Tuesday 18 April 2023


Here’s the cover of a new reprint of poems by Apollinaire translated by Beverley Bie Brahic, a book which won the Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation ten years ago. (BBB’s translations of prose poems by Francis Ponge is also reprinting.) Reprinted not because of public demand – just 2 copies were sold last year – but because if I didn’t have boxes of the thing I’d want to run out and buy this book myself.

More numbers. I’ve been writing them in columns for the last financial year (still no spreadsheets). The average number of books sold per year since the start of CBe is around 2,500, and last year was a little below that. No bookshop could be run on that. For the authors’ sake I should be selling more. On the other hand, I’m still here, having stumbled upon a way of doing this that doesn’t require me to abide by all the prescriptions of the industry experts.

Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma was written in November and December 1838 and published the following April. I once took on a book in December and, when the author told me he was dying, published it the following February, but in 2023 that’s not usually how it’s done: books are not published for at least a year, often longer, after they are taken on because you need a marketing campaign and Advance Reading Copies and puff quotes on the cover, all the stuff I don’t enjoy and am therefore not good at.

I don’t think CBe is a throwback. Nor is it the work of a man who lives off-grid in a shed in a field. I use the internet and typesetting software and digital printing and can learn new tricks when it suits me. I mean: when it suits someone of a certain age and temperament. I am lucky and privileged (not rich) to be able to do this.

You can buy BB Brahic’s translations of both Apollinaire and Ponge for £16: scroll down to bottom of the Books page. Or have them as part of your 6-books-for-£40 or 12-for-£75 Season Tickets on the Home page. I do try.

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