The Angel Classics imprint, published by Angel Books, opens up foreign literature in new translations which truly capture the voices of the original authors.
Angel Classics was started in 1982 by Antony Wood, an editor and translator from Russian and German, who felt passionately that much good literature of the past, especially foreign literature, tended to be passed over by publishers in favour of what was more modern and usually less lasting, and that a high proportion of published translations were poor or outdated. We have remained determinedly small, for we believe that quantity is usually an enemy of quality; we’re concerned to provide only the very best.
Over the last 25 years standards of translations into English have distinctly improved and there are more of them; but numerous classic foreign authors, their own countrymen’s favourites, remain totally unknown in English. English-speaking readers are still missing out on a host of writers who often have much in common with our own best-loved authors. Anyone who enjoys Thomas Hardy’s novels, for example, will be likely to enjoy the short fiction of the North German Theodor Storm or the Austrian Adalbert Stifter, substantial selections from which are available in Angel translations.
We choose our authors and titles with the greatest care, publishing only those we love. The Angel list not only contains fiction and poetry by well-known writers – Dostoyevsky, Kleist, Heine, Schnitzler, Tagore, Mandelstam, Pessoa – but also offers exciting discoveries among the lesser-known: Vsevolod Garshin’s piercing stories on the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78; Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s chilling turn-of-the-century psychic narratives; the first Russian modern novel, Andrey Bely’s Silver Dove. All Angel titles contain absorbing introductions and end notes by their translators which draw the reader into the original author’s world. So far we have concentrated largely on European authors, especially on translations from Russian and German, but plan to range more widely outside Europe over the next few years.
Angel’s translators include writers and poets as well as leading literary and linguistic specialists – Adam Zamoyski, Christopher Rush, Alan Brownjohn, D. M. Thomas. All of them are at one with their chosen authors and able to capture their individual flavour. A number are prizewinners – most recently Denis Jackson, whose selection of Storm’s novellas Paul the Puppeteer won the 2005 Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize.
It’s sometimes said that a particular writer is untranslatable. One American-Russian teacher of Russian literature, having long since given up any ambition of teaching Pushkin’s poetry in translation, recently took this back on reading some versions by an Angel translator. The best writers, we say, can survive translation – provided it is the best translation.