In January 2018, the National Book Foundation announced that it will recognize works in translation, opening up a distinctly American literary award to writers working in other languages. The new translation prize marks the first time the foundation has added a category in more than two decades and indicates a radical change for the awards which were founded to “celebrate the best of American literature”.
On the heels of this announcement, a new publisher enters the US publishing scene:
World Editions, an independent publisher set up to bring translated international literature to a global readership.
Founded in 2015 in Amsterdam and London, and under the leadership of experienced Publishing Director Judith Uyterlinde, World Editions has now opened offices in New York. Christine Swedowsky, most recently Director of International Marketing & Sales at Penguin Random House, will serve as US Director of World Editions. Distributed by Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, World Editions is launching with an exciting title list in Fall 2018, bringing English readers the best literature other countries have to offer.
Some of the highlights publishing this year are Speechless by the bestselling Belgian author Tom Lanoye, Craving by award-winning Dutch playwright Esther Gerritsen, the winner of the prestigious Dutch Bookseller Award You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben and Always Another Country by the South African writer Sisonke Msimang, whose TED talk on the power of the story was watched over 1 million times.
World Editions originates from the independent and respected Netherlands-based publishing house De Geus which was founded in 1983 by the recognized Dutch publisher Eric Visser. Since 2016, World Editions is a part of the independent publishing group Libella, led by internationally renowned Vera Michalski. Libella publishing group is a truly European publishing group based in Switzerland, France and Poland and committed to contributing to intercultural dialogue. Publishing Director Judith Uyterlinde is renowned for her commitment to writers from all over the world and her broad knowledge of literature and languages. An author herself, whose books have been translated into over twenty languages, Judith has served as publisher at several European literary publishing houses and as judge for the European Literature Prize.
Judith Uyterlinde on the launch of World Editions in the US: “We have beautiful books to offer to American readers who want to discover new voices from Europe and beyond. Our high-quality fiction and literary memoirs not only look inwards, but also tell us something about the world we live in. We believe in the power of words and stories and in the empathy that literature inspires. Books can open up new worlds. Books can build bridges between cultures.“
While there are a growing number of publishing houses that specialize in publishing works in translation and international literature — including Europa Editions, home of author Elena Ferrante— translated literature still accounts for a tiny percentage of books published in the United States. Less than 5% of all publications in the US are translations – a gap Salman Rushdie has called “shocking”.
Karin Wessel, Business Development Director at World Editions, previously working at Europa and with ample experience in successfully promoting the most important international narrative voices such as Ferrante and Barbery, says:
”World Editions is set to make a significant contribution to the US book market. In the UK, World Editions has published books translated from the Dutch, Swedish, Icelandic, Russian, Norwegian, Chinese, Turkish, Italian, French, and Spanish and our US publishing program is now expanding to include voices from South Africa, Lebanon, Iraq, and other parts of the world.”
Is the US market – traditionally tough for translated books – opening up to overseas literature?
Christine Swedowsky, US Director of World Editions thinks so:
”The new translation prize added by the National Book Foundation is a very positive sign that Americans are looking for a connection with other countries and cultures. There are countless books available in 20 or more translations –except English– which sell in the hundreds of thousands worldwide yet remain inaccessible to the American reader. World Editions is hoping to change that, building bridges across cultural divides and fostering international understanding through books.”
Launching with 10 titles in the Fall, the novels published by World Editions are designed in a distinctive and attractive format with round corners, ideal for book-lovers seeking inspiring new additions to their collections and readers looking to expand their horizons globally.