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Literature

Deep Vellum Published This Year’s Nobel Prize Winner, Adding to Dallas’ Growing Literary Scene

Norwegian author Jon Fosse took home this year's honor for his life's work of powerful novels and plays, and Deep Vellum is one of the few publishers of his work in English.
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Will Evans is the founder of nonprofit publisher of translated works and local authors, Deep Vellum.

Norwegian author and playwright Jon Fosse won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature earlier this month, which is big news in a little corner of Deep Ellum. While a Norwegian author recognized by a Swedish organization might be notable in Scandinavian geopolitics, a literary pocket of Dallas is celebrating alongside him.

Deep Vellum, the nonprofit publisher of translated and local authors headquartered in the nearly eponymous Deep Ellum, is the reason we can read the Nobel Prize winner in English. The Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded annually to recognize an author’s life’s work, celebrated Fosse “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”

He is the author of dozens of novels, novellas, short stories, and plays dating back to the 1980s, and seven of his translated books have been published by Deep Vellum’s imprint and recent acquisition, Dalkey Archive Press.

Deep Vellum and another nonprofit publisher in Oakland, California called Transit Books are the only organizations publishing the most recent Nobel Prize winner in English.

“It’s a testament to the power of nonprofit publishing that this Nobel Prize winner has had 10 books come out in English, and they’ve all come from nonprofits far from New York, where the corporate publishing industry says that books like this don’t have enough sales potential and they don’t matter to readers like you and me,” says Will Evans, the executive director and publisher of Deep Vellum. “It’s a testament to our mission; this is a little external validation.”

Evans founded the publishing house in 2013, and the nonprofit has since put out more than 1,000 books in 70 languages from 100 countries. It has published more translated works than any other publisher in history, including the powerhouses on the East Coast. Deep Vellum has expanded into an event space and bookstore in addition to its publishing. It focuses on contemporary works and local authors, while the Dalkey imprint is primarily modern classics, from Flaubert to Fosse.

Deep Vellum took shape when there were no independent bookstores in Dallas. But there has been a literary renaissance of late, with businesses like Interabang Books and Wild Detectives building the literary scene alongside Deep Vellum. Meanwhile, local authors like Ben Fountain and Jeff Guinn have recently released celebrated works.

“Publishing went through a tough time, with competition from the internet and e-books, but four to five years ago, things evened out,” says Jim Donovan, a Dallas-based literary agent who works with a variety of authors. “Books have made a comeback and are competition for leisure time even in the golden age of TV.”

Fosse’s win is another notch in the belt of North Texas’ literary prowess, along with Deep Vellum’s ability to expand and acquire other imprints. Dalkey’s founder, John O’Brien, had a close friendship with Fosse, which resulted in the publisher running seven of the author’s works in English. Dalkey’s editor Chad Post, who Evans credits as a mentor and has continued to work with Deep Vellum, signed Fosse’s first book that was translated into English. Dalkey is also the publisher of three other Nobel Prize winners prior to being acquired by Deep Vellum.

Evans says Fosse has been on the shortlist to win the Nobel Prize in literature for the past half-decade, so the win is a long time coming. But it is the first time the prize has been awarded to an author published by Deep Vellum. It is undoubtedly a reason for Dallas’ literary scene to celebrate.

Deep Vellum is working to reprint the titles they own the rights to of Fosse’s work in response to Nobel’s honor. “We’re going to be able to publish all seven again,” Evans says. “These new editions will have a beautiful sticker on the front that says, ‘Nobel Prize 2023 for Literature,’ which is a beautiful thing.”

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Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior writer for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…

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