18th March 2014 - Amanda DeMarco
We're delighted to be stocking books at our Charing Cross Road branch from new independent publisher Readux Books, who produce stylishly packaged short works translated from German and Swedish. They were set up in 2013 by Amanda DeMarco, a Berlin-based translator and contributing editor for the international book industry news website Publishing Perspectives.
Here Amanda explains the background to Readux's unconventional approach to publishing and how she's identfying titles to add to their list.
See all the titles published by Readux Books so far at the bottom of the page
Readux is a new publishing house, founded in fall of last year, that releases four teeny books (small format, 32-64 pages) three times per year. We're based in Berlin, so it's very natural that translations make up a large portion of what we do. In our first three series, we're presenting original English translations of Swedish and German authors.
The question I get asked most often is definitely how we choose what to translate. Readux's editorial line is very inclusive; we do stories and essays, by contemporary and historical authors. My goal is to bring together a group of authorial voices that would all interest an intelligent reader, a bit like a magazine. I've learned a lot about what makes a good story at this length. 32 pages is a long short story, to say nothing of 64 pages. The pieces we publish often are very well-structured to make them successful at this in-between length. That may mean a narrative voice that changes over the course of the piece, division into sections, or in the special case of The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping, a book that is divided front and back - left and right. And though they are long short stories, they're still not as expansive as a novel, so there isn't room for a character or a passage to be lacking - everything has to be perfect, and trying to find that can be frustrating. But when you do find something, it's magic.
Because of our location, our acquisitions function a bit differently than most publishers who do translations - we don't work with reader's reports or hints from people who are closer to the culture. Instead, things function very organically for us: in terms of the German books, I live here and at this point, it's just really about me investing a lot of time in research, following my nose, and knowing where to look. I work with translator Katy Derbyshire, who lives in Berlin as well and has an excellent eye. I do get submissions from German publishers and agents, but so far none of them have fit. Once I've done a few more series, maybe they'll have a better sense of what Readux does.
I've been here since 2009 and over the years, I've accumulated a few texts that I knew I wanted to do. For example, In Berlin by Franz Hessel, a Francophile intellectual who brought the concept of the flâneur to 1920s Berlin. And from our second series, Felicitas Hoppe's Picnic of the Virtues: Hoppe won the Büchner Prize in 2012, Germany's most prestigious literary award, and these darkly comic vignettes are brilliant examples of her skill and originality. Both are amazing, canonical German writers, and it's difficult for me to understand how they haven't yet been translated.
I also think it's important to vary the sources of Readux's texts. I once interviewed Matthew Zapruder, publisher at the great American press Wave Books. He said that Wave has gone through a variety of acquisitions methods, and that you find very different things when you search for them in different ways. That made a lot of sense to me. There's bias in every method that makes it tend toward one type of text or another.
That's one of the reasons I wanted to go out on a limb and try something very different: together with one of my favorite German magazines, Edit, and a group of very talented colleagues, I've organized a contest called New German Fiction. This autumn, Edit will publish the winning stories in German, and Readux will publish the English translations. As far as I know, there is no other contest that offers translation as a prize. For me, it's terribly exciting to have this unmediated connection to writers here, and to organize a project that lets me work with German writers and publishers I admire, while doing what I do best with Readux in English.
For our Swedish books, Readux works together with a partner publisher in Stockholm, Novellix, whose format is actually the inspiration for our own. Translator Saskia Vogel selects from the pool of stories that Novellix has already published, which are already the perfect length and represent a selection of very exciting contemporary Swedish writers.