Ehrenreich Interviews Albert

Here is the first question and answer from a long recently completed but as yet unpublished interview of Michael Albert by Barbara Ehrenreich. The rest will follow, day by day…

Ehrenreich: I have heard that there’s been a lot of interest around the world in your new book, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, about a new economic system to replace capitalism. Can you tell me a little about what languages it’s been translated into and what kind of reactions you’ve gotten?

Albert: Having published about fifteen books and for the other fourteen having had maybe four translations, the experience with Parecon says a lot about changing times. I can’t even keep track of what’s happening. Arabic, Bengali and Telagu in India, Croatia, Czechoslavakia, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish. Agencies pursuing Portuguese, and Hebrew. Verso is distributing the book in English in Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, the U.S, Britain, and Canada. And apparently there is strong interest in Chinese, Farsi, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, and Russian. There have been articles, interviews, and reviews in some of these locales well before the book is released. In some cases the decision has been virtually immediate — we sent the book to Finland in reply to a request for a review copy and just days later they offered a contract. There is great interest in the topic, clearly.

In English too, there are encouraging signs, at least of possibilities. So, in the Harvard bookstore in Cambridge Massachusetts I did an author’s talk and signing. For that week the book had a little display up front in the store and was as a result quite visible. And for that week the book outsold all but two texts in the store, outselling every novel in the place and all other non fiction too. This wasn’t because people knew me as a writer or had read reviews of the book, or seen ads. There were none at that time, and in English have been nearly none, since.

People just saw the display, saw the title and the jacket comments, read on the flap that the book was about an alternative economy, and bought it. I think this shows that interest in transcending capitalism is high and growing. But of course at the same time around the corner in other stores, and even in that same store in subsequent weeks, sales dropped back down…for want of visibility. Oprah hasn’t called. Nor has the NYT Book Review had a cover essay on it. Verso has no money to advertise. And in the U.S., media coverage and ads are how store owners and the broad public find out what books are out there that they ought to consider buying. Hopefully, with the paperback coming out, there will be reviews in English language media.

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