Exploring collaborative opportunities to encourage readers to explore beyond the boundaries of their own culture and language.
-The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative
It is an absolute delight to welcome Rónán Hession onto Swirl and Thread today with details about his current role as guest editor, for October, of the fabulous initiative that is The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative.
Rónán Hession is an Irish writer, who very many will know as the author of the life-affirming and affecting debut, Leonard and Hungry Paul. Rónán is also a passionate reader of international and diverse works, books that oft-times slip under the radar. Through The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative and people like Rónán, it is hoped that more people will come to recognise the hidden treasures, the magic that is inside the covers of these books.
“Independent publishers have played a leading role in bringing diversity to publishing. As 95% of the world’s population is from countries where English is not the first language, it is important to have publishers who bring us voices from beyond the language barrier. Culture is a picture, and the more pixels we have, the richer the image. The track record of independent publishers in this area is exemplary and a model for larger publishers to follow.”
Global Literature in Libraries Initiative
by Rónán Hession
One of the unexpected by-products of me becoming a writer is that it has drawn more attention to my reading taste. I have always read fiction in translation, and used social media to talk about it, but in recent years I have somehow become part of a wider community of writers, translators and publishers. As a result I was asked to take over as guest editor of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative blog for October.
The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative strives to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels. The aim of the initiative is to increase the visibility of international works in English translation so that more readers can enjoy the amazing diversity in these books and the perspectives they present. This is a worthwhile initiative and, as the stats show, much needed. Some 95% of the world’s population is from countries where English is not the first language, yet only 3% of the fiction published in the UK and the US is in translation, and only a third of these books are by women. In other words, the perspectives of 3.6bn women around the world are represented by just 1% of fiction sales.
Much of the innovative work in addressing this imbalance is being done by small independent publishers, many of whom only have two or three full-time members of staff, though this hasn’t stopped their authors winning prestigious prizes, including the Booker and Nobel prizes. I have decided to use my month in the editor’s chair to champion their work.
This week, the focus is on Comma Press, which specialises in short story anthologies from around the world, describing short stories as the most “smugglable” form of literature. There will also be two fascinating blogs from Nordisk Books, which publishes work from Scandinavia, and which is trying to change the perception of Nordic writing away from crime and thrillers.
It was important to me to have geographical balance, so there is Charco Press, specialising in Latin American writing; Modjaji Books, which publishes work by South African women; and SAQI Books, which focuses on writing from North Africa and the Middle East. Titled Axis Press will bring the perspective from Asia – it was started by translator Deborah Smith with her share of the Booker Prize winnings as translator of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. Peirene Press specialises in short novels that can be read in the time it takes to watch a movie, with an emphasis on quality design. Noir Press publishes wonderful writing from Lithuania, and Istros Books are known for their excellent work with writers in South-Eastern Europe, including the Balkans. And Other Stories publishes a range of contemporary writers, including in translation, and Orenda Books has established a reputation for an exciting range of literary and crime fiction. I also wanted to include some poetry so I’m delighted that we’ll have contributions from A Midsummer Night’s Press, an independent poetry publisher primarily publishing under three imprints: Fabula Rasa (mythic poetry), Body Language (LGBT voices), and Periscope (poetry in translation).
I hope that this month will create a platform for the great work being done by these publishers and provide reading inspiration for curious lovers of international literature everywhere.
Twitter ~ @GlobalLitin
Rónán Hession is an Irish writer based in Dublin.
His debut novel Leonard and Hungry Paul was published by Bluemoose Books in the UK and by Melville House Books in the US.
His second Novel Panenka will be published in 2021.
Rónán has also written articles about translated fiction and writing for The Irish Times.
Twitter ~ @MumblinDeafRo