Years ago, at a bookstore, my father saw me eying an Am Oved (Working People) novel. "Take it," he told me. "It's Am Oved. It's bound to be good."
|Red, black and yellow|
Once I grabbed the first choice (Dubravka Ugrešić's The Museum of Unconditional Surrender), I started scavenging for further books - the deal being 2 for 1 (plus an additional gift book, it turned out). The bookseller noticed my search and came over to help me. "What kind of book are you looking for?" he asked politely.
|The new reds|
"That one's excellent," she told me, pointing at one of the books. Casually, we struck up a conversation, discussing some of the books in that particular booth (mostly foreign literature, with very little translated from English). She was quick to realize that I wasn't looking for anything translated from English (obviously preferring the originals) and seemed eager to help in my search for the "weird" and "different" books. Turns out she's the foreign literature selector** for the publishers. Once I told her that translations pretty much fascinate the heck out of me, she said, rather sincerely, "Well... it doesn't pay very well..."
|The two Bolaños|
When I think of Am Oved's booths, I'm not thinking of the six books I purchased (while only paying for two and a half). I'm thinking of its staff and the wonderful book dialogue they encourage and engage in. Once again, the literary experience trumps the actual books acquired.
* Chinese is very rarely translated into Hebrew. Until recently, all translations of Chinese novels passed through English first, making them doubly translated. Even today, when you have a few translators out there, many Chinese books are translated to Hebrew through English. So are Icelandic books, as well as a few other languages...
** Is this the official English publishing phrase? Does this job fall under "editor" in the Anglo publishing world?