Can you believe May is almost over?
The month started magically, with my piece in Lit Hub listing 5 Great Contemporary Mexican Writers that ran on Cinco de Mayo (there’s a marketing term for that kind of targeted publication, I’m sure of it). Later in the month, things stayed awesome over at the Lit Hub when they ran a profile of Sergio Pitol, “Sergio Pitol: Mexico’s Total Writer,” written by young Mexican author Daniel Saldaña Paris, whose debut novel is coming out from Coffee House next year. The profile, which originally ran in the Mexican literary journal Frente, was awesome, and translated by Pitol translator & Dallasite (and newly hooded PhD) George Henson:
Pitol is one of those authors whom one never leaves. There is always a corner of his work that can be read under a new lens. It is not for nothing, it seems to me, that he is held as a clear example of a “writer’s writer” in recent Latin American narrative. The fact that authors such as Enrique Vila-Matas and Mario Bellatin have turned him into a character in their own fiction only confirms what any reader senses upon reading him: that Pitol is unfathomable; it could almost be said that he is a literature entire of himself.
I was also in New York the second week of the month for our distributor Consortium’s sales conference, and it also happened to be during the PEN World Voices Festival, which was great. I don’t know if the highlight of the week was meeting up with Jill Schoolman of Archipelago Books after her massively successful event with Knausgaard with Ben Lerner at PowerHouse Arena & getting to bask in the presence of Knausgaard, or if it was going to the “Who We Talk About When We Talk About Translation: The Bloggers” event (recap here) at Albertine and nearly everyone on the panel gave a shoutout to Sphinx, or if it was just hanging out with all of our fellow Consortium publishers like Open Letter, New Vessel, Hispabooks, Talonbooks, Biblioasis, Feminist Press, Akashic, etc. So many good people. Actually, I know what the best part was. It was going to the bookstores of New York for the first time since Deep Vellum’s books started coming out in December, and every single bookstore is stocking our books. And not just stocking them, but putting them out on the new & recommended tables. Selling the hell out of the books. And considering Manhattan alone has more bookstores selling our books than in the entire state of Texas, this almost made me weep for joy. Walking into every store—The Strand, McNally Jackson, Three Lives, Spoonbill & Sugartown, Posman’s in Chelsea Market, Albertine, Book Book, WORD, Community Bookstore (who even have a Deep Vellum shelf!!)—and they all had Deep Vellum books, that’s breathtaking. It means this isn’t all in my head! It’s real! These books are real. And booksellers and readers get what I’m doing . And are buying the books. And loving the books. That is an incredible feeling. It recharged my batteries for the return to Dallas, where the very next day I had someone ask me in person if Deep Vellum books were available anywhere other than from me directly since they assumed Deep Vellum is a “self-publisher.” It’s an education process running Deep Vellum in Dallas, sure, and I needed that New York trip more than I thought I did. A nice reminder of what book culture can be. Something to strive toward. Thank you to all the booksellers, and not just in NYC. Good lord, I can’t even begin to tell you all how much I appreciate you. Thanks for making it happen in a real way.
Hey, speaking of Dallas though, and being awesome, today Mikhail Shishkin’s Calligraphy Lesson was reviewed in the Dallas Observer!
But the artfulness of this translation helps it to surmount Shishkin’s own claim that languages cannot communicate with each other. And he makes no claim that communication within a single language is any easier, saying that, “Even speaking Russian, there is no understanding one another.” Though the stories in Calligraphy Lesson are steeped in Russian history and have a distinctly Russian tone, many of the philosophical quandaries they engage extend beyond language and borders — they are universal problems, and this translation boldly and successfully takes them on.
I can’t lie, it was my wildest dream to see works of literature from Mexico, Russia, and every corner of the world reviewed in the Dallas Observer when I moved to Dallas, but I cannot thank enough the staff of the Observer for actually making it happen, especially Jennifer Smart and Caroline North. Eternal gratitude, y’all.
New, exciting, and upcoming events!
So I’m skipping Book Expo America next week (which means I’m missing the New Directions party, which has been the best reason to go NYC for BEA these last three years for me, like when I met the recently crowned Man Booker International Prize winning Laszlo Krasznahorkai in 2012), instead I’m going to Antwerp for a Flemish Publishers’ Trip. I’ll be hitting up the Netherlands next weekend ahead of the publishers’ trip to visit with some of our authors and translators, so if you’re reading this and will be in/around the Netherlands next weekend or want to come hang out, join me next Sunday for a couple of amazing events with two of our Fall 2015 authors:
- May 31, 4:30pm in The Hague: Leila S. Chudori (Home will be published in October) at the Tong Tong Festival w/ Martijn Eickhoff (NIOD) interviews Aboeprijadi Santoso (IPT1965) discussing the 50 years since the 1965 tragedy and what it means to the today’s Indonesian generation in the Tong Tong Theatre
- May 31, 9:00pm in Leiden: Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (La Superba will be published in March 2016) at the Leiden Olympus arts festival w/ Huub van der Lubbe, Maaike Ouboter, Nico Dijkshoorn, Gustaaf Peek, Onno Blom at the Leiden Castle (Burchtplein)
A couple more exciting events just confirmed for the month of June in NYC & SF:
- Alisa Ganieva (of Dagestan, Russia, whose debut novel The Mountain and the Wall comes out June 30th, subscriber copies shipping in early June) with Ronald Meyer of Columbia’s Harriman Institute on June 18th at Book Culture on W. 112th St. in the Upper West Side of New York City at 7pm. Event info here.
- Sphinx translator Emma Ramadan along with Oulipo member Daniel Levin Becker (who recently published a translation of fellow Oulipian Frédéric Forte’s Minute-Operas with Burning Deck) in conversation led by Scott Esposito at Green Apple Books on the Park in San Francisco on June 23rd at 7:30pm. Event info here.
Tomorrow, B O D Y Magazine’s Saturday Reading will feature an excerpt from Ganieva’s The Mountain and the Wall, the first-ever novel in English from Russia’s southern Caucasus, Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan. To prepare for Alisa’s awesomeness, you can also read this interview with Alisa Ganieva in Russia Beyond the Headlines, translated from an article that originally ran in Russian in Rossiyskaya Gazeta about Alisa’s second novel, Bride and Groom, which was just published in Russia:
A.G.: Moscow mythologizes the Dagestanis, and the people of the Caucasus in general. Many inhabitants of the European part of Russia don’t know that Dagestan is part of their country. People used to ask me, “How come you speak Russian?” or “What’s the currency there?”
Reminder that Deep Vellum now has its own 501c3 and you can make a tax-deductible donation to support our mission here. Subscribe or donate by June 1 to receive your name listed in the credits at the back of book #7 going to print: Sergio Pitol’s The Journey, the second book in his Trilogy of Memory, translated by George Henson, with an incredible introduction by Álvaro Enrigue.
So much more to come, y’all. About time I do a formal announcement of our Fall 2015/2016 list, eh?! Books too amazing to ignore. That’ll be next.