Browsing at one of Manhattan’s dwindling list of bookstores the other day, I had the pleasure of discovering the Open Letter series produced by University of Rochester Press. Specializing in fiction in translation, Open Letter makes a point of bringing authors who work in somewhat obscure languages to the American market. They offer plenty of stuff translated from German, French, and Spanish. But their list also includes books written in Icelandic, Catalan, Bulgarian, and Afrikaans, among other tongues that you probably didn’t study in high school.
It’s notorious that Americans don’t read translations (or watch movies with subtitles). That’s really too bad. It may just be the novels that Open Letter picks, but I had the impression that these foreign writers were far less concerned with the bourgeois family and the predicament of the artist than much contemporary American fiction. That’s a good thing–because no one will ever treat those subjects better than Flaubert.
So it’s worth checking their website if you’re searching for weekend reading. I’m looking forward to starting To Hell With Cronjé, a novel by the Afrikaaner writer Ingrid Winterbach set during the Boer War.