The books from the Caja Negra publishing house. (Neo2 Magazine).
18 years have passed since 2005 when Ezequiel Fanego and Diego Esteras decided to embark on an editorial project that would challenge the conventional norms of the Spanish-language industry. The now renowned Caja Negra label has in its catalog an impressive list of authors who address modern problems and think about contemporary counterculture better than anyone.
Caja Negra is not just a publishing house, it is a space for dialogue and reflection, an engine of thought and a meeting point between readers eager for new perspectives and visionary authors. From humble beginnings, this publisher has defied expectations and forged its own path in an increasingly homogeneous and commercial publishing world.
What makes Caja Negra truly special is its diverse and provocative catalogue. Over the years, the publishing house has published works by renowned authors such as Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Martha Rosler, Mark Fisher, Nick Srnicek, Éric Sadin, Boris Groys, and many others. Voices that represent a reflective pause in the midst of the dizzying pace of contemporary life.
The publishing house has stood out for its ability to bring radical and avant-garde currents of thought to Spanish-speaking readers. Through its publications, Caja Negra has cemented its identity as a space where modern problems and contemporary counterculture are addressed.
For Ezequiel Fanego, one of the most rewarding aspects of this publishing journey is entirely due to the community of readers they have built over the years. Caja Negra not only publishes books, but also generates discussions and debates that enrich the cultural landscape. The publishing house has become a meeting space for those seeking to explore new ideas and perspectives.
—If the publisher had been born in Colombia, it would have just come of age. How has the vision of the label evolved over these 18 years?
— Caja Negra began in Argentina in 2001, at a time when the country was going through a crisis. At that time, we were a couple of friends who were passionate about reading and we didn’t know anything about publishing. Our relationship with the catalog in those early years was somewhat capricious. We published what we liked and what we felt was lacking in the Argentine market, without a clear editorial focus.
Over time, we learned a lot about the craft of editing and how this work goes beyond our personal preferences. Our catalog became diversified and acquired a more programmatic approach. We began to look for books that responded to specific needs and to generate dialogues with authors to improve their works. But we always maintained the essence of being a publisher that seeks answers in music, cinema, philosophy and literature, understanding that all these disciplines speak about the same thing, about life and society.
—How do you conceive publishing today, in relation to those first years?
—We understand it as a speech. It is not just about publishing one book after another. The work at Caja Negra has always been crossed by dialogue. At the beginning, we were two friends who got together to read. Thus, the editorial’s criteria have always been influenced by the exchange of speeches. Over the years, each person who joins the project comes with something new to say. The result of the catalog obeys what happens within a reading group. That is to say, we are talking about books all the time, and to tell the truth, our content is not so much like that of a publisher, but more like a library, in the sense that we see a succession of interests that develop little by little. Many times, one book produces three more books. A dialogue is also taking place there, and it is something very important for us, it is something that we discuss and think about a lot, and that, I think, I speculate, has an effect on the readers.
The books from the Caja Negra publishing house. (Neo2 Magazine).
—The seal ends up generating identity in whoever finds it. In fact, everything around it obeys more to a record company than to a publisher, per se.
— Just that. Suddenly, readers come to bookstores looking for the imprint itself, and not the author. They discovered a book one day and then they follow the series, because they know that the questions that the first book raised could be answered, or not, in the second.
— Regarding manuscript selection, how do you address the challenges when evaluating and working with new authors and works?
—We evaluate the manuscripts carefully. Often our books are translations, which limits our options for modifying the content. However, when we have the opportunity to work directly with an author, we seek a creative exchange. For example, in the case of the book The Ghosts of My Life, by Mark Fisher, we had a dialogue with the author and proposed modifications to the index and structure of the book, which was very enriching.
In the fiction collection “Efectos Collaterales,” we are receiving manuscripts directly from authors. We have been fortunate that many authors value our input and are willing to make changes to their works based on our suggestions.
Courtesy: Siglo del Hombre Editores.
—What happens in the life of an editor? What are the days like?
— The life of an editor is much less romantic than you think. We continue to be cognitive workers at the service of capitalism, at a time in which the exploitation of information and knowledge is constant, and we are subjected to permanent self-exploitation, regardless of whether the project is ours.
—What have been the most significant obstacles you have had to overcome as a publisher so far?
— As an independent publisher, we have faced several challenges over the years. Some of the daily and tedious problems, which increased with the pandemic, include difficulties in obtaining paper, fluctuations in the Argentine economy, and inflation. These are practical problems that we must constantly solve. Additionally, we face more creative challenges. When we couldn’t operate from our offices or sell books in a traditional way, we had to rethink our publishing work. We created a space to offer audiovisual content related to our books and maintain connection with readers during the pandemic.
The editors Diego Esteras and Ezequiel Fanego.
—How do you deal with the shortcomings of the publishing industry in Latin America? The book circulation circuit is often interfered with by circumstances that are more related to matters of a governmental or territorial nature. Distribution becomes complicated and sometimes we lose sight of what is being read in neighboring countries, even within our own country.
— From the beginning, we thought of Caja Negra as a Spanish-speaking publishing house, born in Argentina, but at the same time, Latin American. This vocation that we always had to recognize our origin, but not limit ourselves to our borders, has allowed us to dialogue with a more globalized reading public. We know that many of the things that may interest us in a country surely have their echo in a broader universe. It is something that has always interested us, but in order to carry it out we must overcome many problems. It’s a shame they’re there, it’s tremendous. I think, likewise, that it is changing. Fortunately, things are different from when we started, the bridges are much larger, but there is still a lot to do: distribution, deficiencies in communication channels, content limitations, etc. There are spaces that are working to improve conditions, fairs, for example. Participating in independent or larger fairs, beyond the costs, represents a possibility of amplification, of connection, both with the reading public and with other editors, which you will hardly achieve in other scenarios.
—What have these 18 years with Caja Negra meant?
— The most significant thing for us is the relationship with readers. We are proud to know that our books generate dialogues and connections with a diverse audience in Latin America and Spain. Additionally, we have learned to be humble and work as a team to achieve our editorial goals. Despite constant challenges, what we have gained far outweighs any obstacles. Our network of collaborators and allies continues to grow, and that is something we value greatly.
Personally, I started very young with this. I was 20 years old at the time and now I am 41. I have dedicated my life to publishing. I have learned many things: working with others, managing one’s own ego, being humble, understanding that the interest that moves you does not move you alone. I grew up here, so there are many things I have gained.