About this project
About Restless Books:
Restless Books is a new independent publisher of international literature, based in Brooklyn. Our mission is to bring great books from overlooked corners of the world to American readers who are not content to limit their imaginations to our borders. We'll be publishing English-language editions of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, travel writing, science fiction and more from everywhere from Cuba to China, Pakistan to Chile, Mexico to Uzbekistan. With Restless Classics, we want to bring older books that still speak to our time and place—and especially to our "restlessness"—back into the conversation.
What makes Restless Classics unique?
We all have "the list": those important books that we know we're supposed to read, but might never get around to. Part of what makes classic books so lasting and impactful is the collective reading experience that you get in a great classroom with a dynamic teacher. Of course, not everyone has access to those classes and devoted teachers. We thought, wouldn't it be great if we could recreate the experience of your favorite literature class, without having to pay tuition?
Restless Publisher Ilan Stavans is a beloved and award-winning professor of Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College, where he teaches immensely popular courses on Don Quixote, Roberto Bolaño, Love, Spanglish, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and many more. Along with other scholars and experts in the field, Ilan will curate a video teaching series about each book in the Restless Classics line, which will take readers on an engaging journey through the books, giving them cultural context and exclusive insights gained over the course of decades of study by experts who know how to make the books come alive.
In addition to the video series, Ilan and other experts will participate in live online book club discussions with readers, where you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the book with a notable teacher, without being in a classroom.
Why Don Quixote?
People call Don Quixote many things: The greatest novel ever written, the first modern novel, and most popular book in history after the Bible. One might say this tragi-comic work is far more than a novel: It is a manual for life, with lessons on how to love, dream, age, and be a friend. It encourages engagement with the essential questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my responsibility toward others? What is the meaning of being mortal? Furthermore, it is a book about books, about the act—and art—of reading, and about the imagination as the engine that makes us move.
Don Quixote is, unquestionably, an accumulation of extraordinary responses, from Cervantes' contemporaries (Lope de Vega, the most famous comedia playwright of the seventeenth century, trashed it) to successive generations of haters (Nabokov) and lovers (Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Borges, and David Foster Wallace).
2015 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the complete Don Quixote, and 2016 is the 400th anniversary of its author’s death. We plan to publish this first Restless Classic in October, and we can’t wait to talk with you about it with you over the subsequent months.
It's all about design:
We all know what happens to a cheap paperback when you read it: its spine cracks, the cover creases, and the pages go to the dog-ears. It can be a bummer watching a book you love fall apart in your hands. Restless Classics gives great books the physical treatment they deserve, with a sturdy package at an affordable price, with bold, original woodcut illustrations by the artist Eko debossed into the cover and spread throughout the text. (No dusty portraits of pale Victorians here.)
A Note on the Translation:
In his introduction to the Restless Classics edition of Don Quixote, Ilan Stavans writes:
I have in my collection copies of all twenty-two full translations of Don Quixote into English. This edition uses the John Ormsby (1829–1895) rendition, first published in London in 1885. It's the version that I find most authentic, the closest to the original, with the most rhythm and sharpness. I like this version of El Quijote because it avoids affectation. In Ormsby’s words, “no man abhorred it more” than Cervantes, and the book skewers pretension with its sometimes ridiculous depiction of Don Quixote and the affected chivalry novels the character adores and the author detested. Ormsby also understood that Spanish underwent less change since the seventeenth century than other European languages. For that reason it is harder today to read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for instance, than it is to read Cervantes’s novel. Of course, the translation the reader has in hand is 125 years old, meaning it isn’t contemporary. This is an aspect I frankly adore. After all, experiencing a classic the caliber of this one is reaching back in time. Unless one was a denizen of Spain’s Siglo de Oro, the filter needs to convey a degree of historical detachment.
More Restless Classics to Come:
As we outlined in this update, if we reach our goal, we'll be able to give these four books the Restless Classics deluxe interactive treatment:
Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Poems, Protest, and a Dream, by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
These timeless works still speak to our time and place—and especially to our “restlessness.” We'll be bringing them back in splendid fashion, with deluxe editions, new supplementary content and original artwork, and interactive features with passionate teachers via video series and online book club discussions.
What we need to make this happen:
We need your help to make this a reality—like any good class, it only works if you join in and participate.
As you may know, independent publishing is expensive. Large publishing conglomerates are able to print tens of thousands of books at a time, which keeps printing costs low (and the quality of the physical object often suffers). The longer the book and the shorter the print run, the more expensive it is for a small publisher to print their books and get them on bookstore shelves. But we won't let that stop us from reintroducing readers in a dynamic, multimedia way to brilliant behemoths like Don Quixote. Nor do we want to sacrifice the wonderful physicality of the reading experience—as much as we love eBooks, there's nothing like holding a beautifully made book in your hands.
So, we need your help! Our initial printing and distribution estimate is $20,000. With your support, we can defeat the cruel economics of book publishing and make something beautiful, illuminating, and lasting. Thank you so much.
Stretch Goal #1: Restless Classics’ 400th Anniversary Edition of Don Quixote EN ESPAÑOL!
We believe we can reach our $20,000 goal—and we don’t want to stop there! If we reach $30,000, we’ll have what we need for a Spanish edition of our interactive, beautifully designed Don Quixote.
Since announcing our project, we’ve gotten a great deal of interest from Spanish-language media and readers about a Spanish version of our project, and we agree that it’s a fantastic idea. Putting Cervantes’s original text out complete with Ilan Stavans’s videos and introduction in his native Spanish will make our interactive version even more appealing to the large American Latino population as well as make it available to readerships in the author’s home country of Spain and throughout Latin America, where, despite the adoration of the book, no such edition exists.
Thank you for your support, and adelante!
Risks and challenges
Our team at Restless Books is small—there are just four of us in the Brooklyn office—but we’re determined to realize our goal of bringing great books from around the world to English-language readers who are hungry for a more diverse array of literature. As noted above, independent publishing is a challenge, in terms of printing costs (especially with small print runs of large books), shipping, and distribution. We’re fortunate to be distributed by one of the most robust publishers around: Simon & Schuster. This means that our books are guaranteed to be available to bookstores, libraries, and educators, both nationally and internationally.
We’ve learned a lot in the months since we published our first print title, the English-language edition of the great film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s novel, Where the Bird Sings Best. Our success with that book—features, reviews, interviews, and excerpts in NPR, VICE, The Believer, and many others, and prominent placement in some of the great independent bookstores around the country—has set the stage for us to make a real impact with the Restless Classics 400th Anniversary Edition of Don Quixote. But the biggest hurdle for us to overcome in publishing this 1,000-page book is the initial cost of printing. If we reach our goal—with your help—we’ll make this dream a reality. We’re hugely grateful for your support.
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