Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Q&Q on Biblioasis, the TINY Windsor-based press

Quill & Quire write up Biblioasis's acquisition of Ryszard Kapuscinski's poetry collection. Note the word tiny. Is this smaller than a micro-press, but larger than a bread box? Or smaller than a small press, larger than a micro-press? (What I long for is the current adjective-in-favour: independent. As in: non-conglomerate. Sets up a nice David and Goliath storyline, without the negative associations of tiny, don't you think? Though we don't want to look too closely at how independent most of us tiny to small presses are, now do we? We might have to find another adjective that's not quite so ego-salving.

At least they didn't call Windsor the perineum of Canada, as a certain editor at Bookninja has recently done (he should know, when he comes to Windsor in November, I'll make sure that line is offered up to warm up the crowd. {Perineum? What the !#%*'s a perineum?})

Which would make Sarnia and Toronto what exactly, George?

So ... the Q&Q Omni piece ...

Biblioasis, a tiny press based in Windsor, Ontario, recently scored the North American rights to the first English translation of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s poetry, which will be published this fall. But despite the late Polish journalist and author's international renown, Biblioasis publisher and owner Daniel Wells didn’t have to work hard to get the title. “It came in the mail,” Wells said.

The collection’s Canadian translators, Marek Kubisa and Diana Kuprel, had shopped the book around to a few other publishers, but found none willing to take on the expense of a translation. So she tried Biblioasis after hearing about the press from a colleague.

Biblioasis, meanwhile, published two translated works by Goran Simic last year and was looking to launch an official international translation series. The Kapuscinski collection – which now bears the title I Wrote Stone, changed from the earlier The Things of This Earth – will be released in September.

Although the Canada Council for the Arts funds literary translation, it does so mainly between French and English, for works by Canadian authors. Which means projects like the Kapuscinski title are out of luck. “The fact that Biblioasis picked it up despite that, I thought, was pretty incredible,” Kuprel said.

For his part, Wells said that “[international translation] is very much a direction we’re going to be going in,” because he thinks it could raise Biblioasis’s profile. Wells said he hopes to publish at least one translation per season, and has lined up author Stephen Henighan to serve as series editor. Possible future titles include a novel about the Angolan civil war, written by an African-Portuguese writer named Ondjaki and translated by Henighan; and a German-language novel called Kahn and Engelmann: A Family Saga by Canadian scholar and author Hans Eichner, which will likely be partially funded by a grant from the Austrian government.

After Kuprel offered the Kapuscinski collection to Biblioasis, the publisher formally bought the rights from Kapuscinski’s agent, Marianne Fritsch of the Zurich-based Liepman Literary Agency. Wells said that before Kapuscinski’s death, “he made it very clear this was something he wanted to see translated into English … so the money wasn’t really a concern. Which was good for us!


Anonymous said...

re: "tiny". Back when I was co-founder and co-editor for Villeneuve Publications (an enterprise that makes Biblioasis look like Random House), we liked to call ourselves a "bonsai" press.

re: "what the !@#$%? is a perineum"? ans: The site of a routine but mostly quite unnecessary surgical procedure, on account of which new mothers have to sit on inner tubes. "The stitches! oh god, the stitches!" as a character in a Dorothy Parker story (I Live on Your Visits) put it. (What this has to do with Windsor is anybody's guess.)

-Robyn Sarah

biblioasis said...

I'm not actually all that worried about our size: there are days, trust me, I wish we were more bonsai. But I have been doing a lot of thinking about how literary presses get labeled. The one that gets my goat most is 'independent'. A chest puffer of a term, signifying nothing. As if we're all revolutionaries with our cravats askew. Any press that considers the citizenship of a writer before the manuscript in question can lay no claim to being independent, and most quote-unquote independent presses do so. Indeed, it may be that some of these conglomerates are some of the only independent presses in the country. Fiscal realities, I can hear the chorus sing, and I'm quickly learning that they're telling the truth: but claims made about our purported independence ring no less false for that.

Zachariah Wells said...

Perineum: the area between the anus and the posterior part of the external genitalia. Guess that means that Windsor is neither sexy nor shitty. Or perhaps that it's a bit of both...

biblioasis said...

Thanks, Zach. Guess it wasn't clear I knew what it was. But I figure most in the audience when I introduce George will not.

You've seen Windsor, Zach: Shitty, with sex.

Aubadicus said...

Every time my old press was mentioned in Q&Q, we also got hit with that adjective. I think Q&Q are closet size-queens.

"Ooh, Mr. Davidar! Your press is so big!"

GM said...

I didn't see this until just now! Did I really say that about Windsor? I meant Sarnia.....