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Catalan literature consolidates its international status at the London Book Fair 2016

Nearly 20 Catalan literary agencies presented their authors and sealed some important deals at the London Book Fair 2016. “Presenting Catalan literature to the world is normal”, stated the director of the literary agency Pontas, Anna Soler-Pont. “There are translators from Catalan into almost every language”, she added. Indeed, in the last two years there have been more than 250 translations of Catalan books and although most of them are into Spanish and French, English is a growing market. “Barcelona and the Spanish Civil War are amongst the hottest topics”, stated English translator, Peter Bush. Translations into Polish have also rocketed in 2015, due to Catalonia’s special invitation to Warsaw’s Book Fair in May. To cap it all, both classic and contemporary Catalan authors will be available in Chinese this year.

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14 April 2016 07:06 PM

by

Sara Prim

London (CNA).- The London Book Fair 2016 staged the biggest International Rights Centre in its 44-year history with 602 Rights Table Holders. Besides exhibitions, conferences and many other activities taking place at the fair, there was also an element of supply and demand and many deals between literary agencies and publishers were sealed. “Presenting Catalan literature to the world is normal”, stated the director of the literary agency Pontas, Anna Soler-Pont. “There are translators from Catalan into almost every language”, she added. Indeed, in the last two years there have been more than 250 translations of Catalan books and although most of them are into Spanish and French, English is a growing market. “Barcelona and the Spanish Civil War are amongst the hottest topics”, stated English translator, Peter Bush. Both classic and contemporary Catalan authors will be available in Chinese this year and the participation as special guest of Catalonia at Warsaw’s Book Fair in May meant translations into Polish rocketed.


 “We have attended the London Book Fair for the last 18 years and we can tell you that presenting Catalan literature to the world is now just normal”, stated Soler-Pont, who launched Pontas Agency more than 20 years ago in Barcelona and now represents more than 80 authors from the five continents. “It is regarded as what it is: a varied European literature, so luckily there is nothing strange about it”. Soler-Pont also highlighted the increase in the last 10 years in the number of translations, more than 250 since 2014. “There are currently translators from Catalan into nearly every language in the world”, she added from her desk at the International Rights Centre. “We are promoting books from different authors; for instance, Rafel Nadal’s books are available in more than 10 languages and we have just sold the rights to Transworld, an imprint of Penguin Random House”, she explained. “This is just great”, she added.

Pontas Agency’s recognition goes beyond Catalonia. This year, they were nominated for the second consecutive time for the Best International Literary Agent Award. “Our goal has always been to represent authors from all over to the world” she stated and admitted to being “honoured” by the nomination.

More translations into English

Only 3% of books published in English are foreign translations. “English editors believe that it is not necessary to turn to translations as so many authors all over the world write their books in English”, English translator Peter Bush told CNA. “This is not only self-sufficient but false”, he added. However, this trend is changing and there is a growing interest in foreign literatures. “Catalan literature is an example” he said “and besides being a bit undiscovered is still European”.

From 2014 to the present day, there have been on average around 10 titles per year translated into English. Some of them are classics, such as Jacint Verdaguers’ ‘Mount Canigó’, Joan Salas’ ‘Uncertain glory’ and Mercè Rodoreda’s ‘In diamond square’, which is actually the most translated Catalan novel. However, contemporary authors are also starting to burst onto the United Kingdom and United States market. “There is a sense of lived experience, autobiographical style amongst Catalan writers, whether it is the Civil War, living in a rural village or in a city with high immigration”, explained Bush, who was involved in many of them, as he translated 15 books in around 10 years. “They turn it into characters or diaries, and you can chase that in writers such as Josep Pla, Joan Sales, Francesc Seres or Najat El-Hachmi”, he added.

Piers Russell-Cobb, director of Arcadia Books, recently published ‘Confessions’, from Catalan author Jaume Cabré. “We couldn’t have read Cabré before we published it but the reviews and the sales figures from around the world were extraordinary”, he stated. Actually, the book sold around 60,000 copies in Poland in 6 weeks. “We knew it was a really important literary event” he added. Moreover, according to Russell-Cobb Cabré had “the fierce feel of independence and constructive art” which is perceived in Catalan art and literature.

International exposure

Barcelona and Catalan literature will be the main focus at the Warsaw Book Fair, which will take place in the Polish capital in May. In anticipation, last year more than 20 books were translated into Polish.

Last year, the Göteborg Book Fair hosted a spot on Catalan literature and this year Toronto’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA) will do the same, with ten Catalan writers invited. These are all examples of how Catalan literature has gained international exposure in the last years.


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  • General view of London Book Fair 2016, at Olympia (by ACN)
Catalonia at London Book Fair 2016 (by ACN)