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Publisher specializing in translations moving to University of Illinois

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor

Released 12/1/2006

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —  The leading independent publisher specializing in literary translations of contemporary international titles, mostly fiction, will make its new home at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dalkey Archive Press, which has been in Normal, Ill., since 1992, will take up residence on the Illinois campus in mid-December. Dalkey recently cancelled its plans to settle at the University of Rochester early next year, citing “unexpected circumstances.” Illinois was one of several schools the press had been in discussions with before deciding to move to Rochester. Dalkey had been looking for a new home since 2005.

Also moving with Dalkey are its director, John O’Brien, several staff members, the press’s journal, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and its magazine, Context: A Forum for Literary Arts and Culture. Dalkey Archive Press began in 1980 in Chicago.

John Kulka, senior editor at Yale University Press and a member of Dalkey’s board, called the U. of I.-Dalkey partnership “an exciting opportunity for us to create in Champaign-Urbana a translation center of global reach and importance. It is the logical extension of Dalkey’s publishing program in literature in translation and of the University of Illinois’ many excellent programs and departments in foreign languages.”

Dalkey Archive Press publishes 30 titles a year in English and has more than 300 books in print. It also has an annual Web site readership of 600,000, and has received many honors, including having been chosen by the New York Public Library and The Globe and Mail, published in Toronto, as one of the best literary resources on the Internet. Among its authors are winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

“Dalkey is a window through which we can study the diversity of societies across the globe – a guiding principle of the university as expressed in our strategic plan,” said Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman.

The presence of the press will “highlight and link to excellence in our humanities and language programs and will help us realize a new curricular initiative in translation studies,” Herman said.

The press, which will remain an independent non-profit educational organization, publishes literature series in American, British and Scottish, Canadian, Eastern European, French, German and Austrian, Greek, Irish, Japanese, Latin American, Netherlandic, Russian, Scandinavian, Spanish, and Swiss fiction. It also publishes poetry, anthologies, memoirs and biographies, criticism and non-fiction and a scholarly series.

 “The University of Illinois is where we belong, and every indicator is that it’s going to be a terrific relationship,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien gave several reasons for choosing Illinois as a new base.

“It is a first-rate research facility, and that extends from the faculty through the Library. So many of the books that we have needed over the years at Illinois State University (in Normal) have been found at the U. of I.”

With more than 10 million volumes, the U. of I. Library is the largest public university collection in the world.

“Also, the foreign languages at Illinois are an enormous attraction because our primary focus now is translation, so the potential for what we can be doing with faculty and students and foreign languages is phenomenal.”

Illinois has been developing “what I think is going to be a first-rate translation program that will have truly national and international significance, so what Dalkey has been up to for a number of years and what foreign languages at the U. of I. are doing are extremely compatible,” O’Brien said.

“This collaboration will lead the way to addressing the enormous problem of how few translations from other countries are published in this country and also will develop a new generation of translators armed with both extensive translation experience, practice in the business aspects of translation and a sound scholarly base.”

Illinois’ new initiative to strengthen various areas of the humanities, plus the addition of Dalkey Archive Press, should combine for “a potential for this to become a signature program in the humanities that will have tremendous national stature,” said William Adams, associate chancellor at Illinois.

Under the terms of the agreement, the university will provide Dalkey with space and “other support to facilitate relationships with our academic programs,” Adams said.

As stated on its Web site, Dalkey’s aim is to make available to readers “the finest works of world literature from the past 100 years” and “to serve as a permanent home for these works, so that they will continue to be read by present and future generations.” 

Among the titles in Dalkey’s fall 2006 catalog are “The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade,” by Herman Melville; “Melancholy,” by the Norwegian writer Jon Fosse; novels by Nicholas Mosley; and “Everyday Life,” by the French novelist Lydie Salvayre.

According to Douglas Kibbee, professor of French at the U. of I. and executive coordinator of the university’s foreign language units, Dalkey’s move to the U. of I. is likely to “put us on the map for making contemporary fiction from around the world available to the English-speaking world.”

In addition to that kind of luster, the press’s presence and expertise will coordinate with the university’s plans to offer a graduate program in the field of translation.

Beginning as a certificate program and later becoming a master’s and doctoral program, the translation program also will involve various language departments and the English department’s creative-writing program.

The new program “will provide students a chance to be on the editorial side of the translation business as well as to hone their own translation skills,” Kibbee said.

Kibbee envisions the possibility that Dalkey press staff might work with and supervise graduate assistants assigned to the press, offer internships to qualified students from a variety of departments, and support programs in the area of translation.

While it is somewhat rare to have two presses publishing simultaneously on a college campus, several universities do have dual presses operating.

Such will be the case for Illinois when Dalkey arrives, since it also has the U. of I. Press, a distinguished and prize-winning press that specializes in scholarly works.

Willis Regier, the director of the U. of I. Press, knows of several examples of literary publishers “migrating to universities and becoming part of their publishing programs.”

 “Most notable among them,” he said, are Swallow Press and Ohio University Press, and Tri-Quarterly and Northwestern University Press.

“Our own press recently worked with Other Voices, the imprint of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s English department, to publish Tod Goldberg’s ‘Simplify.’ ”

Dalkey’s first location will be the Computer Applications Building on Springfield Avenue in Urbana, which had housed the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, now in a new building. Its permanent home will be the former Printing Services South Building at 1805 S. Wright St., Champaign.