behind the scenes with meike the publisher of peirene press

I asked Meike if she could answer some questions about peirene and setting up this vibrant new press that publishes novels under 200 pages in translation ,right up winstonsdad street ,I ve already read beside the sea and will be reading stones in landslide this month .So here are Meike’s answers and thanks very much

1. What brought you to Britain and to publishing ?

I came to London in 1987 to study Arabic and Arabic Literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies. After my MA I worked for the publisher Routledge and then went into Journalism, working for Agence France Press in Paris, Reuters and FTTV in London. In my spare time I’ve always loved reading. Speaking four languages allows me to read from many different cultures. Over the years I have become acutely aware how little foreign literature is read in the UK and so I decided to set up Peirene to make a difference.

2. How hard was it to set up Peirene press ?

I registered Peirene as a company in May 2008 and in February 2010 I published the first book. So it took nearly two years to get the show on the road. A lot had to fall into place. I had to build relationships with publishers abroad, acquire the first texts, obtain a design, create a website, find printers, hire editors and  proofreaders, locate a distributor, sign up sales reps, establish a network of reviewers and of course set up the Peirene Salon – a very important part of Peirene Press as I am very keen to build a community of booklovers.

 3. What writers do you enjoy ?

I love the writings of Sylvia Plath, the German Ingeborg Bachmann and the Brazilian Clarice Lispector. I also read a lot of Philosophy: writers from the 19th century  such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard together with contemporary French female philosophers such as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray and Helen Cixous. As for modern English writers, I like Anne Enright and Angela Carter (well, not so modern any longer)

 4. You have chosen to use French flaps and nice paper for the books was this to make the books stand out ?

Books are objects and I wanted to create nice, affordable objects that feel luxurious when you hold them in your hands.

5. Having read beside the sea ,I think its a real gem why do you think that it and stones in landslide were overlooked before now ?

In general, UK publishers shy away from short books. I don’t understand their reasoning as I believe that to complete a good book in a couple of hours can leave you with a beautifully satisfying feeling. 

In addition, with Beside the Sea I believe publishers were worried about the controversial subject matter. They didn’t want to cause a stir

With Stone in a Landslide it is most likely that no publisher or editor had actually read the book as very few English people speak Catalan. I was lucky because I came across the German translation as soon as it was published three years ago.


6. What future plans have you ?

I am very aware that the first three Peirene Books, Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi, Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal, and Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius, are “female” texts – female protagonists epitomizing female experiences. Two of these books are also written by women. I therefore decided to make 2011 Peirene’s Year of the Man – Male writers expressing male views of the world through male protagonists. First title for 2011 will be “Next World Novella” by German writer Matthias Politycki – a clever love story about a man who takes life at face value and a woman who is more interested in the life after death. The next book is a Dutch “road novel” by Jan van Mersbergen, “Tomorrow Pamplona” about two men, a boxer and a family man on their way to the bull run in Pamplona. Very Hemmingway indeed. And last but not least a fantastic, bizarre, Kafkaesque collection of Austrian short stories by Alois Hotschnig, “Maybe This Time”.

7. How hard is it to get funding for the translations ?

For each book I have to acquire the translation rights first before I can apply to the relevant Cultural Institute for translation funding. So far I was lucky and always received some support. However the money varies hugely – anything from 25% to 90% of the overall translation cost.

8. As someone who reads mostly translations myself ,I d love to know how you pick the translators for the books ?

Before commissioning a translator, I ask for a sample translation of the first 1000 words of the text, so I can see if the translator has understood the rhythm and voice of the book. However, sometimes a translator approaches me with a translated text. This was the case with Adriana Hunter who translated Beside the Sea and Tess Lewis who translated Maybe This Time (Peirene Title No 6). In both cases the translators loved the text so much that they made the translation in their own time.

22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Book Whisperer
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 05:29:26

    Great interview, Stu. I have both the first two books waiting to be read too and I am really looking to diving in over this summer as I have seen great reviews of both.

    Good luck to Meike with her company – hope it’s a success.

    Love the new blog template too, Stu!


    • winstonsdad
      Jul 06, 2010 @ 21:10:21

      thanks boof ,I m loving new template really spells out what blog is about ,Meike is doing a great job ,all the best stu


  2. lizzysiddal
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 06:11:44

    I’ve read Peirene 1 and 2. The Germanophile in me is itching to get me mitts on 3 and now 4 and 6. The Dutch one sounds good too. Never mind “year of the man”, it sounds like 2011 is going to be the “year of the reader”!


  3. Tom C
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 06:13:45

    Very interesting Stu. I’ve read and reviewed 1 and 2 and look forward to reading 3 nearer the publication date in September. Meike has done really well hasn’t she. I see reviews of her books on many book blogs and I commend her for her success in inspiring the book-blogosphere to take Peirene to their hearts.


  4. Jackie (Farm Lane Books)
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 08:30:41

    Peirene Press is wonderful! I love the books and the the way Meike has embraced the blogging world is fantastic – I wish more publishers were as approachable and friendly as she is. I really hope that Periene Press is as successful as it deserves to be and I look forward to reading many more Periene books.

    Thanks for a little insight into the Press 🙂


  5. Iris
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 08:57:44

    Great interview Stu. It was nice getting a glimpse of what setting up Peirene was like. And all the new releases for 2011 sound exciting. Oh, and I liked the mention of Luce Irigaray.

    I love that so many bloggers are supporting a small press like Peirene.


  6. chasing bawa
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 14:03:40

    That was a brilliant interview. Meike is so passionate about her books and reading that it’s hard not to be interested. I liked Stone in a Landslide a lot and am looking forward to reading more European books!


  7. Jessica
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 20:52:01

    Thanks for that, I have just read number 3 (I have to start at the end) but my husband read beside the sea and said its scarred him for life


    • winstonsdad
      Jul 06, 2010 @ 21:02:59

      I m hoping to read stones in the lanslide this month and hope to get my hands on copy of no 3 soon ,all the best stu


  8. Bookrambler
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 09:59:42

    Great interview, Stu. Incisive questioning and some very full answers show that this publisher knows the future of books! I’ve not read any of these but your piece is worth 100 blurbs or press publicity – looking forward to seeking them out. And they sound nice too. I do like French flaps!


  9. amymckie
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 12:44:02

    Great to hear more from Meike and about Peirene Press. I have yet to read the two books that I have (actually today I am planning on reading one!) but I love the look of them. The are gorgeous. I love the fact that this year was women and next year is men too, I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings! All of the upcoming titles sound incredible.


  10. Trackback: my bbaw post « Winstonsdad's Blog
  11. Trackback: Book Review: Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal « The Book Whisperer
  12. Trackback: Books to watch out for in 2011 . « Winstonsdad's Blog
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July 2010


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