Independent publishers showcase their best books in select bookstores this weekTuesday, August 10, 2010
By Ana Laura Caruso
Small presses became popular as jobbing printers towards the end of the 19th century. The roots of these presses lie with the Arts and Crafts Movement and the use of small letterpress machines by amateur printers. Later, the advance of practical lithography made the printing process much easier.
In Argentina, small publishing houses seemed to have disappeared during the 1990s. Yet, in recent years, there was a burgeoning of small presses caused by the introduction of digital printing and the need to show the world that there is life beyond best-sellers.
With Internet-based marketing, digital typesetting and computer design tools, the new printing technologies have lowered the publishing market’s economic barriers. This is how many indie publishing houses appeared in the past few years, including Mansalva, Eterna Cadencia and Clase Turista, among many others.
The profit margins for small presses are certainly narrow, but publishers are not only driven by bottomlines: most indie publishers are pushed by the desire to help disseminate literature and tend to fill the holes that larger publishers neglect.
In Buenos Aires, until next Sunday, indie publisher association Alianza de Editores Independientes de la Argentina (EDINAR) presents a Hot List with what’s hot in the indie literature world. EDINAR, which comprises 30 publishing houses, was created in 2005 in order to defend diversity in the publishing environment. This time, 20 publishers chose one book each from their catalogues to be part of a Hot List, available and prominently displayed at different bookstores – these are not their best sellers, but the books that they feel deserve more of the spotlight than they’re currently getting. The Hot List comprises a great variety of genres such as novels, short stories books, poetry, and essays.
Here’s the list of the top 20 indie titles:
La Marca publisher picked 200: Cuatrocientas imágenes dicen más que cuatrocientas mil palabras (Four hundred images are worth more than four hundred thousand words). The book shows a photographic display of Argentine history from 1810 to 2010. The images were collected by photographer and cultural manager Guido Indij, who investigated for more than four years to release this 400-page book.
Del Naranjo chose the children book Los cuentos del abuelo Florián by Norma Huidobro, because it comprises traditional fables but changes its endings. The book tells the story of Lili, a girl who spends summer at her grandfather’s, Florian. The old man tells her a different bedtime story every night. Born in 1949, Norma Huidobro has got a degree in Literature from the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Los cuentos del abuelo Florián earned her the Everest Award in Spain. She also published Octubre un crimen and won the Clarín award in 2004 with the novel El lugar perdido. She has written several children’s books such as Sopa de diamantes, Un secreto en la ventana and La tercera puerta.
Winograd publisher chose Rimas (Rhymes) by Dante Alighieri, a collection of Dante’s lyrical poems collected by later scholars. There are 54 poems which have been definitely written by Dante and other 26 poems whose author is not sure. The sonnets, canzones and ballads in the book were translated into Spanish by Mariano Pérez Carrasco. Winograd publisher chose this book because they wanted to let readers know a different side of Italy’s “Supreme Poet” (il Sommo Poeta), beyond the familiar pen from the Divine Comedy.
Biebel small press selected Alem, el hombre de la multitud by Álvaro Yunque. This is a biography of Leandro N. Alem (1841-1896), the Argentine politician, a founder and leader of the Radical Civic Union.
Álvaro Yunque was born in La Plata city in 1889 and was a prominent writer during the 1920s. Together with Leónidas Barletta, Elías Castelnuovo, César Tiempo and Roberto Mariani, he was one of the leaders of the “Grupo de Boedo,” a group of left-leaning Argentine and Uruguayan writers which was somehow opposed to the less political Florida group, known for their embrace of “art for art’s sake.” The name of the latter refers to Florida Street, the opposite social pole to the working-class neighbourhood of Boedo and the location of a favoured meeting point: the Richmond tea room. Among the members of the Florida group were Oliverio Girondo, Norah Lange, Ricardo Güiraldes, and others. Álvaro Yunque’s work was banned during the military dictatorship.
Ediciones Corregidor preferred Poemas (Poems) by Macedonio Fernández because “this author’s writing show that he was an intellectual with a vivid code of ethics, and who was also able to think of the most original literary strategies.” The book comprises unpublished poems, since Fernández never published a book of poems while he was alive. Born in Argentina in 1852, Macedonio Fernández was a writer, humourist, and philosopher. His writings include novels, stories, poetry and journalistic features.
Macedonio was Jorge Luis Borges’s most important Argentine mentor and influence, and remains a cult author to this day.
The small press El octavo loco chose ¿Quién mató a Molly Blum? by Ana María Sandoval. The novel revolves around Esperanza, the daughter of a priest, whose boyfriend hits her. Esperanza is put in an orphanage and starts writing stories to fight solitude. When she turns 20, she moves into Buenos Aires City and becomes a famous author. She writes romantic novels under the pseudonym Molly Blum. But one day, Molly is found dead inside her apartment... Ana María Sandoval was born in Guatemala in 1959. She teaches Psychology at the university and has published essays, stories and novels.
Iamiqué publisher chose El detective Intríngulis y el robo de la “Mona Luisa” for the Hot List. Iamiqué specializes in a niche of their own creation: science books for children. Written by Amaicha Depino and Carla Baredes, the youth novel tells the story of a private detective who investigates the mysterious theft of “La Mona Luisa.” The comic book was chosen because it includes scientific details on how the alleged robbery was committed, how to determine if a painting is authentic and other interesting stuff. Amaicha Depino is a biologist and researcher at Conicet Institute. She is also a teacher at the Natural Sciences School of the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Carla Baredes is a physician and scientist. She wrote more than 15 science books for children.
Marea selected the book Cuba libre: Vivir y escribir en La Habana by Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez. The book deals with a generation of authors who were born in Cuba during the 70s and 80s and have to stick to an ideology they don’t sympathize with. Yoani Sánchez was chosen by Time magazine as an author among the top 100 more influential people of the world, and has famously run afoul of the island’s government for the criticism of the Cuban regime in her blog Generación Y.
Mate publisher went for Ricardo Piglia this time. They chose the essay book Teoría del Complot, with theories about Argentine society. Born in 1941 in Adrogué and raised in Mar del Plata, Piglia is one of the foremost contemporary Argentine writers, known equally for his fiction and his literary criticism.
Retina publisher chose Café de los maestros by Irene Amuchástegui, with photographs by Nora Lezano and Sebastián Arpesella. The book deals with the biography of the most important tango composers of Argentine history. The set includes two records and a film. Irene Amuchástegui is a former Herald writer and a member of the Academia Nacional de Tango.
Eterna Cadencia picked La Virgen Cabeza by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara. Set in a shanty in Buenos Aires, the novel tells the story of Sister Cleopatra, a transvestite who allegedly communicates with the Virgin Mary. Gabriela Cabezón was born in Buenos Aires province in 1968. Her novel deals with marginality and violence as well as with love and humour, and participated in this year’s crime fiction festival Semana Negra de Gijón, in Spain.
Remolino chose Los colores y yo, a children book to learn about the colours by Mariana Ruiz Johnson. Born in 1984, she studied Fine Arts and currently works for Santillana, Planeta and other publishers.
Lenguaje Claro chose Argentina en el siglo veinte: Economía y desarrollo político desde la élite conservadora a Perón-Perón by David Rock with the help of Jorge Fodor, A. G. Ford, Roger Gravil, Colin Lewis, Walter Little and Ian Rutledge. The book deals with British investments in Argentina, the Sáenz Peña public education act, Peronism and other subjects. Born in the UK, David Rock is a historian who specializes in Argentina. He has been described as a leading scholar in the field of 19th-century Argentine political history. He is professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Gog y Magog publisher selected the book Todas las palabras para decir roca by Gary Snyder. The book comprises part of the work of the US poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His work, in his various roles, reflects an immersion in both Buddhist spirituality and nature. The book was translated by local poet Bárbara Belloc.
Vestales opted for Los que esperan la lluvia by Gabriela Margall, a love story between a slave and a rich woman in 1820s’ Argentina. Margall is a historian and researcher who published three historical fiction books.
La Bohemia chose Esto no es para vos, an essay book by Sandra Comino on the role of parents and teacher in introducing children to the world of literature. Comino is a writer and teacher who has widely studied the subject of literature for the younger ones.
Colihue chose the book La imagen justa, a book about the Argentine filmmaking industry between 1980 and 2007 and how films deal with political and social problems. Ana Amado is a Philosophy teacher at Universidad de Buenos Aires. She also gave lessons in Duke and Princeton (US) and at the UNAM (Mexico). She worked as a film critic for many years and published the books Lazos de familia: Herencias, cuerpos, ficciones and Espacios para la igualdad.
Pequeño editor selected Con la cabeza en las nubes by Diego Bianki, an illustrated book for children about clouds, the sky and the weather. Bianki is a graphic designer and illustrator. His drawings are features in Ñ magazine by Clarín. He is the director of Pequeño editor and was a co-editor of Lápiz Japonés comics and illustration magazine.
Prometeo picked El estado burocrático autoritario by Guillermo O’ Donnell, a book about the military dictatorship in Argentina and other Latin American countries. Born in 1936 in Argentina, O’ Donnell is a prominent political scientist and Helen Kellogg Professor of Government and International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His brother Pacho O’Donnell is a well-known politician and writer.
Last but not least, Biblos chose La invención de la filosofía by Néstor Luis Cordero, an essay about philosophy and how it was born.
Perhaps the best writing of today is being published through small presses, who are keeping the independent spirit of literature alive. New small publishing houses are born every month but they can die out easily due to financial problems. There’s a lot of new things shimmering right now, so let that best-seller book drop off your hand and get to know what’s hot today in Argentine literature.