THAT OTHER WORD | Episode 13 | December 2013 | E.J. Van Lanen
As the year comes to a close, hosts Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito discuss some recent and unexpected favorite reads. As a judge for next year’s Best Translated Book Award, Daniel Medin recommends Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg Over Leg, a four-volume, nineteenth-century classic of the Arab world whose cleverness and savage sense of humor has been likened to Rabelais and Sterne. Scott Esposito looks forward to Wiesław Myśliwski’s A Treatise on Shelling Beans; the author’s Stone Upon Stone received the BTBA last year. Hilda Hilst’s Letters from a Seducer, in an especially brilliant translation by John Keene, prompts an exploration of scandalous writing: Hilst has been called the “Marquis de Sade of Brazil.” The hosts then make an exception to the podcast’s theme to praise an English-language novel, Ivan Vladislavić’s Double Negative and its introduction by Teju Cole, from which Daniel Medin reads a paragraph. The introduction wraps up with Jung Young-moon’s A Most Ambiguous Sunday, and Other Stories, an eccentric collection of short stories from Dalkey Archive’s Korean library.
After that, Scott Esposito speaks with E.J. Van Lanen, a former editor at Open Letter and now publisher at Frisch & Co., a new translation press based in Berlin. Frisch & Co. is unique in that it publishes exclusively e-books, drawing on the catalogues of some of Europe’s oldest and most respected publishers for its translations. E.J. Van Lanen explains the reasons behind choosing Berlin as a base and e-books as a product, and discusses his own history of reading electronically (and divulging his favorite e-reading software in the process). He then details several aspects of his publishing venture, from his relationships with the European presses, translators, and authors, to pricing and the online market, to the challenges of distribution and attracting readers. Near the end of the conversation, he speaks about some of Frisch & Co.’s first titles: Anna Kim’s Anatomy of a Night, which examines an unplanned mass suicide in Greenland; Carlos Busqued’s Under This Terrible Sun, about a man’s descent into a criminal world in northern Argentina, plus Adrián N. Bravi’s The Comb-Overand other forthcoming novels: Elisa Ruotolo’sI Stole the Rain, Joaquín Pérez Azaústre’sThe Swimmers, andUwe Tellkamp’s The Tower.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRO: Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito
0:57 Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg Over Leg
3:18 Wiesław Myśliwski’s A Treatise on Shelling Beans
4:26 Hilda Hilst’s Letters from a Seducer
8:40 Ivan Vladislavić’s Double Negative
12:14 Jung Young-moon’s A Most Ambiguous Sunday, and Other Stories
FEATURE: Scott Esposito interviews E.J. Van Lanen
18:56 Introductions; choosing Berlin and e-books
25:05 Relationships with European presses and translators
37:26 The e-reading experience
42:35 Pricing e-books; choosing and distributing titles
58:11 Frisch & Co.’s titles