Vagabond Voices - Publisher of the Month
Vagabond Voices was established in December 2008 principally to enter the extremely difficult area of contemporary European fiction (published in our Changeling series). There has always been resistance to translated novels in the Anglophone world, except for a few classic titles, even when our publishing world was a lot more courageous than it is now. And it has proved to be difficult, but we are determined to persevere. We started with two Italian novels that had long deserved to be introduced to English-speaking readers: Alessandro Barbero’s The Anonymous Novel a stunning examination of Gorbachev’s Russia – a society in transition, and Ermanno Cavazzoni’s The Nocturnal Library, a highly imaginative work of a kind never produced in our language – a literary grotesque in the Italian tradition. Anna Paterson is currently working hard on the translation of Nicol Ljubić’s Silence of the Sea, a study into the power of memory and the dangers inherent in our present inability to leave the past alone. This delicately balanced story of crime, guilt, love and prejudice must surely attract the attention of critics and readers alike. We also have hopes of publishing a Spanish poet in 2011.
We also intended to produce polemical works (Rants), but manuscripts were not forthcoming until we recently published a collection of Aphorisms by Renzo Llorente, an American philosopher living in Madrid. This intriguing and thought-provoking work will be followed by Gerrard Winstanley’s famous Law of Freedom in a Platform (1652), with an extensive introduction. And immediately after that we will bring out the third Rant, a collection of essays on Scottish independence by George Rosie, Alasdair Gray, James Robertson, Christopher Harvie and two others.
In 2011, we will be starting a new series called Short Affairs for autobiographies, and the first one will be David Maclennan’s, to be published in September. This will be followed by the autobiographies of other Scottish figures working in the arts.
The majority of our books fall into the Vagabond series, and these include works by Allan Massie, Luciano Mecacci, Les Wilson and Allan Cameron. In 2011, we will be publishing Allan Massie’s classic novel of ideas, The Sins of the Father, and Allan Cameron’s collection of short stories, Can the Gods Cry? There is the possibility of other Scottish literary works by writers not yet published by Vagabond Voices.
Why "Vagabond Voices"?
Why the name Vagabond Voices? Novelists do not always resemble vagabonds literally, although many do. But like vagabonds, they are itinerant always in their minds and often geographically too. They move quickly across a landscape, recording it, examining it and often misunderstanding it, because it is not the job of the novelist to utter the final truth on anything, but rather to go in search of small truths while leaving some work for their creative partners: the readers.
"Vagabond Voices is a Scottish publisher, just founded, with an up-market European brief. Good news for adventurous readers. They have scored an early coup by bringing us a short novel by Allan Massie, Surviving" – Ronald Frame in the Scottish Review of Books
There is, however, another reason for this name: the core activity will be the translation of European literary fiction into English, and so there is this transmigration of words from one language to another, the forced march of great multitudes of letters, the exodus of thoughts towards an inspired approximation of the original. This will make a tiny contribution to the woeful lack of translations in the English-speaking world – a kind of provincialism of the powerful. In 2006, 30% of books published in the world were in English, but only a very small proportion were in translation. In 2004, slightly more than 3% of English books were translations (2.62% in the United States). In fact, America produced only 4,982 translations, slightly ahead of the Czech Republic which produced 4,602. The record went to Italy which managed 12,197 and 22% of its total output in translation, and it therefore wins the prize for the most outward-looking country when it comes to reading.
To discover the most advanced ideas in literature, you need to know what is happening elsewhere, and however vast the English-speaking world may be, it is still thinking through the closed mechanisms of a single language. It is not only in the area of translation that a small minority of readers is being let down in these times, which are dominated by the economies of scale. Those who are not interested in “genre” literature are also being abandoned.
The resources of a very small publisher like Vagabond Voices can do very little about what is a question of marketing systems and attitudes amongst the majority of readers. However, Vagabond Voices hopes that other writers and translators will join in the enterprise and that it will be able to build up a body of talent, both new talent and experienced talent. Vagabond Voices will shortly be moving to Glasgow, and hopefully it will be better able to extend its reach within the more varied environment of Scotland’s largest city.