Bonus Material: Penguin Brings Its Classics to Brazil

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka
Brazilian book publishing is full of surprises –- one of them being that many classics of Western literature have never been translated into Portuguese. Stephen Morrison, Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Penguin Books in the United States saw the opportunity to bring his company’s long line of classics to this emerging market and last month penned a deal with Sao Paolo publisher Companhia das Letras to publish a line called Penguin Companhia Classicos and Penguin Companhia.

“The Brazilian market is a very good match for Penguin,” said Morrison. “There’s such a focus on education and the classics are very well suited to that in terms of a cultural education.”

The list will include traditional “black spine Penguins,” as well as new editions of classic Brazilian texts — public domain classics and documents from Brazilian history — which will be distinguishable by their covers and will replicate the historical orange and white striped Penguin editions from the 1930s.

In addition, a line of Penguin Portables, which anthologizes works of individual authors or genres, will be published in Brazil under the brand name “Essencial.” The first “Essencial” edition will appear next year and will focus on the work of writer Jorge Amado.

Morrison says that the model for bringing Penguin to Brazil was based on the company’s recent experiences expansion into China in 2006 and Korea in 2008. “One important lesson we learned,” said Morrison, ”is that it’s essential to adapt your books to the market and follow your partner’s lead: they know the market and you don’t.”

Morrison adds that the partnership with Companhia das Letras will be “a two way street.” Penguin will be looking for Brazilian classics that are suitable for translation (or re-translation) into English and publication in North America. “There is too little Brazilian writing known outside of Brazil. We’re very excited by the prospects,” said Morrison. The first of these books due to appear is a new translation of Euclides da Cunha’s nonfiction masterpiece Os Sertões (Rebellion in the Backlands) which will be published in the United States next year.

VISIT: The Companhia das Letras Web site

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.