The end is the beginning is the end

There is a thing I can not exactly grasp: how does the reader loose his interest, not in the works by some particular author who’s getting worse, but in the literature of an entire county, even of a number of countries and almost of a whole continent? It’s a mystery for me. I don’t believe something like that could be based on any intelligent, reasonable consideration like artistic quality of the texts etc. Yet it happens. And this email by Andrew Wachtel sent to the members of SEELANGS (Slavic & East European Languages and Literatures list) is another striking evidence of… How do you call it in a scientific way? Right: ‘changes in book-buying habits and diminished interest in Eastern / Central Europe in the English speaking world’.

Here it goes.

The end of a publishing era

RIP – Writings from an Unbound Europe

The editors of Northwestern University Press have decided to end the run of Writings from an Unbound Europe, the only more or less comprehensive book series devoted to translated contemporary literature from the former communist countries of Eastern/Central Europe.  The final title in the series, the novel Sailing Against the Wind (Vastutuulelaev) by the Estonian Jaan Kross (1920-2007) will appear in a translation by Eric Dickens some time in 2012.  With that title Unbound Europe will have published 61 books since its inception in 1993.  Among the highlights of what has been published over this twenty-year period are the first English-language editions of David Albahari, Ferenc Barnas, Petra Hůlová, Drago Jančar, Anzhelina Polonskaya, and Goce Smilevski.  By far the best selling title in the series is Death and the Dervish (Drviš i smrt) by the Bosnian writer Meša Selimović (1910-1982), which has sold close to 6000 copies since it appeared in 1996. In recent years, however, changes in book-buying habits and diminished interest in Eastern/Central Europe in the English speaking world have led to significantly lower sales, even for masterpieces by such major writers as Borislav Pekić and Bohumil Hrabal.  I would like to thank the series co-editors Clare Cavanagh, Michael Henry Heim, Roman Koropeckyj, and Ilya Kutik as well as several generations of Northwestern University Press editors and directors for their work on this project.  Most of the books published in the series remain in print and will continue to be available on the Northwestern University Press backlist.

Andrew Wachtel

General Editor

Writings from an Unbound Europe


Read more about écrivain russe Aleksandr Skorobogatov

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