Argentine noir

Nicholas Clee
Opinion - Publishing Wednesday, 20th October 2010

Fran ois von Hurter and Laurence Colchester of Bitter Lemon Press explain the importance of Argentina's SUR Translation Support Programme At Bitter Lemon Press we have had the privilege of publishing four novels by Argentine authors in recent years, and we shall publish two more in the next 12 months. The authors are Rolo Diez, Sergio Bizzio, Claudia Pi eiro and Ernesto Mallo. We have two-book deals with Pi eiro and Mallo, and will publish their second novels in 2011. Argentina has a wonderful literary tradition in the crime noir genre even Borges wrote a crime short story, Death and the Compass and there seems to be an abundance of fascinating authors writing in Buenos Aires today.


Most of our Argentine authors were brought to our attention by friends and contacts made at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The German-speaking literary world has published Argentine literature more extensively than its English-speaking equivalent, so it was not surprising that friends such as Thomas W rtche and Lucien Leitess at Unionsverlag recommended Claudia Pi eiro, or that Marion von Hagen at Distel Literaturverlag praised the novels of Rolo Diez. Nicole Witt at Mertin Litag and Matthias Strobel are German agents with strong Latin American client lists, and they have been instrumental in our Argentine publishing efforts.
We have received grants from the SUR Translation Support Programme set up by Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to disseminate and promote Argentine literature and culture twice so far, for Thursday Night Widows by Claudia Pi eiro and Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, both suspenseful novels with an important element of social criticism. The Argentine literary institution Fundaci n TyPA, through Gabriela Adamo, put us in touch with SUR, which approved both our requests after receiving application forms no more onerous to complete than those of most national cultural institutes. It took between three and six months to receive notification of approval, which again is comparable to most countries. SUR caps its grants at $3,200, which is unusual as most programmes limit their grants to a certain percentage of the translation costs or have no stated upward limit.
For a small house such as ours, which focuses on translated fiction, grants are essential. The cost of paying two authors, the original writer and the translator, would be prohibitive without some help, especially when publishing authors who have never been published in English before. Most European countries have active programmes (eg Pro Helvetia in Switzerland, Cervantes Institute in Spain, Goethe Institut in Germany and their counterparts in France and Italy) promoting their literature, but in these days of economic difficulty most have had to cut back on spending. In Latin America, Argentina stands out as one of the very few countries offering help, which is, of course, most welcomed by all publishers dedicated to foreign fiction.
Novels by Argentine authors published by Bitter Lemon Press (www.bitterlemonpress.com):
TEQUILA BLUE by Rolo Diez. The author was imprisoned during the dictatorship and has been living in exile in Mexico. (Bitter Lemon publication date: 2004).
RAGE by Sergio Bizzio (2009)
THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS by Claudia Pi eiro (2009)
NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK by Ernesto Mallo (2010)
FOREVER YOURS by Claudia Pi eiro (2011)
ARGENTINE CRIMINAL l by Ernesto Mallo (2011).
This article first appeared in BookBrunch and Publishers Weekly's FRANKFURT FAIR DEALER.