Peirene Press

14th Jun 2011

Peirene Press
“ Peirene Press takes its name from a Greek nymph who turned into a water spring. The poets of Corinth discovered the Peirene source and, for centuries, they drank this water to receive inspiration. The idea of metamorphosis fits the art of translation beautifully. To turn a foreign book into an enjoyable English read involves careful attention to detail.”

Meike’s passion for international literature and work in translation is reflected in the Peirene catalogue, which focuses on contemporary European Literature.

I have to take a moment here to mention the Literary Salons hosted by Meike as they sound wonderful – more like parties than traditional readings, Meike invites English and foreign writers into her own home for performances, conversation, food and wine. Bliss!

Small is beautiful

Peirene Press was awarded theIndependent Publishers Guild (IPG) Newcomer of the Year Award 2011. The IPG judges said:

“Peirene is the very essence of independent publishing…It has a real passion for its books as well as a vision for what it wants to achieve.”

The effort that goes into producing beautiful, tactile editions is just one of the ways Peirene hopes to encourage ‘real-life reading’ and engagement with texts as opposed to digital editions.

Each book is 200 pages or less, so that they can be “read in the same time it take to watch a DVD,” and the books are curated according to annual themes: 2010 was the year of female narratives (more on those below!); 2011 is the year of male authors and protagonists; 2012 will be the Year of the Short Epic – novella length stories from Finland, Denmark and Switzerland.

The team at Peirene scour the shortlists of Europe’s most prestigious literary prizes, such as the French Prix Medecis, the German Georg Buchner Preis and the Czech Magnesia Litera, and work with international agents when choosing which books they would like to publish.

The personal touch – and the courage to take risks – is something that can help an independent publisher stand out from the crowd however, and Peirene receives recommendations from friends, readers, writers and admit they are “not afraid of making personal choices.”

 2010: Year of Female Narratives

(with comments from the Peirene Press team)

Véronique Olmi, Beside the Sea, Peirene Title No. 1

Where do the boundaries of the mother end and a child’s start? When does love cross the border into violence? What happens when a mother fails to realize that her fears have nothing to do with her children’s reality?

“This short novel has the trajectory of a classic tragedy with its taut time-span and sense of inevitability, as we witness a woman destroyed by a tragic flaw… The closing pages are heart-stopping and heartbreaking, yet one finishes this sad tale not depressed but uplifted by its ability to enlarge the reader’s sympathies.” – The Independent



Maria Barbal, Stone in a Landslide, Peirene Title No. 2

Peirene simply fell in love with the narrative voice of this beautiful love story. A voice totally free of anger and bitterness, a voice of someone who just tried to ride the waves to her best ability. It’s a calming and rare voice in these times of recessionary gloom. Of course, a voice needs substance. Here you go: loss, love, life, guilt, hate, history, war and death. This little book covers it all, including an entire century and a complete life. When I finished reading it I felt as if there was nothing more to say.


Friedrich Christian Delius, Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman, Peirene Title No. 3

So the good news first: It’s got the usual suspects – Rome, the war, the Germans. Now to the slightly trickier aspect: there is just one, 105-page-long sentence with a single full stop after the final word. I have been advised “Don’t mention the sentence”. But this is no twisted, unreadable Germanic syntax a la Thomas Mann. Far from it: Instead it’s a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need to safeguard innocence and integrity at any cost – even at the risk of excluding reality.

You can find out more about existing and upcoming publications on the Peirene Press website, or check out the blog for refreshingly personal reflections on marketing, book choices and the publishing industry.