I Salute Amazon

December 3rd, 2010 § 0 comments

on their recent $44,000 grant to Words Without Borders, supporting literature in translation and “a small organization weathering difficult economic times,” as WWB’s Managing Director Joshua Mandelbaum puts it. For all its size, WWB has proven a doughty and enduring champion of world lit, steadily growing in size, influence, and readership since its first issue in 2003. I owe them, and especially editor Susan Harris,  a special debt of gratitude: Words Without Borders was the first periodical ever to publish a translation of mine, Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud’s “Delaunay the Broker,” in November 2005. Since then, I’ve had the luck to become a steady contributor, and watch the magazine evolve into the force it is today. I am deeply honored to be on its masthead as a Contributing Editor  for Graphic Fiction.

My favorite part of all this good news is surely that

This grant, the largest they’ve given to date, will cover all our author and translator fees for 2011 and allow us to raise our payments to both.

Words Without Borders is already exemplary in being among the few magazines who have always defended translators’ rights. They always find a way to pay the translator, and are, as far as I know, alone in undertaking rights negotiations with foreign publishers and agents on the translator’s behalf. As any translator will tell you, especially beginners or struggling freelancers, this is a boon like no other, a saver of time and livelihood, a preventer of gray hairs.  Most magazines put the burden on the translator to obtain proof of permission and submit it with the manuscript.

As Mandelbaum notes,

I know some people consider Amazon.com’s business practices antithetical to our efforts, and see these grants as smoke and mirrors. The truth, I believe, is more complicated. The problems and struggles of literary publishing are not the fault of any one company or organization, and solutions must be taken up by the publishing community as a whole, including the reader.
Dear readers, this holiday season, please consider donating to Words Without Borders!

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