By Lily Webber, Charlotte Bonner and Ella Davies
We spoke to Bibiana Mas, the founder of 3 Times Rebel Press, a publishing house dedicated to publishing titles written by female authors who speak minority languages.
For people who’ve never heard of 3 Times Rebel Press, how would you describe yourself, and how your name and mission statement came to be?
I am Bibiana, Catalan by birth and Scottish by adoption. I’m a very stubborn woman who has decided to put all the anger and frustration (and skills!) into a project where I can give a voice to other women, a voice in the midst of a world which often makes us invisible because we cannot be mothers, daughters, carers, lovers, workers, entrepreneurs, creators, artists –a long etcetera – without being penalised or judged for our choices.
3TR has three pillars. One is that I’m only going to publish women; I’m only going to publish books in minority languages; the third is about giving back to the community. At the end of the year when we do the balance sheets, I want to give part of our benefits to a charity that supports women. We are also fair traders – and pay everyone involved fairly.”
3 Times Rebel has a very strong mission statement – publishing only women writers and only those who speak minority languages, “spreading voices and topics silenced by what is dominant.” Do you think fiction has the power to change the world?
Through fiction it is easier to connect with difficult emotions, with situations that one would never think to encounter or in which one would easily judge oneself. Fictional stories give us this safe space to feel the full whirlwind of emotions without feeling judged and without judging another person. This exercise of empathy allows us to reflect in a freer way, without pressure of what the other might think. And for me, this is the first step to create a safe space for dialogue.
How do you balance commissioning titles which help change the canon, with keeping a business afloat and appealing to a commercial-enough audience?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. In general it’s not easy to keep a publishing house afloat. Even more so when it comes to translated fiction. My strategy is trying to maintain a balance between publishing voices that need to be heard, and having the assurance that these voices are already recognised in their places of origin. This gives me a very high level of peace of mind because I already know that the books are a very good product. It's the only way I have right now to minimise the risk a little bit.
In the globalised context where English is so often a default language, why is it important to keep publishing translations of minority languages?
It cannot be an option that the Anglo-Saxon world is missing out on so much good literature, so many writers who deserve to be read. The fact that only 3–5% of books are ever translated into other languages makes it even more imperative: we must insist and help the reader to see that beyond English writers there is a whole universe to discover. If someone like me that comes from a minority language doesn’t prioritise this, who will do it? Who will give them the opportunity to be read?
What are some of the biggest challenges in translating from a minority language into English?
As publishers of fiction in translation, one of the biggest fears we have is committing to a book when we don't really know if it is as we imagined it to be. Or even, if it will fit into our own publishing imprint. Unfortunately, we don't have the ability to read all the languages of this world (by the way, this is the superpower I would most like to have!). So we must place our trust and some of our judgement in the hands of readers who can read all these languages. We jump into the deep end by reading only part of the book, because translating it all in full costs a lot of money: the truth is that most of the independent publishers can only afford to translate certain chapters before paying for the whole of it. Unfortunately, after deciding to translate and publish the book, long sleepless nights begin. Endless sleepless nights packed with nightmares haunt us until the day we have the complete translated manuscript in our hands and, finally! We can see for ourselves that indeed, our instinct has not betrayed us.
Are there any other exciting upcoming projects or titles that you can talk about with us?
In October, The Carnivorous Plant by Andrea Mayo: a story of abuse between two women, a very easy book to read, because it is written like a desperate diary, but very difficult to digest. Then we will have I’ll Do Anything You Want by the Catalan Iolanda Batalle, which tells us a story of the vital and sexual liberation of a forty-year-old woman, a story of freedom through submission. An uncomfortable story about high-class prostitution. Then, I will publish one of the most beautiful voices of Galicia, Berta Davila, with the book The Dear Ones, a story that reflects on the bonds through a difficult decision such as choosing not to be a mother again.