A few days ago, I attended an event at the Free Word Centre here in London with Jon Lindsay Miles as the translator and self-publisher of “Sudeste”, a book that was originally published in Spanish. He talked to senior editor Sophie Lewis of And Other Stories, the publishing house that has now picked up this book.
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Everything started, when Jon Lindsay Miles discovered the long forgotten Argentinean book at his local library in the South of Spain. He was immediately gripped and wanted to translate it into English. But first he needed permission from the author’s heirs and travelled to Argentina to meet them in person. They were happy to grant him the right to translate and self-publish “Sudeste” – even though Haroldo Conti is well-known in Argentina, none of his books had ever been translated into English.
Conti was one of the people who disappeared in Argentina without a trace in 1976 after the military coup and was then probably murdered. The translator, however, stressed that he was not focussing on this fact, but on the book’s content and on the way he himself as a reader interpreted it.
In the story, atmosphere is important, the bleakness of the environment including a river and the reclusion of the protagonist. When Jon read part of the book, you could really tell how passionate he was about it. And when he spoke about his own life in a remote area in Spain, I couldn’t help thinking there might be some parallels between him and the main character.
In order to self-publish “Southeaster”, Jon even set up a little publishing house called Immigrant Press. At first, he did everything on his own, but now that the book was taken on by UK publishers And Other Stories, the new edition was going to involve an additional editing process. Editor Sophie Lewis confessed they had been a bit worried how Jon would react to any changes made to his work. But there was no need: the translator had no problem with it.
It was great to see how dedicated everyone involved is to “Southeaster”. Of course first of all the translator, because without him the book would never have been published in English. But then there are also the lovely people of And Other Stories, who can now help to find more readers for the book. And I met more interesting people at The Free Word Centre. This place is really, in their own words: a unique “international centre for literature, literacy and free expression in the world”.