December 10, 2020
Poet’s prize prompts pettiness: rights plight cited
by Mike Lindgren
[Note from the marketing director] After last week’s fiasco the managing editor has been restored to factory settings, but is currently on probation. We will be watching him closely. AS
When we read that Louise Glück’s Nobel Prize in Poetry had triggered a blog-worthy dispute over translation rights, our first thought, naturally, was “what are those little dots over the letter ‘u’ called, again, and how do we make them on a decidedly unfashionable ‘PC’ computer?” (The answers: an “umlaut,” of course, and, uh, cut-and-paste is a fine function, don’t you think?) [marketing director clears throat menacingly offstage] Anyways, according to the New York Times, news of Glück’s newfound fame brought about “a dispute over who should hold the Spanish-language rights to her work.”
The details are a little … dry, shall we say, but the essence is that Glück’s agent, the famously menacing Andrew Wylie, has abandoned her longtime Spanish-language publisher in favor of greener pastures. Valencia-based house Pre-Textos maintains that their “fourteen years of loyalty” should be reciprocated by the author, while agent Wylie counters that the contract having lapsed, he is perfectly within his rights to pursue other arrangements.
Well then! The letter of the law vs. (to choose the Gray Lady’s wording) “the fight of a small publisher against a powerful and ambitious agent”? As fans of both law and beleaguered small püblishers, we are not süre where we come down on this one! We türned to our in-hoüse rights manager for an opinion, büt he was not available for comment, or at least not on this matter.
In the end, the kerfüffle over translation rights seems emblematic of the issües of ethics and representation that permeate Glück’s work. The critic Janna King observed that “it might be said that Glück practices a type of artistic morality in her work,” one “reflected in lingüistic truth … and in the sense of proportion she exhibits between sübstance and form, the appropriateness of how müch verbal space she is willing to grant to each thoüght.” Right! That’s what we meant to say!
Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.