The traitor is always the poet

Louise Glück has been at the center of a controversy over a contractual matter that passed into the contemporary fashion of media judgment. In this upside-down world, publishers sat on the throne and writers took on the role of courtiers.

I have a good amount of books from the publisher Pre-Textos. I feel special affection for The gates of paradise, by Jerzy Andrzejewski, with translation by Sergio Pitol. I like your fat books like Manuscript found in Zaragozaby Jan Potocki because they use a beautiful rustic paper for which even eight hundred pages weigh little. They have an anthology of Chekhov, with barely ten long-term stories, which seems to me the best sample to fall in love with this author before moving on to more complete flourishes. They have also been publishing much of the best contemporary poetry, such as that of Louise Glück.

In recent days, the name of the poet has been shuffled in a controversy over a contractual matter that, as it was not managed discreetly between publishers and agents, passed into the contemporary use of media judgment. The press has reported that the new Nobel laureate has “betrayed” her publisher of fourteen years and seven titles, to publish with a publishing group that offered more money. They drop inquisitive phrases, such as that Glück “I was not prepared to manage a success of this magnitude“Or sexistly sentenced that” cheats on his fourteen-year-old partner. They ridicule the poet, they say she should feel “ashamed” and, without knowing her, they launch a series of insults. In social networks a boycott is called against it, to which booksellers and people who have never read it sign up. Your Pre-Texts editor utters a sentence little loving: “Unfortunately the poet Glück will soon be remembered as little as she was missing before.” In fact, the publisher himself declared after the news of the Nobel that he would not make reissues of Glück’s work because “nothing has been sold”; and this could pave the way for the author’s agent, in a “rogue”, to start looking for another publisher.

The judgments against the practices of the literary agency are also in the press; there they. My empathy is with Glück, it will always be with a writer, who is the weakest link in the chain of the publishing “market”. We must remember the precarious situation of an author with few sales in the Spanish-speaking world, in which even small publishers without the capacity to distribute internationally often demand world rights in Spanish.

A open letter addressed to the Nobel Prize winner, in solidarity with the publisher Pre-Textos and signed by hundreds of people from culture and letters, it says “we believe that editors and authors should be allies in good times and in bad.” That’s very good. Let’s make a letter with the same intention, but more general, that goes to all authors and publishers and agents and booksellers. But the letter that is now circulating is drafted specifically to condemn a poet. Why do we now show so much solidarity with a publisher when we have never done it with writers? Yes, we have to be united through thick and thin. Why has no one addressed these words to the many publishers who expel so many authors from their publishers? With cold commercial reasons they are fired, discontinued, their books destroyed; and the expelled writer seems to be without looking for media compassion.

If there is really something mean in this episode, do not put the magnifying glass on the relationship of the poet with his publisher, but on the way in which publishers compete against each other. There is a lot of foul play in that competition. Why has the publishing world not created a code of ethics to prevent abuses by the large against the medium or small and that the fair play?

In this upside down world publishers sat on the throne and writers took on the role of courtiers.

Pre-Textos is a publishing house of height, of those that every morning we readers thank for its existence. But opinions against Louise Glück have been cooked with only the editor’s point of view, without her involvement. And when a couple breaks up, the spouse we talk to is often right. Pre-Texts has more than a thousand authors; Glück only has one. Pre-Textos has a long future left. Glück is seventy-seven years old. You really haven’t earned the right to do whatever you want with your poetry? And do we have the right to sign a letter to teach him moral lessons?

The coin has two sides. In one the editor says: “Love me because I have continued to publish you despite the fact that only two hundred copies of your books are sold.” In the other, the author silently thinks: “If you only sell two hundred books, you are doing your job very badly.” For whatever reason, low sales humiliate the author and sanctify the publisher.

Each case, each author-editor relationship is different and, yes, it is somewhat similar to that of a marriage. The “look what I have sacrificed for you” song is as boring in the publishing world as it is in life as a couple. Loyalty is important, but it must be fueled with fire. There are very good editors, but sometimes they are as good as Charles Bovary.

Now that Glück’s verses have interested hundreds and hundreds of publishers in dozens and dozens of languages, doesn’t she have the right to ignore contractual matters and entrust everything to her agent? An agent that, incidentally, is the one that many writers wish they had. And also, incidentally, in the case of foreign countries and languages, the relationship with the agent is more fraternal than with the editor.

“Fourteen years of loyalty” is mentioned in every note on this matter to praise the publisher and slander the poet. But she has accumulated fifty-seven years of loyalty to herself, since she overcame her anorexia and began to write her first poems; since, indeed, she was nobody, and nobody gave anything for her. Ever since they told him, like all poets, that he was going to starve.

Anyone who knows the life, vocation and adversities of a poet will know that no one has the right to say that poets are driven by economic interests. The poet lives for his verses and the rest is given in addition, if at all.

Enjoy, dear Louise, your Nobel Prize; Enjoy that your verses have flown so high, and listen to the signs that you have been riding. You, Louise, are a poet and you feel like a poet, knowing you are human. Others are mortal and judge as mortal, believing themselves gods.

all happiness
attracts the Fates’ anger.
They are sisters, savages—
in the end, they have
no emotion but envy.

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