Cover Stories: Chicken House; translated fiction; Word 05

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The Independent Culture

Barry Cunningham has surprised everyone by selling Chicken House, the children's publisher he set up in 2000, to Scholastic US. Cunningham was at Bloomsbury when a certain manuscript by J K Rowling landed in his in-tray. He wasted no time in signing her up cheaply but was let go before Master Potter hit the streets. It's always assumed (though not confirmed) that JKR put money in Cunningham's fledgling venture. The deal with Scholastic gives Chicken House freedom backed by international muscle.

* Thanks to such initiatives as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the efforts of such publishers as Arcadia, and the success of such novels as The Shadow of the Wind, translated fiction is taking a step or two in from the cold. Weidenfeld, which has now sold close to 500,000 copies of Wind, has just acquired the latest book by French enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq. The Possibility of an Island is an exploration of old age and our obsession with eternal youth, set in an apocalyptic future.

* Word 05, the fifth University of Aberdeen writers' festival, runs from next Friday to Sunday with a starry line-up that includes David Mitchell, Colm Toibin and Irvine Welsh. The Independent's Boyd Tonkin chairs a session on literary translation that also features Jennie Erdal, author of Ghosting. More details from 01224 273874, or www.abdn.ac.uk/word

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