Maltese publishing industry strikes gold

The work of local author Pierre J. Mejlak has been selected to appear in an anthology of short stories released by American publisher Words Without Borders.

2011 got off to an exciting start for author Pierre J. Mejlak and publishers Merlin, who sold publication rights to a number of Mejlak’s stories to American publisher Words Without Borders.

Selling foreign rights on Maltese fiction has long been the holy grail for all authors and most publishers. Maltese literature has undoubtedly been going through a golden era, and the logical next step was for it to step outside the boundaries of these islands.

Merlin Director of Publishing Chris Gruppetta said his publishing house had in recent years intensified its efforts to promote its authors abroad. Words Without Borders were amongst a small group of foreign publishers that showed interest in contemporary Maltese literature as a result of these efforts. The Chicago-based publishers asked Merlin for a number of Maltese scripts in English translation, and, of these, they have so far selected a number of stories penned by Mejlak and translated into English by Antoine Cassar. The stories – ‘Mort naraha, pa’ and ‘Fil-bar ta’ Livia’ – were originally published in their original Maltese by Merlin, in ‘Qed Nistenniek Nieżla max-Xita’ and in the anthology ‘45’.

Words Without Borders are internationally known for their specialisation in translating, publishing and promoting the finest contemporary international literature. They publish both online and in print anthologies, and their published authors’ works land on the desks of the key decision-makers in the international publishing industry.

Being published by Words Without Borders is a highly sought-after passport for international literary visibility. WWB have published, among others, Nobel Prize for Literature winners Herta Müller, J.M.G. Le Clézio, and authors of the calibre of W.G. Sebald and others, a grand total of over 1,200 pieces of literature representing 80 languages by writers from 111 countries.

In 2010, WWB was the recipient of highly publicised funding from Amazon, enabling it to expand its publishing remit and to work closely with the online retail giant.

For the first time ever, works by a Maltese writer will be included among these literary luminaries. Mejlak, three times winner of the National Book Awards, and whose latest book ‘Qed Nistenniek Nieżla max-Xita’ has been a critical and popular success and been selected as a Maltese highlighted title at the London Book Fair, reaching the top of the local bestseller charts, is the 2009 winner of the Europe-wide Sea of Words Award, selected from over 200 writers from 40 European and Mediterranean countries.

Words Without Borders, on signing the rights contract with Mejlak, commented: “Mejlak is our first Maltese author and a very fine writer indeed. We’re thrilled to be publishing his work. This is the first in what we hope will be a series of WWB-Malta collaborations.”

Contacted for his reaction, Mejlak was “very happy at the reaction we got from Words Without Borders. The quality of their anthologies is impeccable, and featuring in one of them is an unimaginable honour. My stories are being published in their English translation, the work of Antoine Cassar. If the stories were selected, it is also thanks to the high quality of the translation and the dedication and professionalism of my publishers.”

Mejlak is currently putting the finishing touches to his widely anticipated new collection of fiction, due to be published in early July by Merlin.