Deutschlandradio has a short feature in German on Seagull Books, the Calcutta publishers who are shaking up the book world. They interview founder Naveen Kishore (who I personally pronounce differently than they do, but maybe I'm the one who's wrong) about how their unusual venture came about.
In 2005, Naveen says, major English-language publishers started opening dependencies in New-Delhi. So he decided to play at their game in the other direction, gradually persuading European publishers to sell him world English-language rights to their books. It took him a while, but now Seagull has an incredibly impressive list of international titles, including a German and an upcoming Swiss list. One of the things they do differently is asking their translators for wish-lists of books to publish in English. And here comes my full disclosure: I'm one of those translators.
You very possibly can't imagine how it feels to be asked straight out by a very charming and dapper publisher which books he should buy the rights to for you to work on. So let's just pretend you're a Jehovah's Witness and have been turned away at two hundred front doors, unable to spread the news of the thing you really and truly love and believe in. Now and then someone has grudgingly allowed you in but not offered you tea and biscuits, and then deigned to take your Watchtower magazine – but you're pretty sure it's going to end up lining the cat-litter tray.
And then one friendly person stops you on the street and says, Hey, don't you want to tell me about God? And I'll buy you a slap-up meal while you're at it, and then I'll give you your own evangelist TV station to help share your passion with other people. And it'll be broadcast around the whole entire world, not just in Texas.
This is what Seagull Books do. As Deutschlandradio point out, they may well be a tad crazy and megalomaniac, but they're publishing and selling international literature on an international basis. They're making beautifully designed books with the translators' names on the covers. And they're trusting us translators to recommend titles we absolutely adore. That means fantastic writers such as Esther Kinsky, Thomas Bernhard, Ralf Rothmann, Max Frisch, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and many more.
May sees the release of the book on the top of my wish-list, Inka Parei's The Shadow-Boxing Woman. And Naveen once took me out to dinner at the Savoy.