You publish books for children and adults, which age group do you target the most?
VAT : Now that I think about it, I feel like I publish books based on the age of my kids and their friends. One of our editions is called For EMU. We’ve been posting comics there ever since my kids started “rolling” on comics. Now, with our main authors and artists, I have started to create an edition for my grandchildren Iron. It already has 9 titles (and now 4 more new ones will be added in May) and it’s been such a hit that we’re reprinting some of the records just after a few months.
Kalamajka mik mik mik | Photo: Tomáš Česálek, Source: Meander
Is it true that today’s children do not read?
VAT : According to endlessly repeated surveys in our country and around the world, children read. But when I come somewhere at school or the library for a discussion, I’m not surprised that the boys only read one book a year. Boys stop reading at the age of nine or ten, and then they just focus on the digital world. According to them, it’s incomparably more fun than “crushing” a thick book. It even feels like the last century. Guys who read all the time tend to hide it from their classmates.
Vaclav Havel, Pizduchova Photo: Tomáš Česálek, Source: Meander
Do you think it is possible to teach them again?
VAT : Children are more attracted to their parents. If they don’t, no better school will. We help the organization with this Festival Kids, do you read? It will take place this year 11th year. This multi-genre festival presents plays, art workshops, music and films around literature. Such a connection children are attracted to more than literature. We also do a lot of reading to the children in ours design bookstore under Vyšehrad. Last year we had workshops, talks or plays almost every Thursday and of course baptisms and autograph signings of new books.
Do you think there are “trends” in children’s literature?
VAT : In fact, I don’t follow trends very much. I have been publishing books for the whole family since the 1990s. Flag edition Meander, blue elephant, is always very successful. The authors are leading Czech and world writers and poets, the illustrations are created by award-winning artists. The first hundred copies of each book in this edition are numbered and signed by the author and the artist. Reader responses from parents and children are a confirmation of this quarter-century-old concept. Maybe also because Family reading is a global trend today.
Petr Koťátko, Eva Koťátková, Anička, speaking stream and other inmates of the Ms. Majerová Institute | Photo: Tomáš Česálek, Source: Meander
It is also said that “thicker books sell more.” ” What do you think ?
VAT : Maybe for adult books, but I have no experience with that. We have a lot of single sheet print picture books and they are selling well.
How do you research the look of your books?
VAT : We collaborate with three dozen leading graphic designers and generally give them complete freedom in how to capture literary and artistic work and create a unique book from it. I am often surprised at what a beautiful work will be created from these separately submitted texts by the poet and the illustrations created by the artist.
Petr Nikl, Libuše Niklová, Blowing Stories Photo: Tomáš Česálek, Source: Méandre
I am a writer or illustrator and I would like to work with you, what can I do?
VAT : The easiest way is to write to our publishing house and send us a small selection of your work. It is on the biblical stories of the Manaman edition that we have given the opportunity to more than forty young illustrators (it is about 45 books of the Old and New Testament), for the most part still students. I can’t even resist literary premieresI have also published several dozen over these 25 years.
What does digitization mean for you in the field of book culture?
VAT : If you publish design books and you and your readers care about quality printing, paper and binding, on beautiful canvas or various handmade details, scanning won’t really put jeopardize your production. In the case of a few books with a longer text, I published an e-book, but tenths of a percent were sold.
Your publishing house is celebrating a great success with a series of Bible stories from the Old Testament, and you are about to publish the New Testament. What is so tempting for the public in these stories?
VAT : We have encountered Bible stories for millennia. People always behave the same way whether they live in ancient Egypt, Rome, Babylon or today’s Europe in 2020. Those who have never immersed themselves in the Bible do not have no idea of the beauty of literature. The Bible is actually a whole library of booksthat have existed for centuries. They are wonderful stories of love and hate, of passion and betrayal, of sacrifice to death and the beauty of forgiveness.
Petr Nikl, Optic of Jinotaje | Photo: Tomáš Česálek, Source: Meander
Which Bible story do you prefer?
VAT : I like the beginning of the Book of Genesis, The Creation of the World. From childhood we played the songs of Voskovec and Werich, as well as the song David and Goliath. But we should read the whole Bible, yet it is the foundation of our Euro-Atlantic civilization, and references to it are found in fine art, music, theater and especially literature.
Celebrating 25 years of Meander in a difficult time, how are you coping with the current situation?
VAT : We haven’t had such a shutdown since I’ve been in the book business. We focused on the e-shop and all readers and friends helped us. In the end, we will be able to raise funds for most of the titles planned for this year and we will be able to release them.
What was the book market like 25 years ago? What has changed since?
VAT : Everything changed. In 1989, the state-controlled book market allowed only 40 state-owned publishing houses, 90 in June and 4,000 in the summer, and all of them, mostly publishing books, only later critics have described as declining and aesthetically pragmatic genres. Until the mid-1990s, there was no place for a publishing house publishing aesthetic titles, it was necessary to saturate the market first. Big companies published proven titles such as Children from Bullerbyn, a very popular classic was still published by Josef Lada, František Hrubín, Václav Čtvrtek or Miller’s Mole. The small, newly created publishing houses mainly published what children craved – books that could not be published under communism, as well as hastily translated American Disney books.
Petr Nikl, Jeleňoviti | Photo: Tomáš Česálek, Source: Meander
What were your expectations when you founded Meander? Is it filled?
VAT : I think richly. Originally, I just wanted to publish a book that I had written and went around to no avail. After the success of the Advent calendar, it was my friends’ books and then others that we started to invent with the authors. I never thought I would be an editor for the dead. My original profession as a gas station attendant was quite different. Publishing children’s art books is an incredibly fun profession and working with all the writers, poets and visual artists is very inspiring. Being a publisher is the best job in the world.
Do you have a publishing dream that you would like to achieve in the future?
VAT : I do, but that probably doesn’t mean he won’t scream.
Thank you for the interview and we keep our fingers crossed that the publishing dream will come true.