Open Letter, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation, and Bulgarian Literature

In Global Trade Talk by Chad W. Post

By Chad Post

Admittedly, this is a bit self-promotional, but I do think it’s an interesting news story of how one particular foundation is helping to promote a particular country’s literature.

As announced in this press release, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation is partnering with Open Letter Books to launch two contests to benefit contemporary Bulgarian authors and translators.

The first contest is focused on contemporary works of Bulgarian literature — authors are encouraged to submit sample translations of their work and the winning book will be published in English by Open Letter Books.

The other contest focuses on translators, offering a three-week fellowship to come to the United States and work with Open Letter on a particular project while also learning some of the ins and outs of American publishing.

More information about how to apply can be found on in the press release of on the website of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation.

What Elizabeth Kostova is doing for Bulgarian literature is incredible. Her foundation not only sponsors these contests, but also organizes and hosts the annual Sozopol Fiction Seminars for English and Bulgarian writers.

Every country needs an advocate and a foundation like this . . . As we’ve seen, left to the whims of the marketplace, not very many works of literature make their way into our country. But with the littlest bit of support — such as subsidizing a full translation — and a system for spreading information about a country’s literary scene — via a contest, an annual publication with samples of new titles, an editor’s trip, etc. — at least a few more titles are translated and published than otherwise would be.

None of this is rocket science, and many readers are already aware of the Japanese Publishing Project, German Book Office, Finnish Literary Exchange, Estonian Literary Information Center, Dutch Foundation for Literature, Ramon Llull Institut and many more. The EFK is a private foundation though, working with the Bulgarian government and other founders to jointly promote Bulgarian writing. I may be wrong, but I think this is a relatively unique situation. And one that many countries and international literature proponents could learn from.

About the Author

Chad W. Post

Chad W. Post is the director of Open Letter Books, a press at the University of Rochester dedicated to publishing contemporary literature from around the world. In addition, he is the managing editor of Three Percent, a blog and review site that promotes literature in translation and is home to both the Translation Database and the Best Translated Book Awards. His articles and book reviews have appeared in a range of publications including The Believer, Publishing Perspectives, the Wall Street Journal culture blog, and Quarterly Conversation.