Indie publishers rally to promote European literature

Indie publishers rally to promote European literature

Independent publishers are showing their support for Europe following Brexit by promoting European literature and calling for a plurality of voices to be heard.

Poetry publisher Sidekick Books is partnering with the Stockholm Review of Literature for a joint event, which will gather some of Europe’s "most talented" poets and writers to give readings in their original language of poetry or short prose, paired up with another poet or writer who will read the English translation. The organisers said: “The UK may have voted to leave the European Union, but mainland Europeans are still very much part of Britain and especially of London. We are still here and our voices will continue to be heard."

Meanwhile, in a bid to celebrate the "the excellence of literature written on European soil", Pushkin Press is running a ‘Read Europe’ promotional campaign, offering 20% off 10 books including Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger from France, Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb from Hungary and Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig.

Meike Ziervogel, publisher and founder of Peirene Press, has also discussed in a blog post for the Society of Authors, the importance of collaboration, understanding and the willingness to engage with the “narrative of strangers” following the referendum. She said: “The shocking victory of Brexit came about because the campaign tapped into people’s fears of foreigners and strangers. Fear is caused when we feel threatened. And we feel threatened when we don’t understand. In our increasingly small, overpopulated, environmentally endangered world we need to collaborate to survive.  But collaboration requires understanding and this is only possible if we are willing to engage with the narratives of strangers – narratives that might at first jar with what we know and like.

“If I – a professional of the ‘story industry’ - resist leaving my comfort zone and only listen and read stories that sound familiar, how can I then expect others to have an open ear to new and strange tales? […] This country needs to learn to listen to other people’s stories, only then will it change. But we – writers, publishers, agents, critics, booksellers – have to be courageous enough to lead by example.”

Ziervogel also wrote an open letter before the referendum presenting the "cultural case" for staying in the EU. It was signed by Granta editor Max Porter, Katharina Bielenberg, associate publisher at MacLehose, and Adam Freudenheim, publisher of Pushkin Press, among others.

Influx Press, an indie dedicated to publishing stories from "the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces and sites of resistance that remain under explored in mainstream literature" has also previously called for publishers and writers to rally together to publish and promote "under threat" voices.

Simon Reichley, assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House, went further, saying in a blog post: “And just as publishers like Influx have a responsibility to protect the marginalised and to create a cultural space and voice for those most vulnerable to a revitalised nationalism, so too do more mainstream publishers have a responsibility to bring more level heads to the table, to reintegrate the alienated and fearful white middle class, and to rapidly de-escalate the culture war presently looming on the British horizon.”

Independent bookshops have also expressed their support of European literature, with Dulwich Books creating a "post-Brexit Europe" display of books including Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson (HarperCollins) "to let our European cousins know we still love them", and Nic Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights writing an open letter to publishers of translated fiction, pledging support for their work in the wake of Brexit.

Last month, the founders of Alma Books promised to maintain their commitment to their "pursuit of cross-cultural literary endeavour" and to "celebrating the best of European literature".