Another ‘World Series’: Translating Southern European and Balkan Books

In News by Dennis Abrams

From the Los Angeles Review of Books: Focusing on one country or region at a time, UK independent house Peter Owen is translating titles in groups of three at a time.

Translators of the Peter Owen World Series titles from the Spanish on the top row above are by Simon Deefholts and Kathryn Phillips-Miles. On the lower row, from left, translators of these titles from the Serbian are Dana Todorović, Terence McEneny, and Christina Pribićević-Zorić. The Serbian group is to publish in October.

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

‘A Somewhat Cheeky Nod Toward Baseball’

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, we find an article by Susan Curtis-Kojaković of London’s Istros Books, which focuses on translation from south European and Balkan literature.

Her operation last year partnered with the UK-based independent publishing house Peter Owen to create a “world series” of translated literature. The program is expected to publish three works each year of translated contemporary fiction from a specific region or country.

In her article, she talks with Simon Graeme Smith, who serves as managing editor of the Peter Owen World Series. A few quick excerpts:

Susan Curtis-Kojaković

Susan Curtis-Kojaković : Can you tell us how the name was chosen and a little more about your aims?

Simon Graeme Smith: In truth, it started out as a working title—with a somewhat cheeky nod toward the baseball [World Series]—but in the end it just stuck, as it seemed to work. As a series that focuses on world literature, it is appropriate…It occurred to me—and our new CEO, Nick Kent, agreed—that establishing a series in which we concentrated on one country or region at a time would rationalize things and allow us to focus our somewhat limited marketing firepower better.

We decided to concentrate on contemporary works by living authors, as diverse as possible, and over time create, we hope, an interest in the series as a whole rather than just in individual seasons.


Simon Graeme Smith

SC-K: As you remember, I brought Istros Books into this project at an early stage with the suggestion that we launch the initiative with three novels from Slovenia… were you concerned that the readership might be too small for the launch?

SGS: I suppose we went for a soft launch of sorts, but there were a number of solid reasons for kicking off the World Series with a lesser-known literature. Istros has such good connections in the Balkans and could source the books we needed—each one different and special—and the Slovenians were delighted that we had chosen them for the debut selection and were very supportive.


SC: ow about a sneak preview of what 2018-’19 has in store?

SS: We have one title from each of the Baltic states lined up for a spring 2018 release in the United Kingdom (autumn in North America), to tie in with their star billing at the 2018 London Book Fair…after which we move south to the Levant and then Turkey (contracts are all currently under negotiation for these, so no names yet). Then, who knows where? Subject, of course, to post-Brexit visa requirements.

From left, the Peter Owen World Series Slovenian books are translated, from left, by Olivia Hellewell, Rawley Grau, and, again, Hellewell.

The complete article by Susan Curtis-Kojaković at the Los Angeles Review of Books is here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.