A new title hits the shelves


One of the exciting things about reading the world was the number of unpublished manuscripts I got to sample during the project. From the crowd-sourced translation of Olinda Beja’s A casa do pastor, which I read for Sao Tome & Principe after nine volunteers generously converted it into English for me, and Mozambican literary giant Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa’s Ualalapi, to Ak Welsapar’s The Tale of Aypi  – the first book ever to be translated directly from Turkmen but still, sadly, without an Anglophone publishing deal – I was repeatedly surprised and delighted by the extraordinary works I had the privilege of discovering.

People often ask me whether any of these works are going to make it into the shops. I hope so, is the short answer. Certainly many of them deserve to – not least because they are often one of the few, if not the only, English-language translations of literature in existence from particular nations. I would be delighted if this project meant that some of these exciting stories had a chance to break into the world’s largest publishing market.

So you can imagine my pleasure when I heard today that Robi Gottlieb-Cahen’s Minute Stories has come out through Editions Phi.

Now, I have  to confess that A Year of Reading the World has nothing to with Gottlieb-Cahen’s success – the book was already slated for publication when Claudine Muno, frontwoman of Luxembourgian band Claudine Muno and the Lunar Boots, helped me find it. Still, it’s great to hear of the first AYORTW manuscript making it into print – particularly from Luxembourg, which has very little literature available in English.

Gottlieb-Cahen’s fascinating collection of tiny stories of no more than two or three sentences written in three languages and accompanying paintings by the author will give many readers a chance to sample literature from a nation they might not otherwise have the opportunity to read a book from. Congratulations on your achievement, Robi!

And for details of more AYORTW titles coming to bookshops or e-retailers near you, watch this space…

Picture from Editions Phi

8 responses

      • Thanks!! Yes, I’m still discussing criteria with friends and colleagues. There are lists put out by IBBY and USBBY (both International children’s literature organizations) and that will be a great resource. I think as far as language goes I’d look for languages that are considered the ‘official’ ones of the land by their government (we’ll see how crazy that gets). I’m trying to figure out if I should focus on award winners for countries that have awards, or something that is considered an essential book of that culture (however, I’d never want someone from another culture to think The Giving Tree or Love You Forever are essential U.S. or Canadian books, but others would disagree with me). The selection process is going to be crazy in other words. Do you have any more advice on that?

      • Not really – it’s something you have to work out depending on your priorities and what you hope to get out of the project. My reasons for the choices I made varied from book to book. Personally, though, I’d be very skeptical of the idea of one book capturing the essence of a place. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has some interesting things to say about this in her Ted Talk on the Danger of the Single Story.

      • True, I should know better than to even consider that one book can convey a culture clearly. I think I am going to have to take it country by country and look at the titles that are being suggested. Want to put in a vote for children’s literature from England? (and I mean England, I’ll read books from Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland too). 🙂

        Thank you for taking the time to guide me, I know you’re swamped, so I truly appreciate it.

      • I’m afraid I don’t really know anything about English children’s literature. However, I can recommend my read from Dominica, The Snake King of the Kalinago. It is a children’s book written by children in a primary school there and one of the few commercially published works from the island. Good luck.

  1. Ms. Morgan, I’m not sure quite the right way to reach you, so I thought I’d try here. I am a long time children’s literature aficionado and reviewer and you have inspired me to try to do what you did, only with children’s literature. I’m still figuring out details (perhaps a picture book, middle grade and young adult, if all are available), countries vs. languages (for example, having lived in Belgium I know I want to read books translated from Flemish and French because the two cultures are so different). If you have any thoughts or advice (and I know this is a huge imposition because you must be swamped). I would greatly appreciate any advice you might have. Thank you.

    • Thanks Sharon. Your project sounds like a nice idea. Languages are interesting – although you have to bear in mind that there are as many as 7,000 languages in use in the world today. However, many of them are not written down and probably only around 600 of them are used by large groups of people. My best advice is to think carefully about the different possible lists you can draw up and select something that is manageable for you. The main thing is to make sure you have good, consistent reasons for the criteria you choose, whether that’s UN-recognised countries or languages spoken by more than a certain number of people. Good luck!

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