My translation of Machado de Assis' classic novella "O Alienista" will be coming out in May from Calypso Editions, a small artist-run cooperative press which I'm a member of, under the title The Psychiatrist. (Cue applause.)
Yesterday, I found out that Melville House is reprinting William L. Grossman's 1963 translation under the new title The Alienist, and it's coming out in August. (There's also Alfred Mac Adam's 1998 translation under that title, published by Arion Press as a limited-edition fine press volume; I've never seen, let alone read, that translation. But it's the Melville House edition that got my attention.)
Quite possibly, yes, someone I talked to at ALTA last fall mentioned my Calypso translation to Dennis Johnson at Melville House—but no matter, it's validation of a great work by a great author, both deserving better recognition in the U.S.
Most likely Melville House will sell more books, because they've been around for more than a decade now, they're distributed by Random House, and the Art of the Novella series is well established. Probably they only paid a small fee to Grossman's estate for the right to reprint the translation, no royalties. (Machado died in 1908, so in Portuguese his work is public domain.) Looks like theirs will be priced to move at $8, which strongly suggests they're not paying anybody a per-unit royalty.
My translation will be only Calypso Editions' sixth book, and we're just now working out a distribution agreement which will make it easier for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local indie bookstore (if you have one) to carry our books. The price will be $15, which is as low as we can go and still guarantee the author (or translator) a fair share of the income. We'll sell it to you direct, postpaid. Thanks to distribution, you may be able to find it for less at the mass-market vendors—and if that's important to you, go right ahead.
Because of the schedule coincidence, it's hard not to see it as a head-to-head competition. But this isn't about who "wins" by making the most money. My translation is 50 years newer and will come out 3 months sooner, but those are no measure of quality any more than are sales or price. At this point, I can't even say that my translation is better than Grossman's, because I haven't read it for years and specifically avoided it while I was creating my own.
I know mine is loose and raucous in style, in a way we don't expect of books written in 1882, but which seems to me completely appropriate for Machado, especially for a satire on madness and other extremes. I'm pretty sure that makes my translation different than Grossman's—most translators imprison his wild experiments in narrative within staid Victorian English prose structures. Of course he wasn't Woolf or Joyce, but neither was he Dickens or Eliot. In "O Alienista," Machado makes a distinction between the madmen who laugh quietly to themselves and those who run riot in the streets. With "O Alienista" and the contemporaneous Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, Machado moved from the former group to the latter.