A recently opened French-English bookshop in London’s East End has launched a series of monthly events celebrating translated literature.
Caravansérail, also a gallery and “cultural platform”, has started the monthly meet-ups to “respond to and encourage the ever-increasing interest in translated literature”, hosting experts such as Daniel Hahn, Deborah Smith and Jacques Testard.
On the second Wednesday evening of every month, the store near Brick Lane hosts the events discussing translation along with a new monthly selection of literature in translation curated by various industry figures. Each month sees a freshly curated shelf, along with information about the curator and their reasons for selecting the titles.
The £8 tickets for the first two events, in February and March, all sold out and the shop’s owners are keen to hear suggestions for future sessions from publishers and others in the trade.
Laura Cleary, a former attaché for the French Embassy in Beirut, her cousin, Anne Vegnaduzzo, artists’ agent, officially opened the shop in the summer.
Said: “We have been open for nine months, it has been a wonderful adventure getting to know customers and the book industry, the whole literary community bit by bit. We would love to hear more from publishers about events.
“It is interesting to see how a book came to life, to hear not only from authors but also editors, publishers, agents and translators. I think the general public is interested in how a book comes to be.”
The next event will take place on 11th April during the London Book Fair exploring ‘Translation as a Political Act’. Writer, filmmaker and human rights activist Preti Taneja will chair the discussion with translators John Hodgson, Ümit Hussein and Will Firth. Ellie Steel, editor at Harvill Secker and judge at the Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize, will select the curated translated titles for April.
The launch event in February, 'We Love Translation', featured Hahn, translator and founder of the Translators Association (TA) First Translation Prize, as chair with and a panel made up of Smith, translator and founder of Tilted Axis Press, Laura Macaulay, Deputy Publisher of Pushkin Press, and Ellen Jones, translator and an editor at Asymptote Journal.
In March, 'New Voices in Translation', saw inaugural British Library translator-in-residence, Jen Calleja, chair a discussion on emerging translators with speakers including Hahn, founder of Fitzcarraldo Editions, Testard, and Francesca Barrie who was shortlisted for the Translators' Association First Translation Prize. Hahn founded the award in June, using half his winnings from the International Dublin Literary Award.
Cleary, who previously spent five years as a diplomat in Beirut, said: “With these initiatives, Caravansérail hopes to build an informed community of readers and literature in translation enthusiasts and encourage more people to explore the world beyond their geographical boundaries.”
Last summer, she told The Bookseller how she hoped the store would “spark” more discussion around translated books.
Together with Vegnaduzzo, Cleary spent 18 months preparing through research, internships at publishers in France, meetings and events.
The pair poured their life savings into the 70-square metre shop, along with a grant from an agency within the French government, the Centre National du Livre, and chose the name ‘Caravanserail’ (‘caravansérail’ in French) to promote the theme of “interaction” and exchange between readers.
Caravansérail also runs events on storytelling for children, Spoken Word, and there are plans to start a regular graphic novel event.
For more information, visit caravanserail.co.uk.