Interview: Galeno Amorim, President, National Library Foundation

Juergen Boos and Juca Ferreira

Frankfurt Book Fair Director Juergen Boos and Brazilian Cultural Minister Juca Ferreira sign statement of intent for Brazil's 2013 Guest of Honour appearance. Photo by Pedro França

In preparing for Brazil’s role as the Guest of Honor at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair, Galeno Amorim, the President of the National Library Foundation, is going to be a busy man. He’s in the process of organizing a conference for foreign translators, a meeting between the Frankfurt Book Fair organization staff and Brazilian publishers during the Rio de Janeiro International Book Fair in September, setting up a new residency program for translators in Brazil, and looking at new ways of helping introduce foreign editors and rights agents to Brazilian publishers

Over the coming weeks, committees and subgroups are being created and will draw upon publishing industry professionals, civil servants from the cultural ministries, institutes and other bodies of government in order to prepare for the event.

In this interview, Galeno Amorim discusses preparations for Brazil’s star turn in Frankfurt in 2013, plans for the Bogota Book Fair, which will honor Brazil in 2012, and the new features of the Program for Supporting the Translation and Publishing of Brazilian Authors Abroad.

Could you tell us about the support program for translation of Brazilian authors?

The program anticipates that R$12 million (US$7.6 million) will be granted by 2020. The objective is to guarantee that editors, agents and foreign publishers can rely on the stability of that policy, and not worry that it might disappear should the government change. It is actually classified in the category of public actions, which guarantees it will continue despite any changes in office.

A new bid will be published every two years so we will always be able to keep our focus or adapt for the next term, always keeping the broader perspective in mind. The move to every two years is necessary because it allows us to adjust for immediate goals, such as supporting our role as Guest of Honor in Frankfurt in 2013 and in Bologna in 2014 — though the funds are guaranteed until 2020.

Is there any risk that the project will be cancelled after two years?

No, there is no risk. The funds for this project are sourced from the National Culture Fund [Fundo Nacional de Cultura], the plan has been approved and it will exist at least until the end of 2020.

Will the most widely spoken languages have priority in the project or will publishers from all countries be eligible to apply?

The program aims to provide support for publication in as many countries as possible. At present we are concentrating more effort on Germany because we have the Frankfurt Book Fair as an important target. The plan is to act in other countries as well, but since Brazil will be present in Frankfurt in 2013, a considerable part of the grants will be addressed to support publication in German. At the same time the policy to support publication in all languages is being maintained.

That means that the program does not necessarily aim at the top markets, or at countries where sales of Brazilian authors are bigger?

During the phase of selection, a number of criteria will be taken into consideration concerning each literary work: the distribution plan, print run, the quality of the book. Publishing poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade in Italian, for example, could be essential. In fact it is, and that project will certainly be funded. Through the program, we will need to strike a balance when considering all different languages and different countries. It is important to point out that the policy aims at the internationalization of Brazilian literature. The program was not designed for the Frankfurt Fair exclusively. In fact, Frankfurt will give Brazil an impetus to go beyond and make a bigger splash for Brazilian literature on the international stage.

Once the project is approved, how long will publishers have to produce the books?

Presently, publishers will have 18 months for the publication of the books. However, there is a deadline — August 2013. So publishers who apply now will have more time than those who apply later in that period. The current bid prioritizes Frankfurt, although the policy is supposed to continue after that event. Every two years, the bid for the program will have a different priority.

When will publishers have an answer after applying?

One new feature of the program is that it is now continuous. Registrations will be processed on the last day of every quarter and results will be announced within 30 days. However, new applications will be accepted the day after each quarter is over.

The program used to be known for being slow and bureaucratic, requiring too many forms and taking a long time to be finalized. How much has it changed?

The forms we created this year are very similar to the forms provided by the best international translation grant programs. They have the same level of requirements. We have improved a few items: deadline, the length of the bid, figures, etc. To compare, an average of R$100,000 was granted for translation programs over each of the past ten years. We are now working with a much bigger figure and the project is guaranteed for almost another ten.

How many books will the budget support for translation?

We want to take 250 books to Frankfurt. Some books will be granted US$2,000. Some will be granted US$8,000. The number of books that will fit in the budget ultimately depends on how many titles will be submitted.

How is the amount of the grant calculated?

Translating a book such as Sagarana by Guimarães Rosa is not the same as translating a book for children or a book of chronicles, which would be about 80 pages long. The level of complexity, the number of pages to be translated, the edition and distribution plan, all these factors will be taken into consideration. We are also planning to provide support for the publication of books that are out of print. That is now a possibility with the new program.

What will Brazil present at Frankfurt in their role as Guest of Honor?

Brazilian literature will be the guiding line, but Brazil will be represented also by its music, cinema, arts and handcrafts. Brazil has benefited from a very positive international image as a result of the accomplishments in the fields of economics and politics, and also for its efforts fighting social injustice. This is the new Brazil, a modern country that plays an important role on the international stage, and it will be presented like that in Frankfurt. Many of its aesthetic and creative aspects will be spotlighted. The Frankfurt Book Fair will give Brazil the opportunity to show off its literature, but it is also an opportunity to show the country as it is these days, not as it was in 1994, when it was Guest of Honour at the Fair for the first time. We are working to make that happen.

Brazilian president Dilma Roussef will be signing a decree that sets the guidelines for the creation of the organization committee. Our committee will be composed of four subgroups: one will be part of the National Library Foundation [Fundação Biblioteca Nacional], another one will be composed of different institutions associated with the Department of Culture (Ministério da Cultura), a third group will be composed of cultural institutions such as the Goethe-Institut, Instituto Moreira Salles and Itaú Cultural. Also two other groups will be created: one to manage the participation of several public offices and one that includes professionals in the book industry.

As far as thematic committees are concerned, we have a specific group to organize the literature-related activities in the program. Another group will represent the book industry itself. One division will be responsible for exhibits and concerts that will be taking place in Germany -– not only in Frankfurt –- between March and October of 2013. All those actions have started with the introduction of the translation program at Paraty Literary International Festival (from July, 6th to 10th). At the Rio de Janeiro International Book Fair we will have a translation conference and a meeting to introduce the Frankfurt Fair organization staff to Brazilian publishers.

How will the publishing industry be involved?

All the actions related to the sale of rights and book sales will be organized by the entities responsible for them. The entities working with books — the Brazilian Book Chamber [CBL] and the Editors’ National Union [Snel] — are coordinating their actions with other organizations such as Abeu, the association of university presses, and Libre, the organization for independent publishing houses, in order to provide a catalogue, in printed and digital format, with all the titles that are being translated.

And you’re considering opening a residence for translators in Brazil?

We have started working on that. The Ministry of External Relations (Itamaraty) in Brazil will give us support for this project. We want to bring not only translators, but also the “special readers” — agents, rights directors, etc. who are working in collaboration with the foreign publishers. We want to invite them to Brazil so they can experience the country and live here for a few weeks. The idea is to have the first residencies this year.

Who will benefit from the residency program?

We will first invite translators from Germany, then from other countries in Europe. We intend to extend the invitation to other countries as well.

Will you have the same group working at the Bogota Book Fair for the Guest of Honor stint in 2012?

The book fair in Bogota is a more specific event so we are assigning an exclusive staff to take care of that project. In spite of that, Bogota will benefit from the actions that are being executed for the Frankfurt Book Fair. This is because all the effort being made here is not specifically addressed to the event in Frankfurt. Our final purpose is, as I said before, the internationalization of Brazilian literature.

Bogota is next year. Will there be enough time to translate the books into Spanish by the time of the event?

Yes. We will have time to translate some of the titles, but we don’t have one specific goal concerning to the number of titles to be translated. The Bogota Fair is designed for the public and is different from the Frankfurt Fair, whose main purpose is the negotiation of foreign rights. In Bogota we will be organizing lectures at universities, schools and libraries. We are already in contact with those institutions. I visited Bogota in person and we made arrangements with the Brasil-Colombia Institute, the Embassy, the Cerlalc and Fundalectura to take Brazilians to Colombia before the fair — maybe this year, but most likely next year.

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