Friday, November 21, 2008

How very Gallic!

When French novelist Jean-Marie le Clezio was announced recently as the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, the big American publishers searched their back-catalogues in vain—the few titles of his they did have rights for were long out of print. Smarting from the pre-prize pronouncement from Nobel Prize secretary Horace Engdahl that ‘American literary culture is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature,’ one hears that a number of US-based publishers hoped to rectify this embarrassing situation by bidding for translation rights to Le Clezio’s newest book at Frankfurt. But it wasn’t to be. Anne-Solange Noble, rights director for the venerable French publisher Gallimard, was playing a particularly Gallic game of chat et souris: ‘When an American publisher asks me about the book I reply with “Why are you interested in this Le Clezio? What do you know about his other books?” I tell them that I'll note their interest, but I don’t need to rush the sale, I’ll sell the rights later.’

[Since I write this, I've learned that Simon & Schuster have now picked up rights for le Clezio in the US]

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