Margellos World Republic of Letters

By Bill Marx

“Five Spice Street” is the second book in the new series the Margellos World Republic of Letters, which features foreign literature in translation.

Given all the gloomy publishing news I wanted the podcast to focus on a positive development for books in translations. So in this World Books podcast I talk to John Donatich, the director of the Yale University Press, which has received what it calls “a very significant gift” to establish an endowed fund to support a series dedicated to foreign literature in translation.

The first volume in the Margellos World Republic of Letters, “The Selected Poems of Umberto Saba” has been published. Another book in the series, a novel from China entitled “Five Spice Street” will follow next month. Donatich talks about how books in translation will play an important role in the future of university presses, the political and aesthetic impulses behind the series, and how to publicize books in translation in an era of shrinking book coverage in mainstream newspapers and magazines.

Those who want to taste some of Can Xue’s writing now should turn to her volume “Blue Light in the Sky & Other Stories” published in 2006 by New Directions. For more on the Margellos World Republic of Letters, go here.


For those of you who don’t know about us, and wish to subscribe to this and other great podcast and blogs, The World is an international news program co-produced by the BBC World Service in London, Public Radio International and WGBH Boston. Subscribe to the World Books podcast here.

And World Books is more than my weekly podcast – the online feature includes reviews, interviews, news, and commentary on international literature, including a look a piece by author Helen Epstein, who went to Italy last month at the invitation of a university press which is publishing one of her books. There Epstein experienced what has become an increasingly rare occurrence for American authors — a proper book tour. Those who want to talk about that and other issues about international fiction and culture should go to the World Books Facebook fan page. Agree or disagree, I want to hear from you.

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