Currently, we publish three books a year which form a series around a loose theme. To date we’ve published 33 short novels and short story collections from a total of fourteen languages. In addition to these translated works, we have also published the Peirene Now! Series which consists of three specially commissioned works which tackle contemporary issues: two English language originals (breach by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes, which is set in the Calais Jungle, and The Cut which is a response to Brexit, written by Anthony Cartwright) and Shatila Stories, a collaborative work written in Arabic by nine Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the Shatila camp in Beirut.
We try to let our editorial hand be guided less by where books come from and more by whether they have that “Peirene feel” – something a little quirky, a little gritty, and off the beaten path of the mainstream UK book market. Those of us interested in global literature in English translation are probably aware of the statistics: translations make up only 3-5% of Anglophone book markets. While there’s no doubt that all of us who work in this area of the publishing industry wish that translations were not treated as some kind of niche genre in themselves, the fact that being a publisher of translated literature is still somewhat viewed as niche or unusual (though we are obviously not unique in this respect) allows us more boldness in our choices. Oddness is an essential ingredient for us!
The themes for our series often develop very organically, and certainly don’t mean that the three books in one series have excessive similarities; generally we keep our eye on several books that interest us and choose those that we feel complement each other in some way. Our 2020 series has the eerily prescient theme “Closed Universe” and features three books which focus on protagonists who are isolated in one way or another. The first, Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini, was translated from the Italian by the first winner of the Peirene Stevns Translation Prize for unpublished literary translators, J Ockenden, and follows the psychological unravelling of alpine hermit Adelmo Farandola. The second book of the series is Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen, translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin, a psychological thriller with a female environmental scientist alone on a remote Arctic research trip at its centre. Our final title of 2020 and our most recent release is The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili, translated from the Georgian by Elizabeth Heighway, set in a Tbilisi orphanage where forgotten children must fend for themselves. The Pear Field will be published on October 30th and we will be holding an online launch with author Nana Ekvtimishvili and critic Maya Jaggi on November 4th.
We have also just announced our 2021 series, which will centre on the theme of “Metamorphoses”. These three books each feature characters undergoing transformations, or coming to terms with major changes in their realities. They include Nordic Fauna by Andrea Lundgren, a collection of six magical realist short stories translated from the Swedish by 2020 Peirene Stevns winner John Litell; Yesterday by Juan Emar, a forgotten Chilean surrealist novel of the 1930s, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell; and Winter Flowers by Angélique Villeneuve, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter, a novel exploring the effects of a devastating injury on a working-class Parisian family in the aftermath of the First World War.
(Maddie Rogers joined Peirene as Publishing Assistant in December 2019, having recently finished her MA in Translation Studies. She is involved in all aspects of Peirene, including managing its social media accounts and running the Subscribers Book Club. Maddie speaks French and Italian and enjoys postcolonial literature, especially in the context of Francophone Africa.)