I interviewed Linda Fallon of de Selby Press about the publisher’s Dubliners project.
Fallon is head book buyer at the famous Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, which has always been something of a Ground Zero for literary ex-pats in the city.
The most famous Irish literary ex-pat is of course James Joyce, who I’ve written about before as the Poster Boy for Irish Emigration.
There is a strong literary connection between Ireland and France, and de Selby Press – named after a character in Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman – was founded by Fallon and another Shakespeare and Company bookseller, Terry Craven, “to continue that tradition, publishing Irish writers, publishing French writers translated into Irish, publishing any impractical incarnation of Franco-Hibernian wordiness that appeals to us.”
Fittingly, de Selby Press’s first project is a work by Joyce: a beautifully-illustrated, limited edition of Dubliners. It was published in 2014 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the book, after a crowdfunding campaign to launch the project.
I received my copy in the post a while ago and wrote about it here.
Where are you from in Ireland?
New Ross, Co. Wexford, the “sunny” southeast.
What is your background?
I studied literature at university and I’ve worked in bookselling on and off ever since.
When did you move to Paris and how did you end up at Shakespeare and Company?
I moved here in June 2007 having applied for a vacancy Shakespeare and Company had advertised online, so I moved here for the bookshop.
And what is it like working there?
It’s amazing, it’s the best job in the world. No two days are the same.
The focus of de Selby Press, in your words, is “publishing Irish writers, publishing French writers translated into Irish, publishing any impractical incarnation of Franco-Hibernian wordiness that appeals to us.” What is it about the connection between Ireland and France that appealed?
I’m Irish and I live in France. If small publishers want to survive, they need a niche. I was really struck by how many Irish writers had moved to Paris and made their home here, even writing in French. I wanted to celebrate that. What would be really amazing would be to find out that Maupassant used to summer in Sligo or Baudelaire wrote some poems in Irish or something like that.
You’ve chosen Joyce’s Dubliners as your first project. He is probably Ireland’s most famous literary ex-pat and most famous Irish Parisian, so the choice seems obvious (especially given the Shakespeare and Company connection). Paris and Shakespeare and Company are synonymous with literary expats, and your publishing project has a cache that no doubt appeals to Irish emigrants. Does that make it easier to promote the project globally?
Yes, it probably does.
Once Joyce’s works entered the public domain in 2012, there were a lot of adaptations and publications put out. Were you at all worried that the market for Joycean projects is already flooded?
Not at all. I think that when it comes to Joyce there is always an appetite for more, especially if introducing a new interpretation.
You looked at original editions of Joyce’s works to help choose the look and typeface of Dubliners. Why was the look of the book so important?
Our edition doesn’t look anything like the original edition, but those first editions were beautiful and we looked to them for inspiration. Increasingly people are thinking of physical books as objets d’art. If you are competing with ebooks, you have to give people a good reason to choose your heavier, more expensive physical book.
How did you choose the illustrator Stephen Crowe?
It was sort of a coincidence really. I had been thinking of bringing out an edition of Dubliners for the centenary and I already knew Stephen, in fact he designed the de Selby Press logo. I loved his work on Wake in Progress, so it was a natural step to ask him to illustrate Dubliners.
Paul Murray has written an introduction for the edition. How did that come about?
I wanted the introduction to be by someone from Dublin and I already knew Paul and loved his books and I knew that he had spoken on a panel about Joyce before, so I asked him if he would be interested and he said yes.
Likewise, Lisa Hannigan recorded ‘The Lass of Aughrim” for you. What was her response when you asked her?
She loved the song and she’d always been a big supporter of de Selby Press the theory, before it became a reality, so she was happy to help out with the campaign.
I like to think it would have been, I don’t think we succeeded solely because of Joyce’s name, I think it was the entire package we put together.
I really love this book, it’s very clever, and I think it would be a really fun translation project, if also head-wrecking. It’s been translated into so many different languages, but not Irish. This is something we would like to rectify.
I think I would have to say “The Dead”. I love the melancholia underpinning all that festive cheer, and the language is just beautiful. That last line floors everyone.
For more information about Dubliners contact Linda Fallon at de Selby Press.