C.J. Evans is the editor-in-chief of Two Lines Press, a leading independent publisher of international literature in translation, based in San Francisco. Prior to editing at Two Lines, he worked at Tin House magazine and for the Academy of American Poets. He is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Lives, which was selected by Victoria Chang for the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and published by Sarabande Books.
What books are you reading right now?
All wildly different, but all wonderful: Victor Lavalle’s Lone Women, Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan, and Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Kappa translated by Allison Markin Powell and Lisa Hoffman-Kuroda.
What’s one of your favorite books that most people don’t know?
One of my favorite discoveries has been the work of the Portuguese author Maria Judite de Carvalho. I came across her a few years ago in an anthology from Dedalus Press edited by the wonderful translator Margaret Jull Costa. I was looking for more contemporary authors, but Carvalho’s writing—which is about women’s lives in the very patriarchal Portugal of the time—feels like it could have been written today, she’s so sharp and funny and sly. When we did her small novel Empty Wardrobes a couple of years ago, none of her work had been published outside of Portugal. Now that book has been done in nine other territories, which is great, but I think she’s one of the best short story writers of the 20th century and should be mentioned in the same breath as Alice Munro or Grace Paley. We’re doing a big book of her stories this fall called So Many People, Mariana that I’m incredibly excited about.
What book (or books) made you want to be an editor?
Whew, that’s a long list—I started out (a long time ago now) at the literary magazine Tin House, which introduced me to the work of American fiction writers like Lorrie Moore, Percival Everett, Denis Johnson, and Aimee Bender. Later, when I had moved to San Francisco and was first working for the Two Lines journal, I kept receiving excerpts or stories from amazing international authors like Naja Marie Aidt or Xu Zechen that weren’t being published in the U.S. It was ultimately the manuscript for Marie NDiaye’s Self-Portrait in Green—which we’ve re-released this fall in a special anniversary edition to celebrate 10 years of the press—that was so unique it made us commit to starting the publishing house.
What are some trends to watch out for in international literature?
It feels like we’re moving out of autofiction and the hybrid essay (perhaps capped by Annie Ernaux’s wonderful Nobel win last year) and back toward more “pure” fiction—lots of playing with genre and time and character.
What are some trends in American literature your international book business friends and contacts are most excited about? What are some they’re tired of?
This is an interesting question! Since I only work in literature translated into English and am never selling U.S. literature into foreign markets I don’t really talk about this with people I know, but it seems like an interesting way to gauge the trends in a foreign market (from where they’re oversaturated) so I’m going to now. I’ll report back next year.
Who are the hot new agents and editors to watch at this year’s fair, both in the U.S. and abroad?
One agent I’m very excited to sit down with again is someone I met at the Sozopol Fiction Seminars in June—Gergana Pancheva of Sofia Literary Agency. Right on the heels of celebrating Georgi Gospodinov’s Booker International win it was really interesting to sit down and take a look at her list, which is extremely well-curated but also very diverse for a fairly small market.