Seagull Books Posts

Of women travellers and writing

Of women travellers and writing

All the Roads are Open

In recent weeks I have read three books. All the Roads are Open: the Afghan journey by Annermarie Schwarzenbach (translated by Isabel Fargo Cole); The Nanologues: 10,000 kms across India in the world’s cheapest car by Vanessa Able and Almost Intrepid by Anjaly Thomas. Except for All the Roads are Open, the other two are contemporary accounts by women travellers — Vanessa’s account of travelling in a Nano across India and Anjaly Thomas backpacking across the world. As for Annermarie Schwarzenbach, she travelled in a new Ford across Afghanistan with Ella Maillart from 1939-1940. The translated text contains snippets of her writings and dispatches to various newspapers describing the country, the exquisite gardens, the reception that they received etc. A comment made “In the garden of the beautiful girls of Qaiser” is about the “young King Ammanullah, upon returning from a trip to Europe, had instituted hasty reforms in Afghanistan, attempting to follow Turkey’s example in particular. He had moved too quickly. More than anything else he was reproached for emancipating women. For a few weeks the chador had fallen in the capital of Kabul; then the revolution broke out,women returned to the harem, to their strictly cloistered domestic life and from then on they could not show themselves on the street without a veil.”

51VPtVJer4L._SL500_AA300_
For Vanessa Able travelling in her Nano, whom she affectionately refers to as “Abhilasha”, winding her way through India, its crowds, is a frank account of her drive through India. It is a challenge to be a driver on the roads of India, but to be a woman and a foreigner at that, can be a challenge indeed! Vanessa Able braves it well, making some good friends along the way, but also getting a firsthand experience of they way men view/treat women. For instance, the young men loitering on the streets or the cab drivers misbehaving. At times she would worry about the fast roads and the sanitised lodgings were killing the spirit of the journey, but then the images of the Ambassadors and the over-zealous chaperones would remind her of the reasons for being on this trip. When Ratan Tata met her, he remarked that it was very enterprising of her to have driven the Nano through India. But Nanologues is a mixed bag of a traveller’s account with plenty of anecdotes, all though it could have done with a few photographs. Though she did blog regularly – http://www.nanodiaries.com/ and http://www.vanessaable.com/

Almost Intrepid
Anjaly Thomas’s comes across a feisty young woman, who is game for any sort of adventure. All her trips have been impulsive decisions. She has travelled through Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Indonesia, and India. Her account is of the kind that would be useful for women to use as a checklist, also take a leaf or two from her book of being fiercely independent, determined and focused about her goals. The common fears/questions that would prey upon any woman traveller’s mind came to her often. Such as afraid of being robbed/mugged/raped? did she have her parents approval? did she sleep alone in the hotels? how did she cope with female issues of dealing with her periods to washing underwear? where did she get her money from? did she ever get any help? was she scared of being labelled? She comes to the conclusion that these questions, including that of danger lurking, can even happen to a woman comfortably ensconced at home. It really depends upon the individual and the circumstances. To her surprise and relief she actually found a lot of help on the road. A few lessons she learned from travelling solo were confidence, self-dependence, patience, responsibility, love and compassion, prioritizing, letting go, and dreaming.

Women travelling alone is not a new feat. It has been done umpteen times before. Many wrote about it too. Lady Mary Whortley Montague and Alexandra David-Neel come immediately to mind, but there were many more. Yet the fascination that travellers hold, definitely when they are women, always make for captivating accounts.

19 July 2013

Annermarie Schwarzenbach All the Roads are Open: the Afghan journey Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole. Seagull Books, Calcutta, 2011. Hb. pg. 140.

Vanessa Able The Nanologues: 10,000 kms across India in the world’s cheapest car Hachette India, Delhi, 2013. Pb. pp. 324. Rs. 399

Anjaly Thomas Almost Intrepid Konark Publishers, New Delhi, 2013. Pb. pp.220 Rs. 299

‘I publish what I wish to’, Naveen Kishore, Publisher, Seagull Books

‘I publish what I wish to’, Naveen Kishore, Publisher, Seagull Books

naveen in office 02

My interview with Naveen Kishore, Publisher, Seagull Books was published today in the Hindu Literary Review. ( online edition, 6 July 2013 and print edition, 7 July 2013). Here is the link: http://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/i-publish-what-i-wish-to/article4884047.ece

Choosing a manuscript is a curious mix of instinct and detective work, Naveen Kishore says.

Naveen Kishore, publisher, Seagull Books, has been awarded the Goethe Medal 2013. Seagull Books owns worldwide English-language publishing rights for books by Paul Celan, Ingeborg Bachmann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Bernhard, Imre Kertész, Yves Bonnefoy, Mo Yan, Mahasweta Devi, Peter Handke and Hans Magnus Enzensberger. The Goethe-Institut awards the Goethe Medal, an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany. It honours foreign personalities who have performed outstanding service for the German language and international cultural relations. Excerpts from an interview with Kishore:

Why did Seagull opt to make translations, especially from International literature, its focus?

We began in 1982 by translating Indian languages into English. When Seagull went international I turned instinctively to the kind of literature that had sustained me through my growing years. Translations from European languages had begun to disappear from English-language bookshelves, worldwide, over the last so many years. We thought we would bring them back!

Who are the prominent German writers you have translated into English?

Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Alexander Kluge, Peter Handke, Chista Woolf and Ingebog Bachmann and, newer voices such as Thomas Lehr, Dietmar Dath, Inka Parei, and Tillman Ramstedt, among a list of almost 80 now.

In your catalogue translator Teresa Lavender Fagan says, “A translator must absorb the essence of a work, feel the author’s soul and do what she can to minimise what must necessarily be lost. The paradox of translation: the desire to replicate a work in one’s own language while knowing it can never truly be done.” Do you think you are able to achieve this?

We try and locate the best translators; people steeped in the literature that we are hoping to share with the world. I work with translators who have, over the years, become the English voices of particular authors. This nurtures long-term relationships between translators, authors and the publisher. We prefer to publish authors, not just books, and do more than one work by an author. Whether we have achieved a substantial body of translations is up to readers to judge. The paradox of translation will always remain, but that will not prevent great works of literature travelling from one language to another and spreading across the world.

Most English-language publishers have a very slim list for translations. The reason often given is that it is an expensive proposition. So, how do you achieve so many translations every year?

It is expensive. So what? The world of letters would be so much poorer without it that we juggle and stretch our resources on a daily basis in order to make it happen. There is no miracle formula. We do it because if we didn’t it wouldn’t happen.

What is the methodology employed?

I trust my own instincts and responses to manuscripts or books that I contemplate publishing. I seek the active participation of my colleagues and translators. I trust publishers that I work with who often suggest titles to me. I read the Rights catalogues sent to me from publishers all over Europe. Our translators are encouraged to give us their wish-lists. We have our own. Selection of books, therefore, depends on a combination of recommendations and detective work. The translations are always done from the original languages. All our living writers work very closely with their translators. For those no longer with us, the translation is sent to their Estate for approval. Translations, when they are successful, capture the essence of what a writer is trying to say. Always.

The Goethe medal citation says, “Naveen Kishore is led not by the market, but by personal convictions and passions.” Seagull Books has offices registered in London and New York. Its books are distributed all over the world (except India) by the University of Chicago Press. So isn’t the market an important consideration for publishing?

I publish what I wish to. My presence in the U.K. and the U.S. is in itself an interesting reversal of traditional market strategies! It also offers a model that no longer suggests that Indian publishers must buy rights only for India. Seagull buys world rights, because our distribution through the University of Chicago Press allows us to sell across the world. It is a globalised world; your geographical location is of no consequence. The market has a responsibility too, you know! The market must learn to find you. And it does. It takes time, but it does.

Web Analytics Made Easy -
StatCounter