A translation found in a bookshop in Hungary and a remark about “old Europe” by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld led to the founding and naming of the latest publisher to join Western Massachusetts’s vibrant book scene, New Europe Books. Hungarian translator Paul Olchvary decided to try his hand at publishing after reading Inez Kemenes’s translation of Sándor Szathmári’s 1941 dystopian classic, Voyage to Kazohinia, which Hungarians regard as their Gulliver’s Travels or Brave New World. In it Szathmári combines satire and science fiction as he describes the Englishman, Gulliver, shipwrecked on an island whose futuristic inhabitants, the Hins, live without love, arts, money, politics, patriotism, and war.
Olchvary, who edited an English-language news digest in Budapest and has worked as a copywriter for Princeton University Press and Globe Pequot Press, says that he is looking for accessible books from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and other Eastern Bloc countries. His first list includes Voyage to Kazohinia (July), which isalso one of the first novels written in the international language Esperanto, and Ballpoint (Aug.) by György Moldovi, the story of the two Hungarians, László Biró and Andor Goy, who made the first ballpoint pen. In July, Olchvary is also breaking his self-imposed rule not to publish anything he translated, by bringing out his translation of István Bori’s The Essential Guide to Being Hungarian. Then in the fall he will publish a brief history of the undead by historian and Transylvania vampire expert István Pivárcsi, Just a Bite (Oct.).
“Ideally I’m looking for four to six books a year,” says Olchvary, who plans to publish simultaneously in trade paper and e-books, “not only by authors born and raised in the region but by authors who have lived in the region. To my knowledge there hasn’t been a publisher focused on the Eastern Bloc.” He’s already gotten a nod from the Hungarian consulate, which hosted a party for Voyage to Kazohinia during BEA.
Through an arrangement with Hanover Publisher Services, run by Steerforth Press publisher Chip Fleischer, New Europe, based in North Adams, Mass. has an agreement for sales and distribution through Random House Publisher Services. HPS acts as an interface with RHPS for small presses like For Beginners, foreign-based presses such as Campfire, and for Steerforth.