Kaffeepause mit… Rosie Goldsmith, European Literature Network

Rosie (nicknamed ‘Rosie the Riveter’) talks to New Books in German about launching two literary magazines at once, the pleasures of Austrian literature and what's next on her busy schedule.

Hello Rosie! You were a BBC foreign affairs and arts journalist for twenty years then left to pursue your own professional projects, including starting up the European Literature Network (ELNet) in 2010 and The Riveter magazine in 2017. You’re now still an active journalist and presenter, as well as Director of ELNet and Editor-in-Chief of The Riveter.

You currently have not one but two Riveter magazines going to press! Can you tell us how this came about and what it has been like to work on two Riveters simultaneously?

I’d like to think that the main reason for having two magazines at once is that we are so much in demand! These will be our eleventh and twelfth editions and we began in 2017 with The Polish Riveter. Just like ELNet itself, the magazine grew out of necessity – there simply wasn’t any UK body promoting and popularising European literature in English in the way we do, which is to create a readable ‘anthology’ of interviews, extracts, reviews and essays – nothing too long! – to appeal to both professionals and general readers, publishing in print and digitally simultaneously, free to access, distributed far and wide, covering all genres, languages and countries, serving as a platform for writers, translators, academics, reviewers and publishers, with supportive website and social media (I’m a journalist after all), and, believing fervently in close cooperation with the European mainland. The Riveter is indeed the only professional magazine of European literature (prose, poetry, non-fiction) in English translation in the UK. And, to reiterate, it is free – and fabulous, of course.

We are publishing both an Austrian and a Spanish Riveter simultaneously because we were coincidentally commissioned to do so by the Austrian Cultural Forum in London and by the many wonderful Spanish cultural institutes in the UK and Spain – and because the time is right. I have a good feel for the zeitgeist. 

The Riveter is indeed the only professional magazine of European literature (prose, poetry, non-fiction) in English translation in the UK. And, to reiterate, it is free – and fabulous, of course.

Rosie Goldsmith

When are the magazines being launched?

They are both being launched to coincide with London Book Fair in April 2023. I do believe in creating ‘riveting events’ to launch the magazines and our events are always popular. I always say, what is the point of a great book or translation or magazine if you don’t promote it and if people don’t know about it? You need PR and publicity. I am very lucky that as a well-connected journalist I can appeal to colleagues and supporters for help – people who understand our ethos and know that we are working out of passion and not for personal gain.

We are launching in April because in the case of The Austrian Riveter it also coincides with Leipzig Book Fair and Austria’s Market Focus in Leipzig (I will be there!) and both magazines coincide with LBF, which means we can piggy-back to a certain extent – as of course many great publishers and translators will be in town in that time. Also, because we have to be incredibly creative with the very small amount of money, we receive to create these magazines. I am flabbergasted each time we receive a commission for our magazine, that not one single time has any organisation thought beyond the publication to how they promote it – therefore I end up working pro bono for vast swathes of the year. With each magazine I have to lobby afresh for funding and none of us on the small team ever earns very much. I am indebted to our tiny core team, Anna Blasiak, production and website manager (a force of nature, who I’ve worked with from the outset) and West Camel, a professional editor and respected author, who is actually editing The Spanish Riveter while I focus primarily on The Austrian Riveter – that was the only way to manage both simultaneously! Additionally, I believe in brainstorming with experts, because I never claim to know everything about a country and its literature, so in that way I garner greater expertise – which is how Sheridan Marshall from NBG came to collaborate on The Austrian Riveter and Katie Whittemore, a Spanish translator and literary powerhouse became Guest Editor of The Spanish Riveter
Another secret? I only work with people I like!

Austria’s literary engagement with its history is moving, revelatory and, you could argue, long overdue.

Rosie Goldsmith

What has it been like to focus on Austrian literature? How has editing The Austrian Riveter changed your perceptions of the Austrian literary landscape?

It has been a dream to concentrate on Austrian literature – I have learned so much. I am a linguist and Germanist and have spent decades of my life engaging with the German language, culture and history so it has been a gift to deepen my knowledge of Austria, which is going through a fascinating literary evolution, so different from Germany’s but of course profoundly linked. Austria’s literary engagement with its history is moving, revelatory and, you could argue, long overdue. It is also a multi-cultural, multi-lingual country and that comes through in its literature. It is refreshingly experimental and less commercial than in Germany. I am impressed by how well writers and translators are respected and treated in Austria – to be envied in our Brexit-blighted nation, where creatives are paid badly and treated dismissively.

Can you share some of the highlights of the magazine with us?

You know I’ll say this but there is genuinely too much to mention!  Let’s say I am excited about the large number of revelatory and exclusive essays we’ve commissioned, covering so many topics, from the history of Austrian publishing to writing ‘on the borderlands’ to the importance of Austrian Jewish writers. Also, we have some great interviews – with Robert Menasse and Daniel Kehlmann, for example – and we have extracts and reviews of books we really believe should be translated and published in English.  Some really famous names, such as Edmund de Waal, can be read alongside emerging writers, such as Kaśka Bryla, whose parents are Polish but who lives in Vienna and writes in German.

Which contemporary Austrian authors are you most excited about right now?

All the authors included in the magazine! Click onto our website on 18th April or come to our event at British Library on 18th April or London Book Fair from 18-20 April to find out. You can also meet the authors Daniel Kehlmann, Doron Rabinovici and Kaśka Bryla in person – I am definitely excited about them.

Which European countries would you like to do Riveter magazines for next?

I have big dreams – I’d love to publish a magazine of Balkans or Roma or Turkish literature in English, for example, and eventually a whole anthology of European literature in translation, but it is stressful and time-consuming to keep begging and battling for funding, and frankly, at this stage in my career, insulting. I never thought I would end up a fundraiser and pen-pusher but the wonderful, impassioned people I work with need to eat and pay their mortgages. Before Brexit and before the pandemic we enjoyed both Arts Council England and Creative Europe funding, now we only receive what I personally lobby for.  So, who knows what’s next? It’s not easy.

Can you tell us about the other cultural projects you have in the pipeline this year?

The European Writers’ Festival is the next big one – I’m curating the first ever festival of its kind for the British Library and EUNIC for the weekend of 20-21 May – the first of many, I hope – funding and popularity dependent, as ever! I’ll also be reviewing books, broadcasting, travelling, painting and sketching, writing my own novel (finally), interviewing other creative people and chairing events at several festivals, all of which I love to do.

Thank you Rosie.

To find out more about the European Literature Network and all Riveter magazines, visit the website here.

Photo of Rosie Goldsmith © Billie Charity