Continuing our Publishing Spotlight series, we turn our attention to Dedalus Books, a small but influential publisher who have forged a reputation in the world of translated fiction for their specific brand of European off-kilter literature.
Their list is chock full of fascinating and diverse authors, both classic and contemporary. They have enjoyed success with a handful of their titles with one in particular, 'On the Run' by Martin Prinz and translated by Mike Mitchell, adapted to film to huge success (see below for the trailer).
Here we talk to Eric Lane of Desalus Books about his thoughts on translated fiction, why one of his authors turned down a Nobel Prize and what their plans are for London 2012.
1) Can you give us a bit of background to Dedalus Books?
We started with £10,000 capital in 1983 and used it to publish three novels in November, 1983. We launched our European Classics list in February, 1984 with the D.H.Lawrence translations of Giovanni Verga. We then commissioned our first translation of Verga's 'I Malavoglia' by Judith Landry.
Two years later, we decided to develop our list in a certain way and created our genre of distorted reality - the bizarre, the unusual, the grotesque, and the surreal melded together into a fiction which is very European. The inspiration for this new genre was Jan Potocki's 'Saragossa Manuscript'.
In 1992, to celebrate the European single market as a cultural event, we began translating contemporary European fiction in the Dedalus Europe 1992 list and began anthologising European literary fantasy, country by country.
Some of our classic authors sell well but from our living European authors our bestselling titles include: 'The Book of Nights' by Sylvie Germain, 'Letters Back to Ancient China' by Herbert Rosendorfer, 'The Zero Train' by Yuri Buida and 'Lobster' by Guillaume Lecasble.
"We are zany so we are happy with that."
3) Why, in your opinion, is translated fiction so important?
Any history of English literature shows that the translation of certain books has had a profound effect on our culture. The UK is part of Europe and we must embrace European literature as part of our heritage. A country which show no interest in the literature and the culture of its neighbours will not win friends and influence in the European Union. What is the point of living in a global village if vast swathes of the world's best books are denied to you?
In November we'll publish one of the most evocative and entralling portraits of Brazil written by a French author called Jean-Marie Blas de Robles. It is overwhelmingly brilliant. Also, anyone who reads Mike Mitchell's transaltion of 'Where Tigers Are At Home' is in for a real treat.
Without translation, such masterpieces and enriching experiences would be denied to us and we would all be the poorer for it.
4) On the Booktrust Translated Fiction page, Dedalus Books are described as ‘A doughty independent...worth checking out for the sheer zaniness of some of its European fiction.’ Are you happy with that description?
How other people describe Dedalus is down to them. When we first started we had the nickname of T'he DeadLoss Publishing Company' so a doughty independent is certainly progress! We are zany so we are happy with that. One feature of the people who have been running Dedalus for the last 28 years is that we are determined and we never give up.
2011 is our best year for contemporary European fiction with outstanding work from Danish, Norwegian, Italian and French. We have just bought novels from Poland and Russia for 2012 and made an offer for a very zany Italian novel.
5) What inspired you to publish your most popular French author, Sylvie Germain?
We believe she is one of the world's greatest living authors and we feel proud to have published 11 books by her. Although she has been compared to Angela Carter there is no one like her in English - or in any other language for that matter.
"We want to put UK publishing at the heart of Europe by finding new authors and widening the reach of our list to all the languages of Europe."
6) Which translated fiction novels will you be publishing next/who do you recommend the reading public should look out for?
I've already mentioned 'Where Tigers Are At Home' which is 700 pages long and will be the first hardcover edition of a living European author that Dedalus has published. Very strongly recommended is 'New Finnish Grammar' by Diego Marani which could also make a very big impression. It is a fascinating exploration of Finnish literature and language by an Italian and is a novel about the importance of identity and belonging to a country and culture. Without our roots we are lost.
In July we'll publish William Heinesen's masterpiece 'The Good Hope', which won the Nordic Prize and would have led to him winning the Nobel Prize if he had not written to the Nobel Committee asking not to be awarded the prize as he wrote in Danish and any Faeroese author who won the prize should write in Faeroese!
In the winter we'll publish 'Ugly Bugly' by Lars Ramslie which is very bizarre, grotesque and unusual - very Dedaluis!
We want to put UK publishing at the heart of Europe by finding new authors and widening the reach of our list to all the languages of Europe. We have begun an Africa list which we will develop, as it is time Europe came to terms with Africa.
We will continue to do original English language fiction and publish zany books. For instance we have just commissioned our tie-in title for the 2012 Olympic Gamers, 'The Decadent Sportsman' by Medlar Lucan and Durian Gray.
In addition, all of our titles will get an ebook edition eventually as well as a five-minute video, with the Dedalus website becoming an Arts You Tube.
Trailer for 'The Robber' (an adaptation of 'On the Run')