SLOVART, one of Slovakia’s largest publishing houses, which also has branches in Poland and the Czech Republic, celebrated its 20th anniversary in early June. From its humble beginnings in 1991 Slovart has developed into a prominent and respected publishing house covering many genres – from children’s books and fiction by both Slovak and foreign authors to encyclopaedias and art books.
“Even though we have a feeling that we have not changed, the world around us keeps changing; people are maturing as well as the book market,” Juraj Heger, Slovart’s director, told The Slovak Spectator when reviewing the company’s 20-year history, adding that in some respects the Slovak book market is still lagging behind other countries’. “Twenty years ago was a golden period when anybody who was able to print a nice book was able to sell a lot of copies. This period was very quickly replaced with a period when it was possible to print and still sell huge numbers of books but it was difficult to get paid for them. And then when that situation improved a bit, a problem started in selling books because at that moment there was a shortage of good bookshops. Today, we theoretically have just enough of everything but there are so many books that actually each has a problem in reaching its audience.”
Heger added that today it is much more difficult for a book “to break through” than it was before, adding that “on the other hand, when we are lucky then the good book really breaks through and reaches much farther than at any time before”.
In addition to books published in Slovak, Czech and Polish, Slovart publishes English-language books, either English versions of original Slovak books or Slovak-English bilingual versions. These are mostly books about Slovak visual arts, photography, architecture and so forth, and in this way the publishing house spreads knowledge about Slovak culture. Heger said the book of illustrations by Czech painter and illustrator Adolf Born was among Slovart’s biggest success stories, as global sales of the book were more than 1,000 copies.
“In Taiwan alone about 300 copies were sold and in the case of such an expensive book this is a success,” Heger said, adding that people were queuing for two hours to get the book autographed by the author.
In deciding which Slovak books Slovart should publish in the English language, Heger said it is usually a gut feeling about whether a certain book would be interesting to foreign readers.
Slovart does not publish Slovak fiction in English as it does not see any commercial sense in doing so even though publishing a book in English can spell success for the author.
“For example, editors or publishers in other countries who are not able to read the book in its original language can read it and decide whether it could be interesting for their market,” Heger said. “Rivers of Babylon by Peter Pišťanek was sold in six other countries after it was published in English.“
A 20-year history
Slovart began publishing in Slovakia in 1991 and its Czech subsidiary, Nakladatelství Slovart, started in 1994 and has also developed into a renowned publishing house. Another break-through year was 1995 when Slovart began publishing books in Polish language, according to a press release prepared by Zuzana Kolačanová of Slovart.
The press release noted that Slovart’s business philosophy is to bring valuable works by Slovak and world artists to the market along with monographs of visual artists and encyclopaedias for children and young people.
Books published by Slovart have several times won the Ján Hollý Award, a prestigious prize for translated books, as well as awards in the Most Beautiful Book competition. The Slovak fiction authors that Slovart has published include Dušan Dušek, Dominik Dán and Maxim E. Matkin. These authors have already sold hundreds of thousands of books in Slovakia. Its regular authors include also photographer Karol Kállay and Czech painter and illustrator Adolf Born as well as many others.
Slovart is one of the few publishing houses that exports Slovak books, and in addition to Poland and the Czech Republic, they have been delivered to Russia, Germany, France and Turkey.
Some of the most recent books published by Slovart in English or in Slovak-English versions include Košice – dzivosť v srdci, a book by Dutch photographer Illah van Oijen who lives in Slovakia and Mestské zásahy (Urban Interventions) by Matúš Vallo and Oliver Sadovský.
20. Jun 2011 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková