To those reading the "Best European Fiction 2011" anthology: caveat lector

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To those reading the "Best European Fiction 2011" anthology: caveat lector

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feb 25, 2011, 2:54 pm

I was appalled and bewildered to hear what happened to the story of one of the authors included. She published her reply to the unauthorised, completely unannounced edits to her story in Three Percent:

The Facts Behind One Story in Dalkey Archive’s Best European Fiction for 2011

If you read or plan to read this anthology, please take a moment to learn about this incident.

I agree with Mima that the edits radically changed her story, to the point that she is forced to disown it. This is extremely bitter to a writer, a young one at that, and looking forward to being published by a respected publisher such as Dalkey Archive.

On top of this injury, there's the insult of doing it without even telling her such radical changes were being made, let alone asking her permission. A shame and a pity.

mar 1, 2011, 3:49 am

Dear LolaWalser,

First, if you are related to Robert Walser, these events should come as no surprise.
Second, it's good to know about such events when they occur, and though it seems an indignity, maybe IS and indignity, as a 51 year old writer I would argue that indignity is the status quo for the writer.
Third, I see no reason why she would refuse to engage in subsequent dialogue with Dalkey as they offered. Perhaps the culprit or the process that allowed such egregious editing would have been exposed.
Ninth, she suggests this would not have happened had she been an English native writer. This sounds paranoid at first, but probably is not. I live in Slovenia and do far too much editing for a living, and I have seen many academic papers sent back for reworking for language editing--that has already been done.
But I have also seen some bizarre mistakes made in the publishing world; usually, it seems, because too many steps are involved and those communicating are in separate places.
I dedicated one of my novels to my wife, Sasi, and it was only at the last second I caught in proof, 'To Stasi', and this at a time when the Berlin wall had been knocked down.
So it seems clear that M. Simić was the victim of some extra-curricular editing, but in the end it would be less painful, I think, if she engaged the problem more fully, continued dialogue with Dalkey, obviously a press of good will, and seeks some kind of long run redress.
And those who take this micro-nightmare as reason to disparage Dalkey Archive Press (comments after M.Simić's article were frothy) or boycott them, should reconsider--and in the end, given the difficulty of anyone, especially a southern Slav, getting published in English, overall this author should be very pleased with her success while she seeks to fix the situation.
So I think.

mar 1, 2011, 10:25 am

I wish it could be "fixed", but I don't see how. This is an annual anthology, unlikely to go into repeated printings or new editions. I suppose the electronic form, if any, could be corrected. However, it doesn't look like Dalkey is taking any steps to acknowledge the original text at all.

I'm afraid I can't undertake to debate this at length, but I'll say this: a lesbian activist and a film critic, Mima is used to public engagement and debate, and if she declined "dialogue" with Dalkey (who, btw, ignored her utterly for months) she had good reasons for doing so.

Second, this isn't a question of mere proofreading and introducing typos--somebody went through her story and systematically changed the sex of her protagonist. That is, simply, bizarre, and inexplicably arrogant however one chooses to interpret it--whether someone thought the story "read better" that way, or that the author herself couldn't distinguish between "he" and "she", or couldn't "pick one" for her protagonist. And finally, whatever their problem was, they could have asked her.

given the difficulty of anyone, especially a southern Slav, getting published in English, overall this author should be very pleased with her success

I must disagree. Like Mima, I don't consider having a mangled story published under one's name a "success".

mar 1, 2011, 2:56 pm

I suppose, though my hope is that she comes out of this with a 'name' at least that leads to further and proper English publication.

Besides that, I guess my reaction is to refrain from disparaging a great press on the basis of one incident.

I don't know what I mean by fixed, but dialogue with the press could lead or could have led to something, perhaps the inclusion of the real story in the next anthology.

No debate necessary, and thanks for the reply.

mar 1, 2011, 3:24 pm

I don't think anyone is disparaging Dalkey; it's precisely their cachet that made the idea of being published by them so exciting--and this screw-up so puzzling and embittering. As for it being "one incident", what could that possibly mean to the writer, it's not like they are publishing some statistically significant number of her stories. I think there's reason to worry both on the publisher's and the readers' ends too. I hope they deal with whatever brought on that editing. As a reader, I know I'll be approaching their translated editions with some trepidation from now on.

mar 1, 2011, 3:33 pm

I went to the link and read M. Simić's piece and the posts were, as I said, frothy...I would say some were disparaging. Hardly the point, though. As for the writer, I think she deserves the solution I suggested--same story, this time untouched, next year (with an explanation as to why).

I don't mean to be dismissive of he author's feelings, but this universe does not much like writers, or outsiders, and worst of all outsidewriters (who is clamoring to be published in Zagreb? The whole context of the issue is unfair); anyway, I know personally and otherwise a great number of worse writer meets the publishing world tales than this one...And I know that one thing that helps is that someone, such as you in this arena, invests energy in her support.

mar 2, 2011, 3:15 am

Lola, I saw this as it first unfolded a while ago and I was just absolutely livid with rage. This is totally unacceptable and heads should freaking roll. As others noted on the Three Percent site and elsewhere, the (unilaterally crappy) mistranslations and homophobic/heterocentric gender attributions (where none are noted in the original) fundamentally weaken and skew the story and have no basis in the original (which was translated by the author herself).

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THIS. None. Period. End of story. Whoever did this should be fired. Whoever allowed it to go through should be fired as well. I won't buy the latest Dalkey Archive European stories volume and, although I've supported Dalkey Archive by buying most every book they've published in the past, given this fiasco and the recent VIDA count, I'm beginning to think my money might be better spent elsewhere.

mar 2, 2011, 11:12 am

To MT: What is the 'recent VIDA count'?

And, LWalser, post 7 does seem somewhat disparaging of Dalkey Archive.

mar 2, 2011, 11:41 am

Vielen Dank, marietherese (and how good to see you)!

Redigeret: mar 2, 2011, 4:20 pm

8: A count of women vs. men published in various publications. We would need to see submission numbers as well to know for sure how to read the publication numbers. I am pretty sure there would be a significant disparity anyhow and may beg the question of why there is a disparity in the submission numbers, but still. I wonder if any of these publications were asked for that information, if they track that information and if any of them are willing to release that information?

mar 2, 2011, 4:17 pm


Thanks for the explanation...I was beginning to think it was simply VIelen DAnk, and here's to the old lady...You know--down with the barbarians, initiate yourself, buster.

Though it seems to me that it can hardly be a matter of numbers alone no matter which numbers may be known. Which numbers are home grown?

mar 3, 2011, 7:55 pm

Pardon, but as a working man 'whoever did this should be fired' strikes me as inhumane. Ranting without deepthought. Whoever did it may be a swine or a dipshit, but let us wait til we fire the poor soul.

mar 3, 2011, 8:04 pm

Besides, you are both right, aren't you? The author and her prospective readers should be glad of her exposure to the English-speaking world in this anthology. It's too bad that her joy was quickly overshadowed by these changes which apparently were not even discussed with her, and which her readers may justly rue. But in the not too long run, the publication of the story is a good thing for everyone - despite the outrages committed upon it.

mar 4, 2011, 9:57 am


the publication of the story is a good thing for everyone - despite the outrages committed upon it.

I don't know whether to weep or to laugh... has it crossed your mind that the author may place greater value in communicating something, the way she intended it, than in merely "getting published"? Any idiot and any pablum can "get published" (and does, apparently).

This incident is unpardonable and, unfortunately, irremediable (at least not properly, which would entail magically, at this point, removing all the copies with the mangled story and replacement with the original). That's not even remotely under discussion. You can live with the outrage done to other people's art--fine, you do that.

The purpose of Mima's and my own communication was simply to make it known to readers, so that they may at least be aware that the story they may read under her name was falsified and estranged from its own author.

Redigeret: mar 4, 2011, 10:20 am

Except for the gender identification, the rest seems like a run of the mill battle between a writer and a publisher.

mar 4, 2011, 12:25 pm

'You can live with the outrage done to other people's art--fine, you do that.'

So who's going to commit suicide?

mar 4, 2011, 12:30 pm

I also oppose the notion that any idiot can get published. Dalkey Archive may not be the best press in the history of civilization, but it's pretty fucking good, and if they chose the story by Mima there was quite an initial compliment before the unpardonable, fire-the-fuckers, boycott-Switzerland-even-if-they-had nothing-to-do-with-it, PHILISTINES! next step. As I wrote before, I have seen worse and seen it often, but in this particular thread, LW, you haven't much generosity or openness of mind, if you'll pardon me for saying so.

I sincerely hope you all live through this catastrophe.

Redigeret: mar 8, 2011, 7:17 pm

I don't know the details beyond what's been related above. The politics of it, the publisher's rep, who's fortunate and who isn't, based on where they're from, etc., all of that I consider irrelevant. But as a professional editor I can unequivocally say:

1. No editor worth the label should ever make a major edit, like changing the sex of a character. I've mentioned this often on other threads: you "flag" anything that would be major, and include in that flag a suggested solution. The author has the right to accept or reject all such suggestions.

2. It is unthinkable that any self-respecting publishing house would not show a writer the significant changes in a manuscript before going to press. If Dalkey does this, I don't care what reputation it has among the cognoscenti, it's a shit house.

mar 5, 2011, 1:13 pm

I advocate patience, and, if so inclined, investigation. There is no reason to suggest DA makes a practice of this.
Beyond anything, I would love to find out how this happened.

This example of editing lowjinx was not deadly, but it was inexplicable:

I was editing an historical journal in Slovenia and experienced the following. After editing the titles and abstracts for one issue, I received a panic call from a colleague, an English professor, who had gotten a panic call from a librarian at the institute that publishes the journal. His English is good, so when something seemed odd about this issue he called my colleague to check. She called me. She asked about the first article, whether the title sounded right. It didn't, so I told what it should be. Then the same with the next and the next--until I realized I had already corrected these...but these were not exactly what I had first corrected, some had different variations. One article by an English native required no change in the title, yet someone had made an absurd change.
I have no idea how all this happened. Nor whether it happens often.

mar 5, 2011, 3:12 pm

I think this is an egregious isolated incident, until proven otherwise. Nonetheless, isolated or not, that doesn't really help Mima feel any better about this inexcusable fiasco. I'd be rightly outraged -- beyond pissed -- too, if I were her. If I were her I'd damn the Dalkey Archive to perdition too. Who wouldn't, in her shoes? Her reaction is quite understandable. All writers want to be published, true, but very few, if any, I would posit, want to be published at the expense of having important details (and remember, every detail, to a writer, is important at least to them) arbitrarily and summarily altered with no recourse for correction. I would feel violated, if I were her. I'd feel a bit cheated.

Having said that, I'll still stand behind the Dalkey Archive, believing this had to be some rare aberration and not common practice among its editors.

mar 7, 2011, 6:06 pm

Re-reading the posts, I think probably this should have been a one post thread. I reacted because of my gratitude for Dalkey Archive's publishing history, which should have been kept to myself. LWalser, I should have kept my mouth shut--your warning should not have led to what eventually had to be somewhat contentious, over-laden with fine points that C52 adeptly and rightly dismisses. Sorry.

mar 8, 2011, 10:28 am

coming late to the party as usual, but I agree with Lola on this. Fucking terrible. I mean like, just simple manners would say this is terrible behaviour on the part of DA. Fire the fucker's arse, no question.

this is the sort of stunt my Taiwanese publisher has pulled on me and one expects it of them, coz they're Chinese and dumb and all that, but the Dalkey Archive?

what a balls up.

mar 8, 2011, 12:44 pm

If anyone cares, scroll down. A mess they have explained (a fairly poor excuse offered), apologized and offered to correct, should there be a second printing.

mar 10, 2011, 7:32 pm

the poor excuse is all too realistic and anti-writer

mar 12, 2011, 9:00 am

this one popped into my head again, nagging for two reasons--my first reaction was as a reader and not a writer, though even as a reader I was wrong...Mostly, though, I have what O'Brien wrote in the back of my mind. No time to send edits to all writers, anthologies especially deadline oriented, if there's a second edition...Ultimately, his response amounts to the fact that DA has no business publishing anthologies.

apr 23, 2011, 9:31 pm

Coming really late to the party, but thanks, Lola, for making note of this. While I can maybe see where the editor might have been coming from on a few of those edits, most I thought were unnecessary and the messing with the gender is indeed appalling (as is not consulting the author).

>8 RickHarsch: the Vida count: