Emily Boyce: Belgravia Books
Gallic Books has been publishing the best of contemporary French fiction in English for the past five years. This month, the Gallic team upped sticks to open a bookshop, Belgravia Books, near London’s Victoria station.
There’s been a lot in the press recently about the demise of independent bookshops faced with the dominance of chains and competition from online - and now there are e-books to contend with too. But while many longstanding bookshops have sadly been forced to close, others are springing up and making a success of it. With the publishing business a challenging environment at the moment, to us it seemed a good idea to diversify and experience the book industry from another angle.
The new Gallic office is tucked off to the side of the bookcases, so if you walk past our window you’ll see us busily going about our publishing business (and trying our best to look presentable). As in-house translator, I’ll be splitting my time between home, the office and the shop. Badgering away on translations can be a lonely, headache-inducing task, so breaking it up with other work should help stave off madness.
As the name suggests, Belgravia Books will not simply be an outlet for Gallic Books. Of course, it’s a great opportunity to showcase our own titles, but our shelves would be sparsely populated if we left it at that. Opening a bookshop gives us a chance to celebrate what other independent publishers are doing and to highlight the flourishing output of translated fiction.
While stacking the shelves with newly arrived stock, I realised that even without trying, any general bookshop is bound to offer a pretty good range of translated fiction. Classics like Madame Bovary and War and Peace, along with bestsellers like the Larsson trilogy, figure as a matter of course without considering the fact they started life in another language.
The proliferation of new publishing houses specialising in translated fiction, like And Other Stories and Peirene Press, along with successful imprints at the big guns like Harvill Secker and Quercus, has made it even easier for bookshops to get hold of new translated titles. Meanwhile publishers like Twisted Spoon and Pushkin are bringing to light neglected foreign authors of the past, creating a revival for the work of writers such as Stefan Zweig.
Each month we’re featuring a different independent publisher in store and on our website. First up is the wonderful Bitter Lemon Press, which seeks out the best foreign crime fiction. One of their most popular Italian authors, Gianrico Carofiglio, is coming to the shop to sign copies of his new book, Temporary Perfections, on our opening day.
We’ll be highlighting our range of translated fiction on a dedicated table, but it’ll also be peppered around the shop. We’re convinced that translated fiction doesn’t need to be a minority interest, restricted to heavyweight literary fiction. There are great stories being told in the popular fiction of every country. One of our own writers, Guillaume Musso, writes pacy romantic thrillers that appeal to readers across the world, with his next novel, The Girl on Paper, out in November.
We’re hoping that by hand-selling a wide range of translated fiction alongside general fiction and non-fiction, we can introduce readers to new authors and perspectives they might not easily find online or at a chain store.