Novelist David Unger recently wrote an essay titled, “How to Get Published When You’re Not a Cliché.” Unger, you see, is a Guatemala-born, New York-based writer whose work is written in English but sells best in translation, in Latin America. His newest novel, The Price of Escape, follows Samuel Berkow, a German Jew, as he tries to find his footing after arriving in the squalid, lawless port town of Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, in 1938. Unger has a U.S. publisher for the book (it came out earlier this month from Akashic Books), but it has not fared so well in other markets. At a recent book fair, as he writes in the essay:
I was told by two different publishers that The Price of Escape was not for them: An Israeli editor said that Israelis are tired of World War II novels with Jewish themes (not what the novel is about) and a Bulgarian said that she publishes only mysteries and Gothic novels from the U.S. So much for my theory of thinking that I am a Latin American.
Their loss. The folks at Vox Tablet found plenty to like in The Price of Escape, and in his previous novel, Life in the Damn Tropics. Unger is the featured guest on Monday’s podcast. Be sure to check it out.