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New York Review of Books

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  • George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time
    What unsettled me about Black No More (1931) the first time I read it was that George Schuyler was so merciless—about everyone. At a moment when black writers were finally awakening to the beauty of black culture, Schuyler had moved on to...
  • The Bitter Secret of ‘Wormwood’
    If Errol Morris had simply recounted the facts, even in a way that emphasized the real suffering of the victims, that would have shocked nobody. They are the stuff of every spy movie, a genre that has successfully turned state surveillance and...
  • Where the Lemon Trees Bloom
    To the Editors: In his review of Rüdiger Safranski’s Goethe: Life as a Work of Art [“Super Goethe,” NYR, December 21, 2017], Ferdinand Mount concludes: When [Goethe] finally made his long-dreamed-of trip to Italy, he remained impervious to the...
  • Whither Somalia?
    To the Editors: It was pleasing to read Jeffrey Gettleman’s description of how, despite so many problems, “Somalia Rebounds.” In my experience Somalis tend to be brave, tough, and hardworking; but that does not quite explain where the money...
  • Lend Me Your Ear
    To the Editors: The recent article by Jerome Groopman ends with a discussion of cochlear implants that paints a picture of the implantee experience that is far less positive than it is in reality.
  • The Emperor Robeson
    It is hard to find anyone under fifty who has the slightest idea who Paul Robeson is, or what he was, which is astonishing—as a singer, of course, and as an actor, his work is of the highest order. But his significance as an emblematic figure is...
  • To Be, or Not to Be
    Thirty-nine years ago my parents took a package of documents to an office in Moscow. This was our application for an exit visa to leave the Soviet Union. More than two years would pass before the visa was granted, but from that day on I have felt a...
  • ‘Dignity and Justice’: An Interview with Patrisse Khan-Cullors
    Patrisse Khan-Cullors: Over the last four and half years, we’ve seen BLM go from a phrase to a hashtag to a political platform to a movement. In the development of Black Lives Matter, we’ve seen the growth of black leadership and the rise...
  • Trump’s Debt to Ron Paul’s Paranoid Style
    Though Ron Paul is often described as an orthodox libertarian, his ideology is more accurately described as paleolibertarian, which shares the limited government principles of traditional libertarianism but places a heavier emphasis on conservative...

Neglectedbooks.com

The Neglected Books Page

www.NeglectedBooks.com: Where forgotten books are remembered
  • Free E-books of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage — and a technical note

    Almost two years ago, I embarked upon my most ambitious and, it turned out, most rewarding reading task, working through the thirteen books of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage. (Richardson referred to it as a single novel and each book as a chapter.) At the time I wrote: … while a complete scholarly edition of Richardson’s work... Read more

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  • The Collected Stories of Rhys Davies (1955)

    We spent our Christmas week in a cottage in north Wales and I could not pass the time without taking the opportunity to read a long out-of-print collection of stories by one of Wales’ finest writers of the 20th century, Rhys Davies. The Collected Stories of Rhys Davies is one of the many perhaps not... Read more

    The post The Collected Stories of Rhys

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  • Chrstimas Eve, by Alistair Cooke (1952)

    Christmas Eve collects three of Alistair Cooke’s Christmas-time stories from his legendary BBC “Letters from America” broadcast. I listened to the audiobook version of the collection, Letters from America, 1946-1004, recently, and saddened at the thought that his sublimely calm, balanced voice is no longer with us. But this last year would surely have been... Read more

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  • The Collected Stories of T. O. Beachcroft (1946)

    The Collected Stories of T. O. Beachcroft Graham Greene once wrote that T. O. (Thomas Owen) Beachcroft was “likely to become, after Mr. H. E. Bates, the most distinguished short-story writer in this country.” Well, this wasn’t one of his best predictions. Beachcroft’s last collection of stories was published over sixty years ago and his... Read more

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  • Tomato Cain and Other Stories, by Nigel Kneale (1949)

    Nigel Kneale is best known now for his novels and screenplays featuring the alien-battling scientist, Dr. Quartermass, but his first book, the collection Tomato Cain and Other Stories was considered remarkable enough to merit a foreword by Elizabeth Bowen: Within the last few years, readers have become less shy of the short story. That this... Read more

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  • Selected Modern Short Stories, edited by Alan Steele (1937)

    Selected Modern Short Stories–the first of several collections that editor Alan Steele compiled for Penguin in the late 1930s–offers a good illustration of the random nature of literary fate. Let’s take at look at the authors listed on the cover: • John Hampson Hampson’s first-published novel, Saturday Night at the Greyhound (1931) was a surprise... Read more

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  • The Door in the Wall, by Oliver La Farge (1966)

    I picked out a yellow-jacketed copy of Oliver La Farge’s posthumous collection of short stories, The Door in the Wall, from a striking display in the window of Any Amount of Books, one of the few remaining used bookstores on Charing Cross Road, when in London recently. I’ve never learned just why so many British... Read more

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  • Private Opinion: A Commonplace-Book, by Alan Pryce-Jones (1936)

    There isn’t necessarily a template for a commonplace book, which Webster’s defines as “a book of memorabilia” and Wikipedia as “essentially a scrapbook.” But even if there were one, Alan Pryce-Jones’ Private Opinion wouldn’t follow it. Pryce-Jones, who is probably best known for editing the Time Literary Supplement from 1948 to 1959, was a precocious... Read more

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  • Rope Dancer, by M. J. Fitzgerald (1986)

    Many of the stories in M. J. Fitzgerald’s collection, Rope Dancer, read like unsettling dreams: vivid enough to provoke deep feelings but too full of bizarre, illogical transitions and events to be part of waking life. In “Mystery Story,” a woman finds herself returned, again and again, to the compartment of a passenger train, where... Read more

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  • Croatian Tales of Long Ago, by Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić (1922)

    One day late, but in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, which reminds us each year of the didactic benefits of scaring the crap out of kids, I want to celebrate a fine example of fairy tales told with the gloves off. As Bruno Bettelheim (perhaps somewhat plagiaristically) reminded us, uniformly pleasant and positive stories... Read more

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   The Avon Bard series of Latin American literature was a unique publishing venture for its time, for any time really. Their assemblage of extraordinary titles from authors all over Latin America translated by many of the finest translators -  Gregory Rabassa, Harriet De Onis, Barbara Shelby Merello, and Alfred MacAdam to name a few - allowed an American reading public to experience a literature that had not benefited from the level of exposure that some other world literatures had traditionally enjoyed. The professed goal of the imprint was to publish “distinguished Latin American Literature”, and that they did.

 

   During the 1950’s New American Library (specifically their Mentor imprint) was the only mass market paperback publisher to have an educational department focused on getting titles into the secondary school market. When Avon’s editor-in-chief, Charles R. Bryne, first announced the formation of the Bard imprint in May of 1955, Avon began the first paperback publisher to follow New American Library’s lead. The idea was that the Bard line would offer a list of books of high literary quality to be sold primarily in bookstores and in the secondary school market.

   Avon began by pulling titles from their own backlist to help create the line, and Bard's first titles were The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyaim and The Meaning and Psychology of Dreams by Wilhelm Stekel. Unfortunately, a lack of editorial focus and concentrated sales effort handicapped Bard’s growth from the onset, and it took a little while before the line got off to its half-hearted start in 1957. It probably did not help that the Hearst Corporation purchased a controlling interest in Avon in June of 1959. Literary mass market paperback publishing could not have been a priority for Hearst and company.

 

   In 1963 Avon hired a young Peter Mayer as “education editor.” Mayer’s decision to acquire the paperback rights for Call it Sleep by Henry Roth, a critically acclaimed but out-of-print novel, and to publish it in a mass market format with rounded corner edges, turned out to be a smart move. The book sold over a million copies and put Peter Mayer on the map as an innovative editor. In 1969, Robert Wyatt, another talented young editor, and Peter Mayer revived and re-launched the Bard line, which had been largely ignored since its inception. Bard became the paperback imprint for authors like Thornton Wilder and Saul Bellow.

 

   When Mayer acquired the paperback rights to One Hundred Years Of Solitude (published in hardcover by Harper & Row in a translation by Gregory Rabassa in 1970), the Avon Bard Latin American list was essentially born and Bard was on its way to becoming a major American publisher of Latin American fiction, even though the Garcia Marquez book was first published in paperback as an Avon book and only later as an Avon Bard title. According to Robert Wyatt, the plan to publish Latin American fiction did not follow any particular plan, but evolved over time: “We sort of tacked the Latin American titles on as they came along.”

 

   The 1970s were a good time for Latin American authors in the United States, in that “magical realism”, that blending of the elements of magic with the real world, was in the air. Writers of the “Boom” generation - that shorthand designation for a disparate group of authors that allowed publishers to effectively package a collection of talented writers into a aesthetic “school” or unified movement where there may not have been one - like Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Jose Lezama Lima, and Julio Cortazar were building reputations in the English-speaking world helped by a flood of translations from the Spanish and Portuguese by notable translators like Gregory Rabassa, Suzanne Jill Levine, Harriet de Onis, and others. Driven by the Venezuelan sculptor Jose Guillermo Castillo, the New York-based Center for Inter-American Relations proved instrumental in the development of this interest in Latin American poetry and prose, not only by publishing a journal three times a year focused on the art and literature of Latin America, but by arranging financing for the translations of nearly 70 books by Latin writers.

 

   With few exceptions though, authors from Latin America did not traditionally hit American bestseller lists. Two of the bestselling Latin American authors of all time are Jorge Amado and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As of 1982, Jorge Amado's Gabriela, Clove And Cinnamon reportedly had sold 20,000 copies in hardback, not a huge number considering that it was originally published as a hardcover here in 1962, and that his works have ultimately been translated into 48 different languages. He is in fact second only to Paulo Coelho as the most translated Brazilian writer in the world. One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez sold almost 800,000 in paperback by 1982 and to date has sold more than twenty million copies and been translated into more than thirty languages, even though it never managed to land on either the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times bestsellers list when it was first released in English. Sales for these two authors are exceptional however. Even the sale of a book in the 1970s by Jorge Luis Borges, widely considered one of the finest writers in the world, rarely reached 20,000.

   Publishers like Alfred A. Knopf had been publishing literature from Latin America for years – Alejo Carpentier, Adolfo Costa Du Rels, Eduardo Mallea, Graciliano Ramos, Ernesto Sabato to name a few. Later they introduced American readers to authors like Julio Cortazar, Jose Donoso, Clarice Lispector, Jose J. Veiga, and Joao Guimaraes Rosa.  Of course, the biggest Latin American star on their list was the Brazilian Jorge Amado.

 

   Other hardcover publishers also got involved in the publishing of translations from Latin America. Harper & Row published works by Reinaldo Arenas, Mario Benedetti, G. Cabrera Infante, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa.  E.P. Dutton not only published 10 books by Jorge Luis Borges in 13 years, they also brought to the United States translations of the work of Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jose Marmol, Manuel Puig, and Severo Sarduy to name a few. Farrar, Straus & Giroux offered works by Maria-Luisa Bombal, Carlos Fuentes, Jose Lezama Lima, Pablo Neruda, and Gustavo Sainz.

               

   There was however no paperback publisher to equal Avon's Bard imprint when it came to publishing Latin American literature in translation in this country. The range of their list was extraordinary - Luis Rafael Sanchez from Puerto Rico; Miguel Angel Asturias, the late Guatemalan novelist, poet and diplomat who won the 1967 Nobel Prize for Literature; Jorge Amado from Brazil; Machado de Assis, the 19th-century Brazilian novelist; Demetrio Aguilera Malta of Ecuador; Reinaldo Arenas , G. Cabrera Infante, and Alejo Carpentier from Cuba; Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru; Ivan Angelo, Ignacio De Loyola Brandao, Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, Rachel De Queiroz, Marcio Souza, and Lygia Fagundes Telles from Brazil, all of whose books were published in this country by Bard as paperback originals.

 

   The first Avon Bard paperback original was The Emperor of the Amazon by the Brazilian writer, Marcio Souza. The book was translated by Thomas Colchie, who was at the time the literary agent for Mr. Souza as well as a number of other Latin American authors. Thomas Colchie had even planned a new translation of The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Joao Guimaraes Rosa of Brazil, but that unfortunately for American readers never quite materialized.  By 1982 the Avon Bard list had published 22 titles by Latin American writers and reviews were generally good for the series. As these translated titles became more widely available in inexpensive paperback editions, the market for them expanded. Many of the books on the Bard list had print runs at the time of around 16,000 copies, not especially ambitious for a mass market paperback title.

 

   In 1987, as happens quite often in the publishing world, one imprint was folded into another, and Bard became Discus. You can see this reflected in print on books like Graveyard Of The Angels by Reinaldo Arenas (the title page reads “the Discus Imprint” and “Avon Publishers of Bard, Camelot, Discus and Flare Books”). By May 1988 all mention of Bard as an imprint had disappeared, even though many of the books retained the cover art that had made them so distinctive when originally launched as Bard books. Bard was pretty much dead throughout the late 80s, and early 90s, but in 1998 Avon's publisher, Lou Aronica, announced 'a revival and makeover of its dormant Bard imprint'. By this time however many others were publishing Latin American literature and Avon could no longer or would no longer push themselves in that particular direction as they once had. In July, 1999, When HarperCollins purchased Avon in July 1999, Lou Aronica was let go and the Bard imprint disappeared for good. In spite of this it is undeniable that Avon Bard had a 15-year track record as a remarkably successful publisher of cutting-edge Latin American literature in paperback and created a truly great line of books.

See a listing of individual Avon Bard Latin American titles


Sources cited - 

Campassi, Roberta . 100 Years of Jorge Amado. Publishnewsbrazil. April 10, 2012. http://publishnewsbrazil.com/2012/04/100-years-of-jorge-amado/

 

Donoso, Jose. The Boom In Spanish American Literature: A Personal History. New York. 1977. Columbia University Press.

 

Davis, Kenneth C..  Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America. Boston. 1984. Houghton Mifflin.

 

McDowell , Edwin. U.S. Is Discovering Latin America's Literature. New York Times.  February 16, 1982.

 

Rabassa, Gregory. If This Be Treason. New York. 2005. New Directions.

 

Sickels, Amy. Gabriel García Márquez: Cultural and Historical Contexts. http://salempress.com/store/pdfs/marquez_critical_insights.pdf

 

Schiffrin, Andre. The Business Of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing & Changed The Way We Read.  New York. 2000. Verso.