention to translations. Lahiri, however, tried to make the valid point that Americans don’t read enough translations, but ended up declaring that publishers in America aren’t putting enough energy into translation, which is a completely separate argument, and an untrue one at that. So here’s a quick recap from The Guardian:

session on the global novel in Jaipur on Saturday saw the Chinese/British writer Guo, one of Granta‘s best of young British novelists who has also been shortlisted for the Orange prize, attack the way “our reading habit has totally been transformed by the mainstream”.

“Our reading habit has been stolen and changed” said Guo. “For example I think Asian literature is much less narrative … but our reading habit is more Anglo-Saxon, more American … Nowadays all this narrative [literature is] very similar, it’s so realism, so story-telling driven … so all the poetry, all the alternative things, have been pushed away by mainstream society.”

“I love your work, Jonathan,” she told Franzen, “but in a way you are smeared by English American literature … I think certain American literature is overrated, massively overrated, and I really hate to read them,” she said.

Whoa Guo!!!!!!!!!!!! And then Jhumpa’s foot-in-mouth problem:

The Pulitzer-winning Indian/American Jhumpa Lahiri also laid into America’s literary culture, saying that it was “shameful the lack of translation, the lack of energy put into translation in the American market”. “It is embarrassing, to me, and I think just getting out of America for a little while makes you much more conscious of that,” said Lahiri, who currently lives in Italy and has not read anything in English for the last two years.

“I was looking at [an Italian paper's] 10 best books of the year, and they chose seven books written in English. This was astonishing to me,” she said. “I can’t imagine the New York Times ever choosing seven books written in a language other than English as their choices.”

Lahiri found the focus on English “distressing … because it has a certain power and a certain readership and a certain commercial currency now”, and she feels “there is so much literature that needs to be brought forward, and the danger now is that it’s getting even less exposure”.

Look, Jhumpa, fair enough, I wish the NY Times would choose seven translated titles at the end of the year too, but as Chad Post notes over at Three Percent (American Literature Is “Massively Overrated” [How to Turn a Positive Article into a Rant]), there are plenty of publishers putting damn good work into bringing great translations into English:

I’ve been on about the number of books published in translation in America since the inception of this blog, and I do feel like the number could and should be higher. There are only so many books you get to read in your lifetime—and even fewer that have a life-changing impact on you—and for those books to remain locked off from readers . . . Also, this was the promise of the Internet—everything available from everywhere at any time—and the backbone of the long tail theory.

But let’s put that aside. As of now, I’ve identified 484 works of previously untranslated works of fiction and poetry that came out in 2013, and although this is a very modest number—how many of these have Lahiri or Franzen read? And shit, I know a lot of people who have put in a LOT of time and energy and whatever into translating, publishing, and promoting these 484 works. And I’ll bet like 5 of them were invited to Jaipur, and, and this is speculation, that these panelists know next to no details about the vibrancy of the translation scene in America. They know one thing—the number of translated books per year is paltry—and then use this to categorize the entirety of translation publishing in the U.S.

The problem is less about solely increasing the number of translations being published and more about reaching readers, those same readers who are presumably reading works written in English by Jonathan Franzen, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Xiaolu Guo instead of anything in translation, as Chad sums up:

I’m all for popular authors sounding off on issues like this, but I’m kind of sick of them using the platform to lament something they’re only tangentially involved with. Use the Jaipur festival to sing the praises of Archipelago Books or Melville House or Restless Books. Talk about the recent increases in quality fiction from Russia and Brazil. Speak in specifics—this is the Age of Information and all that you need to know to make an intelligent comment on the translation situation is at your fingertips.

Sal Robinson from Melville House also wrote a killer followup to this Jaipur panel, “Jaipur Literature Festival becomes the place where everyone goes to dump on American literature” noting the problems with American dominance of global reading culture, along with the complexities of language and translation as markers of identity in the literary world for both Lahiri and Guo:

Of course, one might ask on what grounds Lahiri doesn’t consider herself part of the mainstream, or of American literature. And all such scolding of American literature for being insular, narrative-obsessed, and generally childish can sometime have an element of self-serving snobbishness about it, particularly when it’s being done by American writers who somehow, deep into their careers, seem surprised to discover that other literary cultures not only exist but interact with yet other literary cultures in ways that are not exactly like the way American literary culture interacts with the rest of the world, i.e. pretty thuggishly.

But, discounting those elements of the discussion, Lahiri and Guo, especially, ended up making a number of very incisive points about language and publishing that warrant further thought. For instance, Guo, who writes in both English and Chinese, said that she writes in English for both intellectual and pragmatic reasons: on the one hand, she finds that writing in English frees her up from certain burdens having to do with Chinese identity and the ideological background.

On the other hand, Guo commented that writing in English means not only that her novels will reach English-language audiences faster, but also more fully, acknowledging that translated novels rarely have the impact  — or even the chance for an impact — that novels written in English do.

I love that this panel is getting so much debate in the American literary world. But then again, is it? The Guardian covered it and brought it to the attention of the American translation-publishing world, and that’s where I’ve been reading all of the great commentary, from those of us with a vested interest in promoting world literature (thus enriching whatever concept the “global novel” is). But there is a haunting echo of crickets coming from the American press about the panel, which is not surprising, since it would only make sense for the American literary community to ignore any debate over the “global novel,” when all that seems to matter in American letters is English-original literature: that’s what gets read, reviewed, put on year-end lists, to the detriment of our entire literary culture. They’re not going to review, discuss, or even read translation events in New York (tonight is the amazing online translation journal Asymptote’s Third Anniversary Party at the Housing Works Bookstore in NYC, not that I would ever know about it if not directly from Asymptote), so why would they be interested in covering a panel about these problems from Jaipur?

It’s an uphill battle to publish world literature, but it is vital, it is necessary to provide an alternative to the homogenous state of literature that Guo describes so well. But we get the mainstream, even the smartest and most engaged readers like Lahiri, aware of the efforts of publishers like Deep Vellum, Open Letter, or Melville House, as we attempt to enrich our global literary culture by publishing all the poetry, all the alternative things.

  • Deep Vellum titles are published under the fiscal sponsorship of The Writer's Garret, a nationally recognized nonprofit literary organization.

    Donations to support Deep Vellum‘s publications made directly to The Writer's Garret are fully tax-deductible under code 501(c)(3) of the IRS.
  • Follow Deep Vellum

  • Deep Vellum Facebook