Andrew Wylie, the most important agent in the international literary field, comes up against the controversy generated by the non-renewal of the Spanish publishing house Pre-Textos of the translation and publication rights in Spanish of the new Nobel laureate, Louise Glück. With this decision, the agent who is known as El Chacal in the literary world for his way of negotiating breaks with the loyalty shown by the Valencian label, which has published seven of the author’s books over 14 years before to win the award, when she was practically an unknown outside the US Wylie assures in an email interview with EL PAÍS that “unfortunately, Pre-Textos has not been faithful to any agreement.”
“Their first contract for the work of Louise Glück expired in 2015 and they did not pay the advance agreed for the signing of the second. Of course, we have written to you repeatedly, over a period of years, most recently this spring, inviting you to repair this situation, but you left our messages unanswered. When they published Meadowlands [Praderas] in 2017 and A Village Life [Una vida de pueblo] In 2020, it was not only without payment but without any consultation about the translation or the cover. They didn’t even send Louise Glück a copy of their own books, ”says the agent of writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, Roberto Bolaño or Emmanuel Carrère.
Pre-Textos, a small independent publisher, has won the sympathy and solidarity of readers and professionals in the sector for the agency’s decision not to renew the translation and publication rights in Spanish (for Spain and Latin America) . The label had not stopped betting on the 78-year-old poet despite not amortizing the cost of publishing her books, due to their low sales. The award of the Nobel Prize last October changed the relationship. Wylie’s agency, with headquarters in New York and London, then offered several Spanish publishers the rights to Glück, “behind Pre-Textos’ backs,” according to Manuel Borrás, publisher of the label, who was warned of the operation by his colleagues .
Wylie maintains, however, that only “after the announcement” [de la concesión del galardón] they returned “to have news of Pre-Texts.” “Awards are certainly important, but our position remains as always: our goal is to work with publishers who treat books and authors well. We have been looking for a new home for Glück in the Spanish language for some time, ”says El Chacal, who has just turned 40 at the helm of his agency.
Is it naive to think that, in the case of a non-commercial poet, he should be left out of the market of the highest bidder, as has happened? Wylie responds: “We have recently rejected a Pre-Texts renewal offer due to your previous broken promises and lack of communication, not for the sake of an auction. But overall, I think that writers should get their books in the right editions and paid for their work, and publishers deserve to be paid for the copies they sell. “
And how can you profit from a poet so highly praised and little known to the reader outside of American literary circles? Wylie responds: “We represent poets for the same reason that we represent serious writers in all their genres. If your work is good, then it should be defended. Louise Glück has an established audience around the world ”. But was the poet unhappy with the Pre-Texts work? “I do not think anyone can be happy with this story,” ditch.
The non-renewal of the rights to Pre-Texts has awakened a wave of solidarity in writers and professionals who have signed a letter regretting that the agency began to “offer it behind the back of the publisher to the highest bidder, thus ignoring the effort made by its Spanish publishers ”. Wylie maintains his position: “I am sure it was signed in good faith by people who believe, like me, in the importance of independent literary publishing. Louise Glück’s work will continue to be published, as before the Nobel Prize, by Carcanet in the UK, by Rámus in Sweden, by Opus in the Czech Republic, by Edicions del Buc in Catalan and by other independent labels around the world. But it is unfortunate that the people who signed this letter could not know the unfortunate details of the case.
Pau Sanchis, one of the four partners that make up Edicions del Buc, a label that owns the only book translated into Catalan by the Nobel Prize, Nit fidel i virtuosa, assures that they have not had “any problem with the Andrew Wylie agency”. “The relationships have always been correct: we have negotiated what we had to negotiate without further setbacks.” Sanchis declines to comment on the problems that Pre-Textos has with the agent – “we are two publishers from the same city and we have good relations” – and refers to the fact that, in his case, they had a contract in force and “they had two years left in force “, Although with” a clause linked to a number of copies: as with the award we sold out the edition, now we have renewed it and we will be able to distribute books again next week “, he specifies. Edicions del Buc admits that they are negotiating to “edit one more book” by Glück, reports Carles Geli. That would make rethink the decision to abandon the editorial project, as they were considering shortly before the award. “Being able to keep a Nobel in the catalog has weight to continue in this trade”, he adds.
The expressions of solidarity towards Pre-Textos —even from the president of the Valencian Generalitat, Ximo Puig— have been numerous, but there are also professionals who criticize that the situation has reached an extreme where if a publisher now decides to publish Glück in Spanish it will seem like a betrayal. “The movements between authors and publishers are common in the sector and much more when the translation and publication rights have already expired, and an author has just won the Nobel Prize by surprise. It has happened to me other times, ”says an editorial source.
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