The never-ending success of Irene Vallejo


The author has sold nearly a million copies of her essay on reading and books as she prepares to conquer the Anglo-Saxon market

It is rare for an essay to become a bestseller, but even more so when it covers the classical world, exceeds 400 pages, is written with ease and erudition, and defies the worst omens that predicted that the pandemic was at odds with the reading. Every publisher’s dream has been made possible by Irene Vallejo, author of ‘The infinite in a reed’, a title soon to be translated into Ukrainian, after being translated into some forty languages.

Siruela, the label that released it, found a rebound fortune. A small publishing house in Zaragoza, Contraseña, where Vallejo (Zaragoza, 1979) published his books, refused to deliver the book to the printer, but in a gesture of rare generosity he guided the writer to the right path and advised her to address her with siruela. ‘El infinito en un junco’ is about to cross the magical mark of one million copies sold, half of them in Spain and Latin America.

Irene Vallejo continues to receive awards, the latest being the Antonio de Sancha, awarded by the Madrid Publishers Association. The book never ceases to delight the author: it has received wonderful reviews in ‘The New York Times’ and the writer’s presence is asserted all over the world. “Every day you send him a WhatsApp and he can reply from Toronto, New Zealand or Johannesburg,” says the editor, Ofelia Grande.

The genesis of this book is painful. At the time of writing, the author’s father was in a hospital bed, plagued by cancer. On top of that came the care that his sick son needed. But Vallejo, a doctor of classical philology, did not give up. He defeated insecurity, insufficient income and insecurity. “I earned just enough to survive. My family and the people next to me asked me when I started looking for a real job, ”says the writer of those times of anxiety. Good advice from the editors of Password made me knock on the right door. Those from the small label couldn’t handle the essay, partly because they don’t publish non-fiction books. But his recommendation was providential.

Ofelia Grande, preparing an edition of between 2,500 and 3,000 copies, did not realize that she had an editorial bomb on her hands. “It was impossible to detect. Even in our wildest dreams, we would not have imagined such a thing,” admits Siruela’s editor. “Our editor Julio Guerrero said to me, ‘Look at it, it looks very good.’ We hadn’t finished reading it yet, but over the weekend we rented it in. We knew enough to know it was a perfect book,” says Grande, whose imprint has already run 45 editions.

To the delight of the author, a staunch defender of the humanities, her book is now in its twelfth printing in the Netherlands and Germany, where it had to be reissued at full speed after an initial print run of 30,000 copies. The book is a success in some English-speaking countries and will be released in Ukraine in mid-January by the Laboratory label, representing a true symbol of resistance to reading in the face of war.

«The success came when the gurus of culture were already issuing the death certificate of the traditional book on paper. ‘Infinity in a reed’ was born of an optimistic rebellion, because I wanted to tell the story of the book as a great survivor, thanks to a clan that is the reading tribe, but also to the people who work in libraries, publishers and education. , says the author.

This book about books has crossed boundaries in an amazing way. For now, the author is preparing for a trip to the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand, using the recent English translation of her book, quite an achievement as very little is translated to foreign authors in English . – Saxon market.

Irene Vallejo is still so caught up in the promotion of the book and the travels that she hasn’t had time to take on a new project. He has not fallen into the trap of publishing a book every year, although he remains faithful to the weekly appointment with newspaper readers. What is clear to him is that he wants to continue with the essay genre and continue to explore the tools that fiction offers, combining erudition and data with the ingredients that make reading an exciting adventure. «I was very excited when Petros Márkaris told me that he had read ‘Infinity in a Reed’ in a Greek translation and had felt the same feeling that one gets when one gets absorbed in reading a crime novel». For Luis Landero, Vallejo actually invented a genre: the adventure essay.

Source: La Verdad


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