Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks. After the success of the launch and the first batch of sales going through, I’ve been trying to drum up free publicity for Havoc by doing a few interviews. The first one, published by the Bookseller Magazine, was excellent and with their almost 150k Twitter followers, got some great exposure – even leading directly to the second one, with Bookmachine. It’s really exciting to see people in the industry getting behind Nordisk Books and hopefully it will have introduced a few more people to what I’m trying to do here and, particularly, to Tom Kristensen and the authors that will follow.
Unfortunately, one cannot win every time and the very first interview I did, with a young Danish freelance journalist, has not turned out as well. Whereas during the interview itself he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the entire idea, sadly he has chosen to take the article in a different direction, claiming that it is irresponsible of the Danish publisher who sold the rights to Havoc to do so to a new, inexperienced press. His main concerns, due to be published in a major Danish paper in the coming weeks and as reiterated in the article by a university professor in Copenhagen, are essentially twofold.
Firstly, they believe that in not using a more established publisher, there is a risk that the quality of the book will not live up to their expected standards as regards a Danish modern classic. The way the article is written, and especially the comments from the aforementioned university professor, suggest it is a foregone conclusion that the quality of the translation will be shoddy and undignified. I find this especially disappointing of a man of academia, as he has not read the Nordisk Books edition of Havoc and as such, speculating on the potential lack of literary faithfulness seems, at the very least, poorly researched.
Secondly, they are solicitous that, given Nordisk Books’ limited means when compared to the larger houses (not something I can, or would want to, argue with), Tom Kristensen’s work will not get the exposure it deserves in their eyes. Now, perhaps this is the case. Indeed, there are a great many fantastic works of fiction – translated or otherwise – that do not get what many would see as fair mainstream exposure. However, given the fact that this book has been in print in Denmark since 1930 and no one had seen fit to publish it in the UK at any point in the last 86 years, one would have sincerely hoped that the individuals in question – notably the professor who is, from what I understand, a leading expert on Tom Kristensen and on Havoc in particular – would be enthralled that someone was willing to take the project on. This is certainly the view of everyone else I have spoken to on the subject. Interestingly, in connection with this, they reference another Danish title published in 2010 (it is incorrectly stated as 2013 in the version of the article I have seen) by an American press they implicitly consider more serious. Perhaps they would be surprised to learn that the title in question is outsold on the US Amazon site by the Danish original – possibly due to the fact that the paperback has a retail price of over USD 80. One would imagine this is not what these gentlemen are really hoping for with an English release of Havoc?
This pre-emptive rebuttal may perhaps seem overzealous, however it is simply extraordinarily frustrating to have so much hard work belittled, and in such a lazy and unjustified fashion. The Danish publisher of Havoc has been incredibly supportive and has offered the professor in question a free copy of Nordisk Books’ edition of Havoc, so that he may form a more educated opinion, but should the article see the light of day, whatever damage it is likely to cause will already be done. Translation is by its very nature subjective, however I am absolutely ready to stand by the book that is now – finally! – in print in the UK and hope this is just the first of many.
Incidentally, it may interest the gentlemen involved to know that almost 100 copies of Havoc have been sold already, with several days to go until official publication date. Not too shabby when one takes into account the fact that according to Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International prize, the average work of literary fiction in translation released in the UK 2015 sold 531 copies. Maybe I’m not so far behind Random House and co. after all…