Iowa City is now home to a small publishing house that aims to help bring some of the world’s best new literature to American readers. Autumn Hill Press is the brainchild of Russell Valentino, a professor of Russian at the University of Iowa. Valentino says of all the books being published around the globe, most people in the United States are only seeing a precious few because those works aren’t being translated into English.
Valentino says about three-percent of the total amount of books published in a year, maybe 150-thousand, are being translated into English, and that’s everything — Japanese comic books, tour guides and maps. When you narrow it down to literature, he says, the number becomes embarrassingly small.” Valentino says with all of the fine writers, designers and translators in the Iowa City area, Autumn Hill Press is poised to “make a difference” by opening a huge door to readers in this country. He says Americans are reading far too little of the fine works of literature that are out in the world.
Valentino says “It’s more than a shame. Some people call it a cultural travesty especially when you look at other cultures and how many books from other languages they tend to translate. Just go into a German book store and you might see half the books on the shelves or more are translated from other languages.” He believes Americans would snap up the works from other countries — if only they were put in a form they could easily access.
Valentino says “It’s a little like the lottery where ‘you can’t win if you don’t play,’ and here, you can’t read them if they’re not translated. Since the vast majority of Americans are monolingual, they’re gonna’ read in English and we want to make books available to them.” Autumn Hill Books published its first book this fall. “A Castle in Romagna” was written by a Croatian man and translated by a U-of-I graduate student.