About this issue: Special


This July, The Observer Translation Project leaves its usual format to present a special CRISIS ISSUE. Things are tough all over.Hard Times suddenly feels like the book of the moment. Theglobal economic crisis impacts life as we know it, and viewed from Bucharest the effects reverberate in domains that include geo-politics and publishing inRomania and abroad, with the crisis at The Observer Translation Project as an instance of a universal phenomenon.
By all reasonable accounts, the Republic of Moldova entered a cycle of willful election fraud and political repression beginning on April 7 this year.  Leo Butnaru, Moldavian journalist and author of literary texts, discusses the election and its consequences in a "Letter from Chişinau," the capital of Moldova, home to the last communist regime in this part of the world. In Moldova, communism amounts to State capitalism for the ruthless few. The country's geographic position condemns it to existence as a buffer state. Bordering Romania and the Ukraine, Moldova continues to fall under Russian influence. The European Union (which includes Romania) imports oil from Russia via the Ukraine. Depending on Russia for oil, the EU finds itself in a delicate position when it comes to defending human rights in Moldova, a country rich in agricultural resources that nevertheless exists in permanent crisis. This crisis is the direct result of Russia's need to maintain a government in Chişinau that will not interfere with the Russian sponsored dictatorship in the Russian-speaking "ghost republic" of Transnistria, Moldova's neighbor and Russia's client state. In his letter, Butnaru discusses the sacrifices born by the people of Moldova as a result of this permanent economic and geo-political struggle.  Moldavian is the official language of Butnaru's country. We read it as Romanian, however, and responding to an appeal from PEN Bessarabia, we translate Butnaru's letter as the first in a series of articles from Moldova.
As regards literature in translation, English is translation's Moldova. Chad Post [of Open Letter Books and Three Percent (http://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent), the influential publishing website] reports that the United States published 361 book-length works of fiction and poetry in original translation in 2008, 196 in 2009. Romania contributed 4 titles to the 2009 list: Filip Florian's Little Fingers (Houghton Mifflin), Dumitru Tsepeneag's Necessary Marriage (Dalkey Archive), Liliana Ursu's Lightwall (Zephyr) and Ruxandra Cesereanu and Andrei Codrescu's Forgiven Submarine (Black Widow). Although three hundred and sixty-one titles looked like a chronic shortage at something less that three percent of the US poetry and fiction output, it represented a certain opening of the market. The one hundred and ninety-six titles published so far this year register the impact of the global economic crisis in US publishing as a whole.  In this issue OTP conducts an online interview with Chad Post, internationally known Romanian novelist Norman Manea [see  http://translations.observatorcultural.ro/index.html?setActiveNumber=13 for fiction by Manea as well as his complete CV and bibliography], renowned German translator Susan Bernofsky [whose bibliography includes such translations as Masquerade and other Stories by Robert Walser (Johns Hopkins: 1990) Siddharthaby Herman Hesse  (Modern Library Classics, 2007, with Tom Robbins), as well as the award winning The Old Child by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions, 2005) and The Assistant, by Robert Walser (New Directions, 2007)] and Susan Harris, Editorial Director of the premier translation site Words Without Borders (http://www.wordswithoutborders.org) who describes the short to medium term future of literature in translation as:  Endangered as is everything else involving funding, literature, arts-but there will always be a market for international writing. Those interested in writing from the global crisis would do well to read WWB's June 2009 number, Writing from Pakistan.
The crisis effect resounded through Bookfest 2009, Bucharest's fourth annual summer book fair, a sales event that hosts a significant number of book launches. The following remarks from Romania's leading publishers come from Observator Cultural, Number 222, June 25 - July 1, 2009:
Oana Boca, Polirom:  Against expectations, this year's Polirom sales compare with last year's. The most-sold title this year was Adam Michnik's Confessions of a Converted Dissident. Varujan Vosganian's The Book of Whispers was among the most-sold Romanian titles. The Enchantress of Florence took first place in the world literature category. The fact that things went okay at Bookfest is not, however, a sign that the situation has gotten back to normal. Even double or triple sales at Bookfest would not work miracles. There needs to be a monthly normalcy as regards distribution and sales. What will happen to so many of Romania's bookstores (with ever fewer visitors in the recent period)? How will we get through the summer, from the sales point of view? How will the financial year conclude this year?  How and with what difficulty will publishers recoup their money from bookstores and wholesalers?
Iren Arsene, Curtea Veche:  Per total, Bookfest 2009 was a bit more profitable [for us] than it was the previous year. Comparatively, we can say that more books were sold, but the overall value doesn't much exceed that of the previous year because we had large discounts both by title (between 15 and 50%) and by package (between 30 and 50 %) for authors-Jaime Oliver, Orhan Pamuk, Robert Kiyosaki-but also by "domains:" audio books, children's books. There was no locomotive author as Orhan Pamuk was last year with over one thousand copies sold.
Denisa Comănescu, Humanitas: [As the others said] this was a very good fair, in spite our fears.  There were very many visitors and very many buyers. Humanitas Fiction made the following offer:  buy three, get the cheapest one free. This promotion worked well and it will go on in July and August in Humanitas bookstores in Bucharest and around the country. We were happy that the top sellers includedLast Steps, by Jay Parini, The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, Independence Day by Richard Ford.and The Last Cato by Matilde Asensi, an international bestseller. Compared with Bookfest last year, there were fewer publishers represented and fewer visitors. [As the others said, some of the decline in visitors was due to the fair's taking place at the end of June when high school students and some university students were already on vacation].
Bookfest took place at RomExpo, June 17-21 after a considerable delay caused by lack of sponsorships.
And meanwhile, back at the farm:  The Observer Translation Project is feeling the pinch. Credit goes with grateful thanks to the Romanian Cultural Institute for its promise to fund the English language translation of OTP. We offer more grateful thanks to our tremendous team of translators who have volunteered to see us over the hump while we commence a long-term project that involves creating a board charged with maintaining the financial health of The Observer Translation Project.
We'll be on vacation in August and back online with fresh translations in September.

About this issue

This July, The Observer Translation Project leaves its usual format to present a special CRISIS ISSUE. Things are tough all over. Hard Times suddenly feels like the book of the moment. The global economic crisis impacts life as we know it, and viewed from Bucharest the effects reverberate in domains that include geo-politics and publishing in Romania and abroad, with the crisis at The Observer Translation Project as an instance of a universal phenomenon. read more...

Translator's Choice

Author: Vasile Ernu
Translated by: Monika Oslaj

Oda sovjetskom toaletu

Oda sovjetskom toaletu Posvećeno Iliji Kabakovu Za sovjetskog građanina ne postoji ništa intimnije od toaleta (Dopustite mi sa velikim poštovanjem koje imam prema ovom mjestu i ovoj ...

Exquisite Corpse

Planned events in Cultural Agenda see All Planned Events

17 December
Tardes de Cinema Romeno
As tardes de cinema romeno do ICR Lisboa continuam no dia 17 de Dezembro de 2009, às 19h00, na ...
14 December
Omaggio a Gheorghe Dinica Proiezione del film "Filantropica" (regia Nae Caranfil, 2002)
“Filantropica” è uno dei film che più rendono giustizia al ...
12 December
Årets Nobelpristagare i litteratur Herta Müller gästar Dramaten
Foto: Cato Lein 12.12.2009, Dramaten, Nybroplan, Stockholm I samband med Nobelveckan kommer ...
10 December
Romanian Festival @ Peninsula Arts - University of Plymouth
13 & 14 November 2009. Films until 18 December. Twenty of Romania's most influential and ...
10 December
Lesung und Gespräch mit Ioana Nicolaie
Donnerstag, 10. Dezember, um 19.30 Uhr Ort: Szimpla Café Gärtnerstrs.15, ...

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