By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
An Arctic Tern Becomes an Imprint’s IconIn a Frankfurter Buchmesse Show Daily Exclusive, Publishing Perspectives is the first to reveal the new Amazon Crossing logos that are being presented today (Wednesday, October 16) at noon on the Amazon Publishing Stage in Hall 3.0, Stand B47.
The occasion is the upcoming 10th anniversary of Amazon Crossing, which has spent its first decade becoming the largest translation house in operation.
“In our 10 years,” says the imprint’s editorial director, Gabriella Page-Fort, “we’ve translated more than 400 books into English by authors from 42 countries in 26 languages.” And that doesn’t even include the editions that Amazon Crossing has published in languages other than English.
Page-Fort will lead the session at 12 p.m. today, introducing to the audience—everyone is welcome—the all-new logos you see here, one for the main Amazon Crossing imprint and one for the Amazon Crossing Kids imprint just announced in January to start creating translations aimed at younger readers.
As Page-Fort will explain to her audience today, the bird you see in these new logos is an arctic tern.
“The Arctic tern is the bird with the largest migration pattern,” Page-Fort tells Publishing Perspectives. “It travels over every continent on Earth. And we thought that was perfect. It really carries the metaphor” for a wide-ranging translation imprint.
“You know, you don’t see these birds,” she says, pointing out that they look something like a common seagull. “But they see everything.”
In the decade of work Page-Fort looks back on now, she points out that one interesting bit of migration—may the tern forgive us—occurring for the imprint has been toward the translation of nonfiction.
Originally working only on fiction, the imprint, has just released this month one of its biggest nonfiction titles to date, The Man Who Played With Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin. Written by Jan Stocklassa and translated by Tara F. Chace, the book was acquired from Judith Toth at the Nordin Agency in February by the Amazon Crossing team.
It tells the story of how, 10 years after Larsson’s 2004 death at age 50, Stocklassa, a journalist, gained exclusive access to Larsson’s private archive, uncovering an unknown project by the late author of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson had been engaged in extensive research and investigation into the unsolved assassination of the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme in 1986. Truly an international hit, the book has sold into at least 28 languages and territories. Amazon Crossing is producing its English translation in Australia, Canada, the States, and the UK.
“We knew how much readers really like true crime,” Page-Fort says, “so from a marketing perspective, we felt like this project was one in which we could have the broadest reach and support,” with the Amazon retail engine behind it.
Of course, nonfiction is at the core of The Dead Wander in the Desert, too, a book by Kazakhstani author Rollan Seisenbayev with a translation by John Farndon that will be discussed at 10:30 this morning (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., the International Stage, Hall 5.1 A128) in our Publishing Perspectives Talk on publishing and the climate crisis. Seisenbayev’s novel is based on the actual destruction of the Aral Sea by Soviet engineering projects, a terrible ecological disaster that will never be overcome.
The international nonfiction trend, Page-Fort points out, has been felt far beyond Amazon Crossing, with many parts of the industry finding that, “People are really curious about how other people live.
“So in 2020, of our nonfiction releases, one I’m most excited about is called A Drop of Midnight, a memoir by the Swedish hip-hop artist Jason Diakité—AKA Timbuktu—and translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles.
“The book really helps you understand our narrative [today] of migration and integration, and of how we become multicultural within different sorts of established cultures. ”
Coming in November, Johary Ravaloson’s Return to the Enchanted Island in Allison M. Charette’s translation is the Malagasy origin myth, Page-Fort says, that tells of tears filling the deepest lake, the first central body of water. In Ravaloson’s story, a young man is sent from the island to Paris where the weight of his name—that of mythology’s first man–and the expectations of his privileged life are too much for him.
It’s a coming-of-age tale, Page-Fort says, that “pulls the mask off the concept” of scions being sent away “to bring a bunch of Europe back to your people and improve your local community with what you’ve learned.”
And coming next March, another story of young adulthood, The Girl in the Tree by Turkish author Şebnem İşigüzel and translated by Mark David Wyers is a fable of “political madness” and violence. A young woman climbs a tree in Istanbul’s Gülhane Park to escape the hostility overtaking life on the ground below.
This is a book and author represented by familiar Frankfurt-going literary agent Nermin Mollaoğlu of Istanbul, and Page-Fort says, “There’s something about her voice, the protagonist, that’s really fresh and young. And she feels really present, there’s no narrative distance, you know, a very intimate narrator” not unlike the voice, she says, of Holden Caulfield in JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
And scheduled for an April 21 release, another key translation that Page-Fort will mention today for the newly logo-ed Amazon Crossing is The King of Warsaw, Szczepan Twardoch’s story in Sean Gaspar Bye’s translation of Jakub Szapiro, a Jewish community hero in Warsaw for his prowess in the boxing ring and his work as “an enforcer” for a crime boss.
It’s 1937 and Jakub has to fact the reality of fascism rising around him in what becomes, Page-Fort says, a test of the reader’s fortitude as well as the character’s.
“You get the sense of the mass trauma” of the time and place, she says, “because the sentences are traumatizing. There were a number of questions on the editing of the book. ‘Is this too harsh?'”
What finally comes to light, she says, is “a bit of that imperfection in all of us. You seen the flaws in some of the characters, and how some of them are doing these things that are not acceptable and yet they get away with them anyway,” as certain highly placed figures in some of our societies seem to do today.
Page-Fort will have more details today for those who can make it to the stand for her presentation of translations to come the takeoff of that new Amazon Crossing Arctic tern across the borders of language and culture: flights of literature in the offing.