Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Charco Press, the award-winning independent publisher specialising in contemporary Latin American literature in translation.
What’s your story?
Charco Press is an award-winning independent publisher of exceptional contemporary Latin American literature in translation. Launched in Edinburgh in 2017 by Carolina Orloff and Samuel McDowell, our goal is to shine a light on the rich array of fiction currently coming out of Latin America. We aim to bring the region’s most exciting contemporary writers to new readers in the English-speaking world, publishing books that are entertaining, engaging and thought provoking. Charco Press meticulously seeks out the perfect translators to bring their authors’ work to life for English readers, often championing new and emerging translators, as well as established names.
Charco Press has already achieved international recognition, with one book longlisted and two shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, and the publishing house being named Scotland Small Press of the Year 2019 and 2021 at the British Book Awards. Marking its fifth birthday in 2022, Charco Press has recently launched an English-first series, ‘Untranslated’, embracing texts by English-speaking authors linked to Latin American culture, as well as its first Spanish-language OriginalES editions.
Tell us about some of your key stories.
We have to start with one of our very first titles, which put us in the spotlight straight away. Die, My Love, by Argentine writer Ariana Harwicz, was longlisted for the then Man Booker International Prize in 2018, and so provided an immediate profile boost for Charco. Further success in this prize has followed since with The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara and then Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro being shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020 and 2022 respectively.
Prize success aside, there are several other key titles that help set out Charco’s vision. Dead Girls by Selva Almada is a work of journalistic fiction investigating the separate femicides of three girls in rural Argentina, and the societal conditions that result in these crimes remaining unsolved to this day. Resistance by Brazilian author Julián Fuks asks what it means to belong, through an exploration of exile and adoption. A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti (and translated by Scottish translator Fionn Petch) is a playful yet serious trip through selected events in history, and the role that music played.
In 2022 we published Never Did the Fire by Chilean author Diamela Eltit, and alongside this we published a diary kept by the translator, Daniel Hahn, titled Catching Fire. This diary lays bare the process Danny followed as he translated Eltit’s novel – the challenges, the frustrations and the successes – in a very entertaining and enlightening work. Both are standalone works, or they can be seen as companions. This illustrates Charco’s focus on both the importance of translation and the role of translators, and our goal to demystify the process and make the world of translated fiction more accessible.
What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?
We are drawn to stories about the human experience, perhaps that shine a light on areas such as social justice or inequality. Part of the excitement in publishing stories in translation is seeing readers recognise and react to these experiences, even though they are set in a different world, and were originally written in a different language. When readers identify with a character or a situation it acts to reinforce the understanding that we all share so many challenges and emotions, no matter where we are from. This is part of what Charco is about. Beyond the focus of the story itself, we are also drawn to the author – to their style, their structure, their ability to play with language. A story has to, above all, entertain. These two aspects go hand in hand in order to really shine – a good story needs good writing, and good writing needs a good story.
What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?
Where to start! Salt Crystals by Cristina Bendek is set on the Caribbean island of San Andreas and is a wonderful exploration of the juxtapositions that exist there: Colombian territory, but closer to Nicaragua; ruled separately at times by the French, the British and the Spanish; a key port of call for the slave trade. A jumble of cultures, languages and races that have resulted in this island still seeking to understand its own identity today. Homesick by Jennifer Croft is the first novel in our Untranslated series – where we are providing a space for English-original works by translators or English speaking Latin American authors. It is a beautiful tale of growing up, sisterhood and language. The Forgery by Ave Barrera is a mad caper across a city in Mexico, with some nefarious characters along the way. Most recently we published Dislocations by Syliva Molloy. This is a beautiful investigation into memory and identity, through a friendship interrupted by dementia. Molloy, a legend in Latin American literature, unfortunately passed away just one month before the book was published – her first in English.
2023 is shaping up to be incredible. We have eight titles coming, including new works from Claudia Piñeiro and Margarita García Robayo – two favourites of ours. We also have gothic short stories from Bolivia in Fresh Dirt From the Grave by Giovanna Rivero, contemplations on life from the top of the Himalayas in Two Sherpas by Sebastián Martínez Daniell, and brutality of life at an abattoir in the Brazilian interior in Of Cattle and Men by Ana Paula Maia. Much to look forward to!