Interview

Haute Culture Books, an exciting new translation venture and Q&A with publisher Luis de Miranda

I am very excited about this addition to the publishing world. Haute Culture Books, a new publisher based in Stockholm, Sweden, is making it its mission to provide foreign literary masterpieces to an English reading audience. Most works of international literature are not available in English translation and those that are, are often popular contemporary thrillers (I once had a depressing conversation with a former lit agent and now publisher who told me that he doesn’t see the point in publishing something foreign if we can already get something comparable already in the US).

But, the kicker with Haute Culture Books is that they have something a little different up their sleeve. Their aim is to design high quality editions that any bibliophile would clamor for, while also supplying free ebook editions of the book. The intent is to have beautifully designed luxury editions that would help support the dissemination of the free ebooks, so more people have access to newly translated literary classics. Through their Book Angel Program, people are able to sponsor the production (and receive) the handmade edition as well as the ebook (or for book lovers on a budget, there is also a level for just sponsoring the ebook edition).

They already have one translation available now (the bilingual ebook for Gustave Flaubert’s Felicity: The Tale of the Simple Heart is available to download for free here with information on how to donate) and Estonian writer Anton H. Tammsaare’s novel Truth and Justice available in the future.

As regular readers of Acid Free Pulp know, I am always enthusiastic about literary translation and am thrilled to share with you a Q&A with the publisher of Haute Culture Books, Luis de Miranda. For a complete copy, please download the PDF. All pertinent links are available at the end of the Q&A.

I am looking forward to the current and upcoming books that you are working on. What does the planned future look like for Haute Culture Books?

We will launch with our upcoming publication of Flaubert in December. This special limited edition will sell in high-end boutiques around world, and the results will tell us a lot about the viability of our model. Our limited luxury editions will support the distribution of free e-books for each title. I feel this model addresses the future of publishing as e-books become cheaper and cheaper. Instead of trying to wring out diminishing profits, I prefer to create a model that does not depend on e-book sales and allows us to reach as many readers as possible, particularly younger readers. If we want younger generations to read quality literature, and not just the latest bestsellers, free e-books are the way to go.

As for the printed books, I aim to create unique objects that make the poetry of the texts tangible. As we all spend more time in front of a screen, I believe that the experiential aspect of the printed book will become more important, with readers looking for a higher quality object. I foresee the return of the “gentlemen’s library” (or “gentlewomen’s library”), with fine leather volumes and limited editions—the polar opposite of e-books. Our limited editions will embody my great respect for the ritual of reading and for the craftsmanship of book making.

Through this new model, buyers of our limited print editions will, in effect, become benefactors—or “Book Angels,” as we call them. This model allows individuals to become mini-Medici’s, supporting culture while enjoying a luxurious object. I believe this model will satisfy collectors and book lovers. Right now, we are in an experimental stage. I don’t know if ours will be an economically viable model in the end, but it is definitely a desirable one. Since we are exploring unchartered territory, we have to take things step by step. We are avoiding the established highways over artificial ponds, and attempting to build our own bridge.

There has always been a dearth of international books translated for the English reading audience and, recently, there has been a small movement to change this. What was it that motivated you to begin Haute Culture Books and the Book Angel Project?

Bringing un-translated texts to English readers around the world is one aspect of a wider mission to bring singular, fine, original works to the global corpus. That has always been my goal—to democratize access to culture. I’ve been to the Frankfurt Book Fair many times and met with publishers and agents in New York. I’ve noticed not only that many great European works have not been translated to English, but also that the mainstream US and UK publishers tend to translate mostly genre bestsellers—thrillers for example.

We can’t fight the fact that English is the international language. English is today’s Lingua Franca, the dominant language of the planet and also the language of business. I believe it’s possible to bring to the global language and the international psyche works that aren’t standardized and cliché, but truly represent a unique viewpoint.

Many wonderful independent publishers are translating a variety of contemporary texts, but (as I’m sure they would all tell you) it is not enough to translate and print a book. Today’s distribution systems render most publications invisible to readers. (As an author, I have been translated myself and did not find that the translations greatly increased my readership.) This is why I feel it’s essential for Haute Culture to shake off the shackles of the established systems and freely distribute e-books, in order to reach our greatest readership. Literature has the potential to create a more diverse and interconnected world, but in order to reach that potential we must fight against a profit-driven culture.

What is the translation process like? Does a translator come to you or is one sought out for the specific project?

It depends on the project. We welcome translators who have already completed a text, but we are also willing to find the right translator for a text we want to publish. For our current translation of Yuri Mamleyev’s Shatuny, we are working with one of the best Russian to English translators, Marian Schwartz, who translated Bulgakov and Berberova. 

How does Haute Culture choose the author for a current project?

I tend to choose books that I have read and appreciated in French. It is also important for us to choose authors that are important, even iconic figures in their own nations. Honestly, though, we are too young to have an established method. We are still in the experimental phase of the brand, and we are constantly adapting our strategies in order to come up with the best possible publishing model for our mission.

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Chitting and Chatting with writer Emily Thibodeaux about Louisiana French and the new journal, Embrasser

embrasserI was thrilled and excited to recently hear that my friend and writer, Emily Thibodeaux (along with others) had started a new literary translation journal. Based in Louisiana, Embrasser “aims to embrace the history, culture, and stories told in the French dialects spoken outside of the motherland.” They’ve put out a call for submissions with their first issue focusing on Louisiana French (the journal is bilingual so read the details for more info). Below, you’ll find our lovely interview followed by a smorgasbord of information on how to submit, how to get involved, their mission statement, and more. Enjoy!

For a few years, you were living in New York City. What drew you back to your homeland of Louisiana? I was at the end of my graduate studies and had applied to a few jobs in the city, but hadn’t found much. I was surrounded by peers hard at work on their collections or novel, and also by a growing number of people involved in starting their own literary journals. Being that a lot of my work, including a novel in progress, is set in Acadiana, or the French speaking part of Southwest Louisiana, it seemed like the thing to do would be to return home. I also, thankfully, found adjunct employment teaching English at South Louisiana Community College. Being that Cajun French and its preservation is a cause close to my heart, once I was home, I thought that I could address preservation in a more direct way than by only writing a novel; I wanted to make an archive of the best current writing coming out of Louisiana right now, and translate that work into variations of Louisiana French. I also wanted the journal to serve as a learning tool for both Louisiana natives and those interested in learning Louisiana French.

Tell us a little about Louisiana French and why you chose to launch Embrasser—how you got started with it; your collaborators. Louisiana French is multi-valent; there are as many variations in spelling and usage as there are parishes. It is mostly an oral language, however, an excellent new dictionary, the Dictionary of Louisiana French as Spoken by Cajun, Creole, and American Indian Communities, a collaborative project between the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a few other universities, which has been years in the making, came out a few years ago; it seeks to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible, listing the parish where the word was collected and alternative spellings. I would like to take cues from the dictionary and to represent Louisiana French as it is spoken, and to accept non-standard spellings of words which are unique to each translator.

Cajun, the type of Louisiana French of which I am most intimately familiar, is made up of the French as spoken by the original French colonists in North America, the Acadians, who settled in Maritime Canada, along with Native American, and African influences. The Acadians, from where the word Cajun originates, were expelled from Acadie, modern day Nova Scotia, by the British in 1755. The bulk of Acadians were sent to Louisiana, while others were sent to Maine, Maryland, or back to France. Louisiana French was spoken in relative isolation before my grandparents’ generation it was not allowed to be spoken in schools. They were beaten with rubber hoses amongst other humiliating punishments for speaking their mother tongue. Now, there is an urgent need for preservation.

My mentor and advisor in this project is Rikki Ducornet, . She envisioned Embrasser as more of a global translation journal, whereas I had only originally focused on Louisiana. Jonathan Penton of Coeur Publishing, a small translation press funded by the Swiss Arts Council to translate work from German, is acting as publisher and helping with many aspects of the journal from public relations to website design, and my co-editor is Rosalyn Spencer who is a poet and Louisiana native who has worked in every aspect of the book industry. The name, Embrasser, means to hug and kiss, the obvious English cognate word being “embrace.” The idea of the journal is to connect and embrace unique varieties of international French. We accept work from Louisiana residents and also work from those outside of Louisiana who are writing about Louisiana French, or the Louisiana experience.

Official call for submissions. Click on image to read PDF for more information.

Official call for submissions. Click on image to read PDF for more information.

I am all about more literary translation in the US. How can people become more involved beyond just submitting to the journal? If people are interested in translating into Louisiana French, which includes Cajun, Creole, and French as spoken by Native Americans, they can email me at embrasser@coeurpublishing.com. Please check out the Facebook Page and the Embrasser website for updates about future issues. I will be calling for translators as well as for submissions for each issue, because the highlighted regions will change, and I would love to hear from you if you are interested in literary translation.

What do you see in Embrasser’s future? Embrasser will be published annually, with our first issue coming out for Mardi Gras 2014. In the future, Embrasser will focus on other francophone regions outside of France from French speaking Canada and Haiti to the Maghreb. Ideally, we will be able to find translators from these regions to translate submissions. The translators will vary from region to region, whereas the editors will remain the same. Embrasser seeks to highlight and preserve varieties of French that have been marginalized, and through this project, I would hope that excellent work could be exposed to the Anglophone world and also for there to be transfer and communication between these Francophone regions.

What have you been up to in Louisiana since leaving NYC? Any other new and exciting projects? I have been up to a lot! I wrote a play, “Bataille,” which was directed by a very talented friend, Jarin Schexsnider, which was performed in my house. I was on the submissions board for a new literary journal out of Baton Rouge, Belle Journal, which focuses on the experience of being a woman in the South (which also publishes men under feminine pen names!) I have also read some of my work at a local Lafayette reading series, Voices, and have done some dance including a contemporary ballet of Alice in Wonderland. I am currently involved in a local production of Hair, a contemporary dance piece to be performed at the New Orleans Fringe Festival, and am involved with starting Lafayette’s only burlesque troupe, Boom! Boom! Burlesque. I also paint faces for extra money. Basically, I’ve moved back home to join the circus, and I’m kind of loving it!

Which is a better literary prize? 100 bottles of wine or jet ski? It depends on what kind of wine it is! I might have to go with that.

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  • If you missed the PDF with the official call of submissions, you can find it here.
  • Embrasser is also seeking translators who love Louisiana French culture and literature to assist with the first issue. More details here.
  • The mission statement which details more about what the journal is about and how it goes beyond Louisiana French.

Emerging German playwright, Juliane Stadelmann talks writing, theatre, and jet skis

Not only is Juliane Stadelmann a talented emerging playwright, she is [I hope!] the first  in a line of interviews on Acid Free Pulp. I wanted to showcase her talent and get her perspective on writing and publishing outside of the US.

Juliane is originally from Salzwedel, Germany. She has studied as an actor, worked as a surf instructor in Hawaii and France, and co-edited Tippgemeinschaft 2013. This past year she worked in collaboration with an American playwright to translate and stage dramatic readings of both of their plays in New York City. She currently studies writing at Deutsches Literturinstitut Leipzig and was awarded a place this year in the Stuck für Stuck program at Schauspielhaus in Vienna.

js1How did you make the leap from actor to playwright?

It was not really a leap I think. I’ve been playwriting even before I started acting and going to drama school in Berlin. It was more a thing of changing priorities. After drama school, I felt like I loved being on stage but at the same time I realized working as an actress cuts my personal freedom in a really weird way. From psycho group processes in a company over weird castings to how the fuck am I gonna earn money with that?? So I decided to focus on writing and applied at the Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig. I got in and finally had the space and flexibility I needed to be creative and happy but still theatrical.

You recently were involved in a translation project with an American playwright. I know this was the first time you had your work translated. How was the process? Were there aspects you expected or didn’t?

The technical process was getting in touch with each other by a workshop in Leipzig lead by the translator, Uljana Wolf, and then work on our translations over the winter and present the work in New York in April where we had another great workshop with the distinguished Walser-translator Susan Bernofsky. The process on a personal level was quite unusual I think: I met my translation partner here in Germany personally which has been a quite luxurious situation because usually you are not interacting with your translator on that personal level I guess. Still it was hard for me to give my text away to him. (Maybe, especially because I got to know him.) It was harder than giving it to a theatre (because that’s what naturally happens with dramatic texts). Maybe because I was afraid he’d change too much by putting it into English. While our annotations went back and forth via email I was thinking all the time: Hopefully he understands what it all MEANS! Like literally. I know I shouldn’t have but that’s the truth. Putting text on stage is an act of translation, too, but it allows room for interpretation whereas putting a text into a different language might change it completely. You really have to trust your translator. I had to learn that.

But also I appreciated the things I learned about my own language. And it’s true what [another collaborator] said in one of our presentations: You don’t have to be fluent in the language you are translating but you have to be perfect in your own language. And there is something really true about it. You sometimes touch the border of almost untranslatable phrases…that’s where it becomes really interesting not only as a translator but as a writer.

You’ve been involved with prestigious awards and workshops in Vienna and Graz recently. What have these experiences been like?

For me it has been great. I know that other writers feel different about it, but I think I have a very competitive character. I would trying being an athlete if I wasn’t trying to become an author. And if I was 15 pounds lighter, of course. But that’s a different issue. I like this mixture of competition and creative gathering, because usually those drama awards go hand in hand with some workshops before. So it’s not just about winning. You come together with other authors, in groups of maybe 4 to 6 and some mentors (dramaturges, directors, theatre heads, writers – anyone who is already successfully making a living with words or theatre work) and you read and discuss your text. Sometimes, as in Graz, you even get a director and actors to try some first rehearsals and stage concepts. So it’s a great chance to really work with your words! Critiques in those workshops are often sharper and maybe more honest than in the seminar-situation of my writing class in Leipzig, beause we don`t know each other that well and we all want to have “the best play in the universe” to MAYBE win the award at the end. I really enjoy it though it can be frustrating sometimes of course. You are compared to each other all the time and influenced by the critical words of the jury maybe more than by your own ideas. But that’s something you have to learn to deal with in general.

Although, Austria and Germany share, to an extent, the same language and certain historical and cultural points, are you finding any differences in the theatre world between the two countries?

That’s a hard question. I guess a real theatre-reviewer could write a whole essay about that issue. I can only say that theatre in the German speaking world is diverse in general. Even from Hamburg to Leipzig you’ll find different theatres with different concepts and a different approach to scenic work. That’s the nice thing about theater and playwriting: take one sentence out of a play and every group of a director and some actors will create something different out of it. Besides this, the ensemble-system exists in both of the countries which still is something really “old-school” that other European countries don’t have anymore in that strong of a way. I think tradition still plays a big role in German theatres on stage and also behind the scenes–in some more, in some less. But the hierarchies inside the business are strong and it’sworth being reformed in Germany and Austria. But that’s my personal point of view.

What is the German literary world like? How is it for young, emerging writers and what is the process?

That’s another question which is hard to answer. A common and popular way to get some attention is to win some “Literaturpreis” (literature prize) given away by some publishing house, TV stations or magazines. You apply and you can be awarded with some cash and maybe some publishing deals but there’s no guarantee to be successful after it. Also many young writers think the way those awards are given away are cheesy and you have to write “commercially” to be successful in this game. I’d love to know how you write commercially though…I’d be ruling the world with my books then! But I guess everyone has to decide which game to play. I like having those workshops around any award or prize because whatever you win or don`t win, you can always get some work done with those people and you have a well crafted text after that process. But not all the prizes go with workshops. Some are just pure gambling: Win or loose. I never took part in one of those.

Another way is residencies given away by German cities or states (Bundesländer). They usually go with a free apartment for some months and a little grant. So you have a chance to focus on your work for a couple of months. But usually those are given away to people who already have had some little success or at least got printed somewhere.

And then you can of course just do your own thing. Publish your stuff by yourself and try to keep it underground and individual. There are good possibilities to get support for those projects, at least here in Saxony where I live right now. It’s a lot of organizing and paperwork but you are free do make your own decisions and you also get to know other people publishing.

In general, I guess in the literary world it’s still more complicated to get one’s foot into the door than into the playwright world, because I feel like the general need for good young plays right now is bigger than the need for another novel. But I don’t have figures to proof that. It’s just a feeling.

Jet ski or 100 bottles wine? Which is a better prize?

Are you kidding me?? Every author should win a JETSKI! We would all be better writers and human beings, I`m sure. And I could finally work on my big-wave-career because from a certain wave size on you need a jetski that pulls you into the wave as your human paddle-arms are not able to speed up the way a jetski does. You have to be as fast as the wave to be able to catch it. That’s what I’m talking about!