We’ve published our fifth book!!!
In a milestone for Deep Vellum, Mikhail Shishkin‘s Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories was officially published on Tuesday, bringing full circle the entire experience that got me into publishing in the first place: it’s Deep Vellum’s first Russian book (with a second on the way next month by Alisa Ganieva); and I met the author while apprenticing with Open Letter Books in the summer of 2012 when he came to Book Expo America, where Russia was the guest of honor—that friendship, and that apprenticeship, is what led directly to this book being published, and so I cannot thank enough Mikhail, Chad of Open Letter, and all the translators who worked on this project, including Sylvia Maizell, whom I was fortunate enough to meet at BEA 2014, but who sadly passed away just this past fall. Her translation of “The Bell Tower of San Marcos” is beautiful, and a fitting last translation to be published—I only wish I could have published this book in time for her to see her work in print. Rest in peace, dear Sylvia, thank you for all the beauty you brought to this world.
Shishkin wrote a moving, powerful essay last week on the 70th anniversary of WWII Victory Day in Russia, “How We Lost the War,” which we were able to place in the New York Times, and which ran in all editions of the paper across the world on Saturday, and was the featured op-ed on the NYT website Friday & Saturday. Here’s a brief excerpt of this essay that I highly recommend all Russia-watchers and Russian literature lovers (like me) to read:
Today, though, Victory Day has nothing to do with the people’s victory or my father’s victory. It is not a day of peace and remembrance for the victims. It is a day for rattling swords, a day of zinc coffins, a day of aggression, a day of great hypocrisy and great baseness.
LOS ANGELENOS: joining Carmen Boullosa in Los Angeles this weekend along with our newest author, Eduardo Rabasa, at the fourth LéaLA Spanish language literary festival at the LA Convention Center. Information on all of Carmen & Eduardo’s events during LéaLA can be found on our Events/Calendar page!
And while we’re discussing him, meet Eduardo Rabasa, our newest author, and true friend of Deep Vellum as well as an inspiration in everything I do: together with his brother Diego and some friends, Eduardo founded the Sexto Piso publishing house in 2002. Sexto Piso is undoubtedly one of the biggest inspirations to everything I do at Deep Vellum: like us, they started as a translation-focused publishing house, publishing the world’s greatest authors in Spanish. They’ve since expanded to include Spanish-original books as well, and have published our own Carmen Boullosa alongside Kafka, Claudio Magris, Vila-Matas, and more. And in 2014, Rabasa published his own debut novel, the remarkable La suma de los ceros (The Zero-Sum Game), which led to Rabasa being included on the awesome México20 list of the 20 greatest authors in Mexico under 40 years old (selected by Juan Villoro, Guadalupe Nettel, and Cristina Rivera Garza, through the Hay Festival, who’ve done similar lists like Africa39, Bogota39, and Beirut39), alongside a name you may recognize (Valeria Luiselli) and some names you’ll get to know very soon (like Daniel Saldaña Paris, forthcoming from Coffee House).
I got to know Eduardo personally in Frankfurt last year, over the course of those several days I learned a bit about what makes him tick, and where I learned he had just published his debut novel. Of course I wanted to publish it without reading a word, because he’s a friend, and of such fantastic literary taste (evident by the work he does as Editorial Director for Sexto Piso). Time goes on and I finally got a copy of his novel, La suma de los seros along with a brilliant sample translation from Christina MacSweeney (who also translated Valeria Luiselli’s work), and so I sent an offer over to publish this great debut novel while Eduardo and his agent—Laurence Laluyaux—were still in London, and I’m happy that they agreed to bring Eduardo into the Deep Vellum family!
We’ll publish Eduardo’s debut novel La suma de los ceros in fall 2016 or so. So what’s the book about, you may ask? Imagine a Switfian satire of our contemporary consumer society and the cult of the individual that takes place in a microcosm that could be any neighborhood in Latin America, with characters trying to escape from a seemingly inescapable destiny. This text is a critique of power in all its forms, including those that are disguised as democracy. Laced with dark humor and chilling realism, La suma de los ceros examines the sophistry and rationalizations that mask the actual tragic situation that, for all the choices we are offered, we have little power over our destinies. Okay so that’s publisher/agent marketing speak (but are you excited?! I’m excited!) Here’s the actual plot rundown from the agent’s site:
Villa Miserias is a suburb of a suburb where everyone knows their place and nothing ever changes. Every two years, elections are held for the presidency of the residents’ committee, and every two years there are no surprises. But the balance begins to shift with the arrival of Selon Perdumes and his theory of Quietism in Motion. With his alabaster smile, he uncovers the deepest secrets of the unwary residents, and transforms their fantasies in reality with the help of the loans he offers them. Growing rich from money-lending, Perdumes gradually becomes the spectral power behind the community. But when Max Michels, sunk in an obsessive relationship with the beautiful, black-eyed Nelly, and, struggling to silence the multiple dissenting voices in his head, decides to run for president without Perdumes’ permission, the battle lines are drawn.
Get to know more about Eduardo the writer (the myth, the legend) in this interview from the México20 blog:
What led you to write?
Although I did not know it at that time, I now realize that it was a need to try to understand (or maybe even resolve) certain themes and emotions that were quite stuck, hoping that writing would serve to unlock them. There is a Miguel Morey phrase that I like: “Writing as an extension of thought,” and I think that was, and still is, what interests me most about writing: to dedicate that time, on my own, to try to explore through writing things that actually one does not know they are there.
With the signing of Eduardo, Deep Vellum now publishes three distinct generations of Mexican literature, and we’re just getting started. Welcome to the Deep Vellum family, Eduardo, you handsome devil, here’s to the start of a long and beautiful friendship!!
Sphinx came out three weeks ago already (!) and is still blazing trails as much as it did when it was first published in France in 1986. Just this week, Anne Garréta’s brilliant debut novel and Emma Ramadan’s superb translation have been recognized in Flavorwire’s “17 Pathbreaking Non-Binary and Gender Fluid Novels” and with a glowing review by Michael Orthofer at the Complete Review.
Our sixth book is at the printers now and will hit the streets next month: Alisa Ganieva‘s The Mountain and the Wall in Carol Apollonio‘s translation, with an introduction by Ronald Meyer of the Harriman Institute at Columbia. Check out how beautiful this layout turned out to be, can’t wait to get this in your hands:
Book #7 is the follow-up to The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol, the second in his “Trilogy of Memory,” translated again by George Henson: The Journey, with a superb, illuminative introduction by Álvaro Enrigue (who used to edit Letras Libres, one of the greatest literary reviews in the entire Spanish language world, before becoming a stellar, award-winning author in his own right—his Herralde Prize-winning Sudden Death is coming from Riverhead next spring). We should have The Journey to print next week, review copies in your hands in about a month’s time. But I’ll have PDFs for y’all soon, I promise. Cover of The Journey is cool:
Speaking of the first person pronoun, Deep Vellum is in full-on expansion mode. Looking to move into a larger office & get some help to join up this summer. Ideally our new office will still be in Deep Ellum (our namesake neighborhood), but also looking for a landlord willing to offer free or reduced rent to a nonprofit that’s committed to this neighborhood and city for the long haul—and if that landlord has space in Old East Dallas, Lakewood, Oak Cliff, Oak Lawn, we’ll go where we and our mission are understood. We’re fighting the good fight, but we need help. I’ve been doing this alone for far too long. Join up, help out, I need real help, boots on the ground, help in the office, getting systems in place, mailings out, emails sent, website & social media updated, marketing done, reading tours planned, grant applications written, donors cultivated, an intern program initiated and managed…If any of this sounds like something you have experience in and want to help, write me, I need it, I need it now. We’re five books in, and we still have so much more to do. Our mission is grand, our ambition to do something grander. Let’s do it together. Get involved as a volunteer, subscriber, donor, sponsor, benefactor, friend, advocate. Write me. Let’s get to work.
Since the last post, Deep Vellum received confirmation of our own 501c3 from the IRS. We are tremendously grateful to The Writer’s Garret for their generous help in providing our fiscal sponsorship the last two years, working tirelessly to get Deep Vellum launched, believing in our mission from day one. And now begins the next stage of our relationship, which will involve planning events and translation workshops together (with a dream of getting translation taught in a creative writing format in Dallas schools).
Now that we have our own 501c3, every donation made directly to Deep Vellum is fully tax deductible. The “Donate” button in the upper right hand corner of our website is now made directly to Deep Vellum. Checks and cash can be gifted to us and will be fully tax deductible (and I’ll even send you a sweet letter to confirm it for your records). And now that we have this 501c3 status we can apply for foundation and government grants, entering us into the conversation among our peer literary arts organizations nationwide. It is my dream now to see Deep Vellum become the Graywolf, the Archipelago, of Dallas—a robust, vibrant, diverse, forward thinking literary arts nonprofit publishing great books and putting on unique events and educational workshops. Together we make this happen. Be a literary hero. Donate to Deep Vellum today.