Be a Book Angel: An Interview with Haute Culture Press

Haute Culture Press is a small press based in Stockholm, Sweden with a unique publishing vision. Their goal is to translate European classics into English and distribute them internationally. To fund these efforts, Haute Culture produces rare or “luxury” editions of European classics which are financially supported by “Book Angels” who purchase a luxury edition and then receive 100 (or more) free eBooks of the title to distribute to people or institutions of their choice. We interviewed the CEO of Haute Culture, Luis de Miranda, over e-mail:

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When was Haute Culture founded and where are you based?

Haute Culture is a brand of Kreell AB, a company I founded in April 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden, along with our designer Linda Ayres, although we might move to the UK later this year.

The rest of the team include Jamie Schwartz, our editor, Jean-S├ębastien Hongre and Olivier Rieu, early investors and Simon Carney, our PR.

Tell us about your publishing vision; about why you formed Haute Culture:

Our aim is summed up in a two-word slogan: content sublimation.

First of all we only publish masterpieces where the author has taken the collective reality and transformed it into sublime text. Secondly, the first form we use are handmade, precious, rare editions, so we materialize those masterpieces into a sublime object. Thirdly, this device, this ‘dispositif’ allows us to create a free viral distribution of the e-book version of the text and that’s another sublimation, a passage from the solid state to the gaseous, digital state.

I created Haute Culture because I believe it to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a company that could contribute to the beauty of the world by sublimation. This is a form of alchemy applied to book publishing.

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Tell us about the concept of book angels and your publishing model in general:

Book Angels allow the sublimation process to take place by pre-ordering the precious material version of the book. That helps us finance the translation, the production of the print edition and the distribution of free e-books. Book Angels are the mini-Medici of our venture, a sponsor that can have his or her name acknowledged in the book.

They’re also enlightened collectors, as we promise never to make more than 500 physical books in order to remain within the limits of a limited edition and in doing so create an object whose value increases year after year. No real alchemy can function without the breath of an angel.

Introduce our readers to Tammsarre’s “Truth and Justice.” How did you come to choose that novel for your first publication?

In fact our first publication was a Flaubert tale, Felicity, in December 2013. In 2014 we plan to publish two books: The Sublimes, by Yuri Mamleyev and Truth and Justice, by Anton Hansen Tammsaare.

The first one (not necessary chronologically), whose original title is Chatuny, is a masterpiece of Russian literature written in the late 1960s by an author who is still alive today and considered by younger Russian writers as the new Dostoyevsky. It’s a horrible and sublime novel about the quest for the absolute truth.

The second is the most important Estonian novel ever written, by an author who is now part of the cultural heritage of the Estonian nation and has his own statue in the middle of Tallinn. It’s a earthy novel about the struggle for a new territory, written in the 1930s. A very universal theme. To my great astonishment neither of these books have been published in English before.

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Please describe the luxury edition of “Truth and Justice.”

I prefer to talk about a ‘rare edition’ rather than ‘luxury edition’ as our goal isn’t to be “bling-bling”, but to create a highly-designed artistic object that shares a deep connection with the text and the title. So we might use earthy materials to reflect the setting of the novel for example.

We’re still working on the final version though as we think we can improve on the first prototypes we made a few months ago. If you want to get an idea of our work, have a look at our limited edition of Felicity, which is on sale in Assouline boutiques in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

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