By Adam Critchley
GUADALAJARA: Argentine publisher Adriana Hidalgo has won this year’s Publishing Merit Award at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, in recognition of the firm that carries her name as Latin America’s most widely distributed independent publisher.
Buenos Aires-born Hidalgo, who founded the firm in 1999 with Fabián Lebenglik, described the company, and the award, as a homage to her father, who was kidnapped in 1977 during the military dictatorship and whose body has never been found.
Hidalgo describes publishing as something she sought in order to “break the silence and build a homage” to her father.
The firm continues a long book-loving tradition in her family. Her grandfather owned the El Ateneo bookstore in Buenos Aires. “I always imagined that his bookstore was his house, and every time I visited him it was like a party because I could choose any book I wanted,” she said.
The firm was founded at a time when independent publishers in Argentina were few and far between, and shortly before the country plunged into financial crisis.
“They were difficult times, although in Argentina the times are always difficult. While that was a particularly difficult time for us, the crisis also gave us an opportunity and small publishing houses began to sprout up with interesting projects, not only in Argentina but across Latin America.”
“The plan came from the ambition for the firm to be a publisher from South America, from Argentina, but for all of the Spanish-speaking world. At that time, in 1999, Argentina was at a difficult crossroads, economically and politically, and publishing was a no-man’s land. We wanted to recover that independent and cosmopolitan character that had characterized Argentine publishing throughout the 20th century, and which acted as a lighthouse for both Latin America and Spain,” the firm’s co-founder Fabián Lebenglik, an editor and art critic, said.
The firm has published more than 200 titles, including fiction, poetry, philosophy, essay, art and children’s books.
“The fundamental work of a publisher is discovery, generating readers, in the hope that we can publish good writing, and something new, rather than just responding to the demands of the market,” Lebengilk said.
“An independent publisher is one that only publishes for the literary value, in order to circulate ideas that strike them as interesting, discovering new writers and putting them in the hands of readers. It’s a passionate occupation and breeds new identities in Latin America,” Adriana Hidalgo said, adding that she is optimistic that more independent publishers will emerge across the region.
“Independent publishing is like a virus, the best kind of contagious disease.”
In the face of the digital revolution in publishing, Lebenglik says that the work of publishers will become more and more important, as the volume of information increases, making ever more necessary the need for “well-trained editors, with educated eyes, in order to make sense of this overwhelming magma of information.”
Publishing is, he added, “the celebration of the book, that object that is so simple and sophisticated and that continues to bring us all together.”
Adriana Hidalgo (AH) is located at Francisco de Vittoria 2324 – PB, Buenos Aires, Argentina.