Piotr Siwecki talks with Marek Kazmierski about OFF_PRESS, new books, old stories and more;


MAREK KAŹMIERSKI: Like so many memorable things in the world, OFF_ was born of bad blood. Marcin Piniak and myself (Marcin writing in Polish, I in English) met writing for Nowy Czas, a newspaper printed in London which had ambitions of being the highbrow choice for the emigre Polish community in the UK. Too bad it didn’t happen. We both quit the paper and kept on drinking, moaning, dreaming. But that gets tiresome after a while, so this time last year Marcin, Kinga Pilich (a young publishing student) and myself set up OFF_Magazine, an on-line bilingual literary journal. It was meant to tell as many stories in as many languages (literal, visual, multi-sensory) as we could find, but such big nets are hard to handle. We got submissions from all over the world, some great stuff, some worse than woeful. Then we decided to run an international writing competition, then publish an anthology of the short-listed writers, then make a film to go with it, then run some literary events to publicise the whole shebang… By the end of 2009, the wheels had come off. So, in 2010, we decided to relaunch as OFF_PRESS, focusing on contemporary Polish writing in translation – our aim to put out one good book, DVD of the film we made last year attached, and only then move on to publish more, still focusing on the translation business. Whereas in most EU countries anything between 10-30% of all new literature being published is in translation, in the UK it’s two, maybe three. OFF_, focusing on translating the most interesting voices in contemporary Polish writing, both in Poland and from abroad, will hopefully help close that gap… Looking at the start of 2010, we’re not doing too bad. Daily injections of ambitious literature, in the planet’s most accessible language, are a healthy thing. I’ve studied linguistics, visual arts, psychology, dance, comparative religion, fighting techniques, acting and sales. There’s far more languages surrounding us than we care to acknowledge. Ignoring that fact is deadly, as seen by the state of the British publishing industry, which is staffed by lovely Oxbridge types who… let’s just say they don’t teach marketing or boxing in either town. Which hurts the business. Books will sell for a few decades more, before being almost exclusively replaced with i-Pods. The dinosaurs which move the quickest will survive longest.

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