by Craig Morgan Teicher
LONDON/NEW YORK: On May 29th, The New York Times reported that Alex Clark, the first female editor of the London-based international literary quarterly, was resigning after less than a year, leaving the magazine’s recently appointed American editor, John Freeman, in the post of acting editor. According to Freeman, Granta, which has a circulation of about 50,000 and also publishes editions in Spain, Italy, and Brazil, will now be publishing more fiction, poetry and reportage from non-English-speaking countries.
While Freeman said he couldn’t discuss the details of Clark’s departure, he indicated that there was a difference of opinion between Clark, the magazine’s publisher Sigrid Rausing and Freeman. “The magazine wants to go in a different direction. I think the concern is that it had been too insular, English and safe,” said Freeman.
Freeman, who lives in New York but will now spend half the year in London, is a prominent book critic and former president of the National Book Critics Circle. He was appointed Granta’s American editor in December, 2008. In his new role, Freeman said he wants to focus on literature from around the world. Freeman said, “I think writing from Great Britain will always be a large part of Granta because we’re based in London. But English and American novelists and reporters don’t have an oligarchy on good writing. I think we need to approach writing from other parts of the world with that in mind: they’re doing the same thing writers in English do, they’re just doing it in another language.”
Freeman said he’s especially interested in writing from the Middle East and Africa, and that he’d also like to publish more writing from other parts of Europe. “We haven’t published much in translation from the French. Basically we need to be opened up to the whole world. I just want to have a more complete sense of what writers are talking about,” said Freeman.
Granta is uniquely equipped to find writing from other languages. The well-established Spanish edition and the new one in Italy both take 50% of their content from the English edition, commissioning translations of pieces into Spanish and Italian, then solicit the rest locally. Freeman said he’ll be looking to the editors of the other editions of Granta to bring new writers to his attention. “Our Spanish language editor, Valerie Miles, knows everything published in the Spanish language,” he said. “We have a piece by writer Javier Marías that came to us through Granta Spain, for instance.”
Freeman said he also plans to attend international conferences, such as the London and Frankfurt book fairs, as well as to lean heavily on translators to help him find new writers. According to Freeman, “translators are the people who know who haven’t been translated.” He said he’ll also be looking to publishers from around the world to pitch him their authors.
Rausing, who also funded the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (dubbed the Arabic Booker), “has a very strong interest in world cultures,” according to Freeman. “This idea that the world is a much vaster place than England and America is not new to her at all. She’s from Sweden, is used to looking at the world from an outsider’s perspective.”
Freeman said that a broader international reach is the logical direction for Granta: “It’s just the way the world works,” he said. “Even if you’re from Ohio, there’s probably someone from Bombay living next door. It’s not that nations or the idea of nationality will become less important, but people will move around more. Our literary culture needs to reflect that.”
CONTACT: John Freeman directly.
EXPLORE: Granta’s Web site
LEARN: More abou the International Prize for Arabic Fiction