By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Translations for an Albanian-Language ReadershipAs in the past, the Frankfurter Buchmesse this year will welcome 20 publishers in its annual Invitation Program, which sponsors small independent publishers based in Africa, the Arab world, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to attend the book fair.
Among the most generous of the Buchmesse’s developmental offerings, the Invitation Program provides travel expenses, accommodation, and the use of an exhibition stand at no charge to publishing professionals from emerging world markets to help widen the trade show’s purview and to bring these publishing leaders into the center of the international industry gathered at Frankfurt.
Publishing Perspectives has had a chance to begin getting to know some of this year’s group, and today we hear from a publisher of Albanian-language literature in Macedonia—where, it turns out, the marketplace in some ways isn’t a friendly one.
As we learn from Azam Dauti, the company’s general manager and editor in chief, there not only are issues of local economics and weak state support to contend with, but also competition from nearby Kosovo and Albania, where consumers aren’t always receptive to literature imported from Macedonia. Dauti runs the company with his wife Florija Neziri Dauti handling project direction.
‘To Stimulate New Readership’
Publishing Perspectives: Give us a quick understanding of your publishing company.
Azam Dauti: Shkupi Publishing House here in Skopje, is a private company that publishes books and translations from foreign languages into Albanian. We are a bilingual nation in which 30 percent of our population is Albanian, and they’re our target readership.
Next year, Shkupi celebrates our 25th year, we were founded in 1994. To date, we’ve published 230 books from many categories—fiction, children’s literature, drama, political content, essays, poetry, and so on.
PP: And is there strong state support for your work in translation—maybe grants?
AD: Truth be told, we didn’t achieve this through the support of our Macedonian ministry of culture but thanks to the support of foundations and their funding. Thanks to such foreign book support, we’ve focused in the last decade on international literature, often prize-winning titles from other languages. And in this way, we’re able to help expose our readers to the values of other cultures and to very high levels of literary work.
So far, we’ve published more than 100 translations, work coming from a range of countries, from Estonia to Canada.
PP: What are the main challenges that you and the publishing industry in Macedonia face?
AD: Our main challenge is that we can produce only small runs, say, 500 to 1000 print copies). Most of those copies, we donate in charitable activities, meaning that only a small number are actually sold.
The living standard here in Macedonia is very low, particularly among our Albanians readers. So we regularly contribute our books for charitable events and to school libraries. We reward our best students with gifts of books, too—the better to stimulate new readership.
PP: Do you find you can work with international publishing partners to help shore up revenue?
AD: Needless to say, international literary agencies and and rights holders may not see much business logic in our doing so much charitable work. But for us, this is the only way to cultivate our consumer base.
Without the institutional support of ministerial backing, it’s very, very hard, believe me. And our national institutions still haven’t recognized the need to promote the value of books and reading as aggressively as we need them to.
PP: We see that you’ve produced work such as Kosovo dissident Adem Demaçi’s Book of Self Disclaimer and Teuta Arifi’s Existentialist Feminism. If those are works you can bring from Albanian into Macedonian, how well can you sell your output the other way, meaning into the native Albanian-language markets near you?
AD: The Albanian book market, although it includes several small Balkan countries like Kosovo, Albania, and our country, Macedonia, is difficult, actually, because Albania and Kosovo have their own publishers, writers, and readership.
We noticed very often when we took part at book fairs in Prishtina and Tirana that many consumers there are doubtful of the quality of translation, when they see that a book is coming from an Albanian publisher in Macedonia. And that’s even though our translators are from Albania and Kosovo and charge good prices.
PP: What are your goals for the Frankfurter Buchmesse? What do you hope will come out of your participation in the trade show this year?
AD: We hope to deepen our direct contacts with many literary agencies, book authors, and book and translation support foundations, to help them to get the real picture of publishing here in Macedonia. We need our colleagues to have a better understanding of our situation and to realize that we’re trying to increase our publishing activities.
And, of course, we’re also eager to share some of the literary value we have in the Albanian reading culture of Macedonia.
More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurt Book Fair is here.
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