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Mon, 20 Jul 2009 00:16
Dedalus is mainly a fiction publisher. The Dedalus list includes contemporary English language fiction, translated European fiction in the Decadence from Dedalus, Dedalus European Classics, Dedalus Europe 1992-2012, Dedalus Euro Shorts series and Dedalus anthologies. Dedalus also publishes literary non-fiction in the Dark Master, City Noir and Concept Book series. Dedalus began publishing on November 30th 1983. Their first list consisted of three first novels, one of which The Arabian Nightmare by Robert Irwin has been translated into 15 languages and has found worldwide success.
The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Dedalus: Readers who are looking for literary fiction, which is different and not like the last book they have read.
Dedalus has invented its own distinctive genre, which we term distorted reality, where the bizarre, the unusual and the grotesque and the surreal meld in a kind of intellectual fiction which is very European. Our mission is to be unique - an exciting, innovative and distinctive alternative to commercial publishing; to find new talent and put British publishing at the heart of Europe.
The Book Depository: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
Dedalus: Publishing is going through a period of transition and it is not clear how it will look at the end of this period. Although we are ready to embrace the digital age at the moment our readers want printed books, with striking covers, which they cherish as objects for their library. Print on demand by-passes us as most of our readers do not want to pay £30 to read a novel, so we have to reprint at least 1,000 copies. When people want Dedalus' books as e-books we will provide them. For us, and other small literary publishers, the main challenge is having the resources to promote our books effectively and make a difference. In a recession, you get greater conservatism, so publishers like Dedalus who are trying to offer something different stand out. Our main task is to be noticed and excite our readers.
The Book Depository: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
Dedalus: Some times it is amazing easy. When I began reading Andrew Killeen's The Father of Locks last Summer I felt a sense of elation: this book had been written for Dedalus, created in our image. I just prayed that the author would sustain the narrative to the end. He did and we published the book within six months of my reading the manuscript. There are the eureka moments in publishing -- when we were offered Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf it was as if we were being given a book which was the embodiment of our genre of distorted reality. To understand Dedalus all you have to do was read this book. In twenty-five years of publishing you cherish these eureka moments -- Pfitz by Andrew Crumey, The Arabian Nightmare by Robert Irwin, Bad to the Bone by James Waddington and Dragon's Eye by Andy Oakes.
I have always been drawn to books, which engage the mind and touch the heart, such as The Book of Nights by Sylvie Germain, The Zero Train by Yuri Buida and I Malavoglia (The House by the Medlar Tree) by Giovanni Verga. I simply cannot say no to this kind of book. When they were translated into English, rather than feeling something had been lost in translation I felt totally the opposite, that our translators had opened new horizons for me. A lot of our translations come as recommendations from our translators, it is rare that we get suggestions from Christine Donougher, Margaret Jull Costa, and Brendan King we do not follow. Mike Mitchell, who translates for Dedalus from French and German, is in charge of our translation programme and it is his judgement, which has shaped our translation programme during the last seventeen years. Dedalus is very fortunate to work with some of the most brilliant translators of European fiction of their generation.
For the classics we like to find unusual works which have not been translated before, like the novels of Hermann Ungar, or make a whole oeuvre available from neglected authors like Verga, Huysmans, Meyrink, Mirbeau and Eca de Queiroz. In a way we see our role to fill in the gaps left by Penguin, OUP and other classics list, widening along the way the definition of what constitutes a classic . Occasionally we translate titles in print with other houses, where the existing translation is old or in need of replacement or we believe it will help us enhance the reputation of a major author who has not received the attention he deserves. If you read Margaret Jull Costa's new translation of The Maias and compare it to the previous ones you will understand the joy that a new translation of a masterpiece can bring.
Although we are constantly trying to offer our readers something different, what will fit in the Dedalus list is so clear to our readers, literary critics and translators, that many of our books have come from suggestions -- Phil Baker who reviewed a lot of Dedalus books in the Sunday Times suggested to us a book on absinthe, which we promptly commissioned, Gary Lachman offered us a book on the occult. One of our French authors, Mercedes Deambrosis said I understand why my latest book is not for Dedalus but Mr Dick or The Tenth Book by Jean Pierre Ohl is perfect for you. It was and is. Polly McLean said there is a novel about a lobster having sex with a woman on the Titanic, while it sank. It is very weird and just the kind of novel you should publish. We published Lobster. Sometimes it is easy being a publisher as all you do is take the credit for other people's good judgement.
The Book Depository: What books are you most proud of having published?
Dedalus: I have mentioned most of them already. Original English language fiction it is our big three -- The Arabian Nightmare by Robert Irwin, Pfitz by Andrew Crumey and Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf by David Madsen. In contemporary European fiction, the ten novels by Sylvie Germain, The Zero Train by Yuri Buida and The Architect of Ruins by Herbert Rosendorfer. From our classics, The Maias by Eca de Queiroz, I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga, Simplicissimus by Grimmelshausen and Against Nature by J.-K. Huysmans. From our anthologies The Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy by Mike Mitchell and an almost unclassifiable book Paris Noir by Jacques Yonnet.
The Book Depository: What books are you working on right now?
Dedalus: We are working hard promoting Made in Yaroslavl by Jeremy Weingard, a very funny satire of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and Christopher Harris' Mappamundi, a bizarre and idiosyncratic historical novel, in which Renaissance learning leads to the discovery of America. A new translation by Peter Bush of Celestina by Fernando de Rojas, a bawdy Spanish classic from 1499 and the first English translation, by Glyn Jones of William Heinesen's, Windswept Dawn, a kind of Faeroese Under Milk Wood, are being prepared for the printer and will be out in May. We have Phil Baker's biography of Dennis Wheatley, The Life and Times of A Gentleman working its way through to a September publication date.
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