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New Dundee publishing house 3TimesRebel gives voice to literature in minority languages

3TimesRebel founder Bibiana Mas.
3TimesRebel founder Bibiana Mas.

For Bibiana Mas, literature from all cultures is a passion to be shared and there is no better place than Dundee to start the ball rolling.

Bibiana grew up in Catalonia, 60 miles inland from Barcelona.

The gregarious Catalan speaker moved to the UK in 2013, first to Birmingham and then settled in Dundee where her third daughter was born.

3TimesRebel founder Bibiana Mas.

Now the family are proud to call the City of Discovery their home and, with her daughters getting a little older – they are 12, 10 and six – Bibiana has decided that the time and place are right for her to focus on her career and her love for literature once more.

Back in Spain, she graduated as a social educator before working in a bookshop and returning to university in Barcelona to study a masters degree in book publishing. “I have always been a book lover,” she explains, “then when my first and second daughters came along I stuck with bookselling but I knew that I wanted to do something in the publishing world.”

Passion for motherhood

Bibiana somehow also found time to study around her new-found passion for supporting mothers and children.

“In that period that I was looking after my children when they were very small,” she says, “I went back to university to study my other passion: motherhood and all that is related to mums and children.”

She studied with the NCT to become an ante-natal teacher.

Despite all of this education and experience, when Bibiana decided to make a more permanent move back into the world of work, she found that she didn’t really “fit” anymore.

Feeling invisible

“I realised that motherhood made me invisible, the last two years I was home-schooling my children but when I stepped out into the world again nobody wanted me – I found it really tough.

“It was frustrating, I am a highly educated woman and this world is not prepared for women to be a mum and something else as well.

“So I asked myself, ‘What will I do with all this rage that I have inside of me?’ I decided to go back to what I wanted to do – to be a publisher.”

And so the idea for 3TimesRebel Press was born, a Scottish-based company that will publish fiction in translation by women writing in minority languages.

Bibiana found inspiration for the name in a poem by fellow Catalan, the poet and translator Maria-Merce Marcal.

I am grateful to fate for three gifts: to have been born a woman, from the working class and an oppressed nation.

And the turbid azure of being three times a rebel.”

Maria-Merce Marcal

She explains that like Marcal, 3TimesRebel Press has three pillars; “one is women, I am only going to publish women because I want women to be more visible in the literary world, the second is the minority languages, and the third is community.

“I want to be a kind of fair trade publisher, for example all the people who work with me are going to be paid fairly.

“I also want to give something back to the community, so the first time that I have profits in my company I am going to give some of them to charities that support women.”

Focus on minority languages at 3TimesRebel

As a Catalonian, Bibiana is aware that minority languages are not well-represented in literature around the world, especially in the English-speaking countries.

“I thought that if someone like me, who speaks a minority language doesn’t do something about this, then who will?” she says.

The first two books will be available in bookshops on July 14. The whole process has taken around two years to get to this stage.

“I had to find the books, the translators, the art designers and now I have the books!” she says, clutching them proudly.

The 3TimesRebel logo.
The 3TimesRebel logo.

She has started out with works by authors who write in Catalan and Basque but she intends to cast that net as far as she can in future. “For me, my aim is any minority language from around the world,” she explains.

“At the moment I feel more comfortable in Spain as we have lots of minority languages and I’m mostly able to read, Galician, Catalan, of course, Asturian even. I can’t read Basque – it’s so complicated! – and I would like to publish work written in Breton, Welsh, Gaelic…

“If one day I can publish a woman writer who writes in Maori then that will be amazing!”

Books that challenge

Bibiana doesn’t have any criteria when it comes to the subject matter of the books she would like to publish but she does look for stories that will make her readers stop and think. “I don’t care if they are tough, with an acid tone, or they are funny but they have to be stories that make you feel a little uncomfortable.

“If it’s more acerbic, you will laugh a lot but the topics will always make you feel uncomfortable, the aim is to spark a debate, when the books come out we want to be very active in social media and we want to create safe spaces to talk about anything, for example the dark side of motherhood.”

Basque author Katixa Agirre has tackled the difficult subject of post-natal depression in her novel Mothers Don’t.

That is the subject covered in Mothers Don’t by Basque author Katixa Agirre, translated into English by Kristin Addis.

Bibiana says, “there was something in that book that I knew it had to be the first book that I wanted to publish. The topics in the book touch me, I have read it more than 15 times and every time that I read it is like a tempest inside of me. For me it was like mind-blowing that through fiction you can feel that much.

“Katixa Agirre is amazing, I met her a long time ago in Barcelona. The story for me is very uncomfortable and very necessary to talk about; post-natal depression and how motherhood makes you feel invisible.”

The power of fiction

The publisher believes that fiction can be a powerful tool in broadening minds and changing perceptions. “I really think that with fiction you can get very involved in the story, so it’s easier for someone to walk in someone else’s shoes, to feel what the other is feeling without judging. This is the beginning of changing oneself and being more open-minded.

“Everything is possible, my own thoughts are not always the right or good ones, no one has the total truth.”

3TimesRebel author Nuria Bendicho.

The second novel set for release is Dead Lands by little-known Catalonian author Nuria Bendicho.

Bibiana is excited about bringing this new author into the international spotlight: “Nobody was talking about Nuria even in Catalonia,” she says.

“Her writing is incredible – the story is based in a rural environment and when you read it you can feel everything, you can taste everything, you can smell everything. Sometimes it is very disgusting and sometimes it is very beautiful.”

Dead Lands presents itself as a story about the male character Jon but it is a story about the mother told from the perspectives of 13 different characters.

“It examines how family bonds choke you – how you can’t escape from cursed blood and how the weight of patriarchy suffocates us.”

Nuria Bendicho's Deadlands features original artwork commissioned by 3TimesRebel.
Nuria Bendicho’s Deadlands features original artwork commissioned by 3TimesRebel.

Dead Lands was translated from Catalonian into English by mother and daughter team Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relano. “I have an amazing team of translators behind me,” Bibiana points out. “For me the translations are very important, the voice of the author has to be there and it is like re-writing the book.”

She then works closely with the translators on the final edits of the books, so that they can be sure that the story and tone remain true to the original work.

Living in Broughty Ferry made Dundee a logical choice for her launch, but Bibiana says there is more to her choice of location than that.

Vibrant Dundee

“Lots of people have asked me why I have chosen Dundee and not Edinburgh, for example,” she remarks.

“But I chose specifically Dundee because I know that Dundee is a very vibrant city with art, design and my books are very connected with this. All my books will have a newly commissioned cover and for me the art part is very important.

“Apart from that, I know that Dundee is one of the cities with the lowest rates of women entrepreneurs and I want to help to change that. I am involved with women business station and I want to create a net to support women.”

Stories written by women for everyone

While the focus of 3TimesRebel may be on female authors, Bibiana is clear that her target audience is wider than that: “I just want to say that these books they can be read by everyone, not only women.”

“At the moment the ones that I have they are completely universal. It might happen that for example in the case of the Basque literature it can be very specific but in general the stories are universal it doesn’t matter whether they take place in Barcelona, Bilbao or anywhere else.”

3TimesRebel Press will launch its first two titles in July.