In 2008, just as Open Letter was publishing its first books, the permanent secretary of the Nobel Prize committee had this to say about the American literary scene and the unlikelihood that an American writer would win the Nobel anytime soon. "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining."
This "isolation" was the result of decades of publisher and bookstore consolidations that led to an exclusive focus on the bottom line at the expense of cultivating a vibrant literary culture. In 2008, only 360 new works of international literature were published in America, and only a handful received any national attention or readership. If America was going to remain open to new ideas, viewpoints, and voices, something was going to have to change.
Open Letter's mission of enlivening the international community of readers, writers, and translators, is accomplished through three related initiatives.
* Publication of ten international works of literature each year. Not only does Open Letter identify the most vital and important works from around the world, but they keep these books in print indefinitely, ensuring that future generations also have access to these lasting, valuable works of art.
* Developing an appreciation for the art and craft of translation. Through the Three Percent website, Best Translated Book Award, Translation Database, multiple podcasts, and participation in festivals and conferences around the globe, Open Letter is creating a vibrant community around the production and appreciation of international voices.
* Educating young translators, thinkers, and publishing professionals. In addition to teaching courses on publishing and world literature at the University of Rochester, Open Letter offers summer internships and apprenticeships to students from across the country, helping train the next generation of publishing activists who will shape the non-profit literary world.
As Open Letter enters into its tenth year of activity, its mission of expanding the diversity of the American literary scene is more important than ever. Although the press has inspired a significant change in the way that international literature is viewed by tastemakers, booksellers, and readers across the country, it's still true that less than 3% of published books are in translation.
Given the power of literary arts to reach a wide audience—books are one of the most democratic art forms, available to audiences everywhere at a reasonable price—they also serve as one of the best ways to learn about another culture.
Your support will make it possible for Open Letter to bring a variety of international authors to underserved audiences across the country.
Additionally, funds raised will allow Open Letter to offer additional internships to students and young translators looking to break into the nonprofit publishing field.
We appreciate all your support in helping us to continue to not only publish the books people will still be reading in a hundred years, but develop the audience of readers and professionals to appreciate and act on these books.
We are a tight-knit group of international literature advocates who believe that one way of improving the world is by increasing access to all of its great works of art. Through dedication, sacrifice, great design, and a little panache, the three members of the Open Letter team are helping bring international voices to the attention of readers everywhere.
Join in and help preserve diverse voices for future generations by supporting our campaign!