Tilted Axis Press is a small not-for-profit press based in the UK, founded in 2015 by Deborah Smith (the woman well-known for translating the works of Han Kang and Bae Suah into English). Its aim is to translate and publish interesting titles and to, in their own words, shake up contemporary international literature. On their website’s about page you can read:
“Tilted Axis publishes the books that might not otherwise make it into English, for the very reasons that make them exciting to us – artistic originality, radical vision, the sense that here is something new.
Tilting the axis of world literature from the centre to the margins allows us to challenge that very division. These margins are spaces of compelling innovation, where multiple traditions spark new forms and translation plays a crucial role.
As part of carving out a new direction in the publishing industry, Tilted Axis is also dedicated to improving access. We’re proud to pay our translators the proper rate, and to operate without unpaid interns.”
Why I Like Them
I stumbled upon Tilted Axis Press after I read Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and started yearning for more Korean literature. After some browsing on Goodreads I came across Hwang Jungeun’s book One Hundred Shadows. I grabbed an eBook copy, read it in one day, loved it and soon fell into the rabbit hole. It naturally follows that I read their entire catalogue after that first success.
Tilted Axis Press has published seven books in print so far, all of which are also available as eBooks at the time of writing. Their website contains an interesting blog and their customer service is superb. The publishing house’s focus on reading internationally and intersectionally is something that I deeply appreciate. But, instead of getting stuck in a loop praising their fantastic cover designs, let me discuss a few of their books and authors that I have enjoyed reading from.
One Hundred Shadows, translated by Jung Yewon, is an incredibly atmospheric novel. It immediately drew me in with its unusual start. The book is both cozy and unsettling, something I haven’t encountered often. We follow Eungyo and Mujae, who are building up a compelling relationship throughout the story while working in a slum area of Seoul that is heading toward demolition. Their day to day life happens against a backdrop of unusual phenomena: the shadows of the slum’s inhabitants are rising up and luring their organic counterparts away. One thing is certain: don’t follow your shadow, however tempting. With its strong ending, the book left me yearning for more of Hwang Jungeun’s works. I’m excited for the epub release of her second novel at Tilted Axis called I’ll Go On.
Tilted Axis offers two books by Bandyopadhyah: Panty and Abandon, both translated by Arunava Sinha. Although I liked both, I definitely preferred Abandon. The story is about Ishwari, a woman who is torn between the demands of life, like motherhood and earning money, and her personal interests, like writing and pursuing her creativity. The book was a little difficult, and I developed quite a few conflicting feelings towards Ishwari, yet it only made the story more beautiful to read.
The Sad Part Was, translated by Mui Poopoksakul, can be described as funny, clever and deeply interesting. This book consists of several short stories, all carefully worded and thoughtfully put together. Gracious wordplay appears throughout all of the stories, and I’m surprised by how well they carried over into the English language. It’s impossible for me to place this work in a certain genre. It spans a bit of everything, including themes of Thai culture, modern culture, urbanization, but especially the oddness that is being alive. It even gets a little meta! I’m looking forward to his next release at Tilted Axis Press.
Barokka’s Indigenous Species is a work of poetry, originally written in English. I was amazed by its creativeness. The artwork is beautiful, but intense and strong. The book is an effective piece of activism, on many fronts. It talks not only about the effects of imperialism and capitalism on the environment and indigenous peoples, but also about feminism and the lack of accessibility of the publishing industry for people without sight. Some of these statements can be found back in the illustrations, some in the text, but some can simply be ‘seen’ by their absence. However vague that sounds, experiencing this book will certainly bring it all together for you.
Curious yet? You can find Tilted Axis Press’s website here. Have you read any of their books? Are you planning to? Or has your eye been caught by another interesting publisher? Do let me know. 🙂