The following Monday, Ms. Epler made an offer, and was informed by Mr. MacLehose that Harvill—a distinguished literary house that had been folded into Random House UK—had two other Bolaño books available. Ms. Epler bought those, too.
In the meantime, according to Ms. Epler, Bolaño had really started “catching on” all over Europe, and a few years after her initial shopping spree, she decided to see if there were any other as yet untranslated works that she could get her hands on. Bolaño, at this point, was dead, and all of what he left behind was being handled by his Spanish publisher, Anagrama, in collaboration with his literary agent Carmen Balcells.
“As far as we knew, there were another 10 books,” Ms. Epler said, “and we were ready to say we want them all. We asked for everything.”
Everything, however, was not an option, as Anagrama and Ms. Barcells wanted to place Bolaño’s two biggest books, The Savage Detectives and 2666, with a major house. The estate took this “two-track approach,” as Ms. Epler called it, with almost every publisher they dealt with.
“[Carmen Balcells] felt both of those books could be sensations abroad, both in non-Spanish-speaking Europe and in America,” Ms. Epler said. “So she had to deliver the sad news that we couldn’t get it all. We said, ‘O.K., we’ll take all the small books!’”
At this point, though she’s sad to have missed out on Bolaño’s two final masterworks—“I have a funny relationship with that 2666 galley; I look at it and I just feel a pang!”—Ms. Epler has nothing but good things to say about the job Farrar, Straus has done with Bolaño. Indeed, last year’s publication of The Savage Detectives was nothing short of masterful: a rave from James Wood on the cover of The New York Times Book Review set the tone for its critical reception, and commercial success soon followed.
“I haven’t seen a better play for an author from abroad,” Ms. Epler said. “I of course wish that our colophon was on 2666, but we don’t have the marketing reach that FSG does. Playboy gave Savage Detectives four bunnies! I don’t think Playboy pays much attention to what we publish.”
Whether FSG will have to put up a fight for all those books Mr. Wylie is getting ready to sell remains to be seen.
“It’s a process that’ll take some time because there is some editing on some of the books that will be involved,” Mr. Wylie said. “And I don’t speak Spanish, so my ability to help intimately in this process is somewhat limited. But we’ll get there.”
He went on, vaguely: “Ideally I would like to figure out something that took into account the strength of both publishers’ positions so maybe if there are a few books to come, we’ll work with both, but I don’t know.”
For now, it might be worth noting that Mr. Wylie doesn’t officially take over the Bolaño estate until November 4th. Until then, the thing still technically resides with Ms. Barcells.
So what happens if she mischievously decides to just sell everything before Mr. Wylie gets there?
Won’t happen, Mr. Wylie said.
“The contracts have to be signed by Carolina [Bolaño’s widow], and I think she wants this transition to occur,” he said. “So, you know, it’s going to occur, and I don’t think anything would be gained by preemptive action on anyone’s part. Including our own.”