E-book publisher Anne Trager loves France so much that she’s lived there for 27 years. And while she does visit the U.S. from time to time, France is her adopted home away from home. Trager now runs a New York-based e-publishing firm, Le French Book, that releases translations of French novels in English for the North American and UK markets.
No real surprise, then, that the backstory of exactly how Le French Book came to be is just as fascinating—and perhaps even more so—than the translated crime and thriller novels her company is now cranking out by the dozens. It happened, more or less, like this:
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In 2011, Trager (pictured at right) simply woke up one day, and decided to form her own “books in translation” e-book company. “There are way too many good books being written in France,” she thought to herself, “[that aren’t] reaching a broader audience.”
Trager was born in upstate New York and lived in six different places in the United States before ending up in Ohio at the age of eight, she told TeleRead in a recent email interview. The daughter of two linguists—her father is the American linguist George L. Trager—her parents’ interest in language obviously rubbed off on her. But what finally led her to France, she says, was her taste for good food—and wine!
“When I was a teenager, I read Gourmet magazine religiously,” Trager explained. “It was clear to me that I needed to go someplace bigger—like Paris—to get the real good-food experience.”
Before Trager actually made it to the City of Lights, however, she attended Earlham College in Indiana, a liberal arts school where she studied French. From there, she went directly to Paris on a study-abroad program.
“I stayed and did a cooking school,” she recalled, “and stayed some more and worked as a chef, translating all along the way. By that time, it was too late. I couldn’t leave. I was hooked.”
After a while, the family language connection took over again. “I was working more in translation than cooking,” she said, “and I needed to take on another language, so I got a degree in Mandarin Chinese. I lived in Taiwan. One thing led to another—translation, publishing, corporate communications—and I was happily living my life out in France.”
But then e-books entered her life. And that changed everything.
“I started reading e-books (I shifted over in about two and a half seconds, despite my huge library of paper books),” she said. “All I read is crime fiction and thrillers, and I realized that the French books I love to read were just not getting out in English. If I wanted to share them, I’d have to translate them. The rise in e-reading and e-publishing opened a window of opportunity. It was the right time and the right place.”
Thus was Le French Book born.
“With my knowledge of both France and the French publishing business and the American publishing industry, there was a real connection, and I realized that Le French Book could be my bridge back to my culture of origin,” she said. “I founded the company in New York, because that’s what made sense, as a publisher between the old and new worlds (both of publishing and of continents).”
Trager told Publishers Weekly last September that her plan was to publish eight French-to-English translated books a year, hoping to attract readers with ”previously untranslated gems to an audience that doesn’t yet know about them.”
Her first title was Sylvie Granotier’s ”The Paris Lawyer”, released in English in 2012 after its 2011 publication in Paris. Other books Trager has released in translation include “Treachery in Bordeaux” by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen, part of a book series that has been adapted for French TV. “The Greenland Breach,” a ”cli-fi” thriller, is set for an October release this year.
Laura Van Wormer, reading about Trager’s work in a Publishing Perspectives blog post last year, said in comment that she loved the idea of more translations from French novels.
“In terms of crime fiction, I don’t think any American mystery reader ever quite recovers after reading the last Simenon novel and realizing there are no more,” Van Wormer said. “We just sort of wander around for years looking for something to fill that void, of experiencing that marvelous sensation of becoming familiar with a foreign land. This is also the kind of publishing project which fulfills the promise of digital, to be able to publish good books that otherwise could not be published in print right now, given the economic times and the horrendous over-head challenges with paper, printing and binding and returns. Congratulations to Le French Book and welcome to America.”
This could be the start of something good.
Dan Bloom in a freelance writer based in Taiwan.