Orphans of Eldorado

‘With his erudition and marshalling of historical detail. Hatoum compressed an epic into a novella.’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Clear in each particular but tantalisingly elusive in its overall meaning, Orphans of Eldorado does what every good telling of a myth should.’ Financial Times

The setting for this magical fable is Eldorado, the Enchanted city that inhabited the fevered dreams of European navigators and conquistadors, but eluded all attempts to find it on the map. Some have linked it to Manaus in the Amazon Basin, and it is here that Arminto Cordovil lives with his father Amando in a white mansion. Orphans of Eldorado is a rich and magical fable that beautifully captures the atmosphere of the steamy, lush Amazonian world.
Milton HatoumBorn in Manaus in 1952, Milton Hatoum’s first novel, Tale of a Certain Orient, was published in 1989, followed by The Brothers in 2000. Both won the prestigious Jabuti Prize for best novel. Ashes of the Amazon (2005) was also awarded the Jabuti Prize, as well as the Portugal Telecom Prize for literature.
  1. Susanna (September 7, 2009 at 7:44 pm) :

    Sooo… Is this, like Östergren’s book, only going to be available as paperback? It’s a real shame – one of the reasons I’ve been so thrilled about the myths series is the beautiful hard cover bindings, to say nothing of the fantastic layout of the setting. Just to hold the books have given loads of pleasure, and to for once read something that is really pleasing to the eye… Priceless.

    I truly hope that this is not a trend.

  2. Canongate (September 9, 2009 at 11:19 am) :

    This book will be published as a trade paperback on its first outing, so yes, like Ostergren. As noted in the comments on Ostergren’s book, we consider the publishing strategy for every one of our books individually, Myths or otherwise, and your comments about the binding issue are very much of value to us as we look at our future Myths.

  3. Marcus Moore (September 9, 2009 at 12:16 pm) :

    How can one pretend this is a series when the binding changes? I have been thrilled by the standard of presentation, as well as the standard of writing, of the first 11 myths. This has kept my loyalty, and my wish to complete the series, but the paperback ‘Hurricane Party’ has upset my library shelves and aesthetic sense. While the myth of Eldorado interests me greatly, I shall hold off buying until a hardback edition is available.

  4. Mark Anderson (September 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm) :

    I have to agree with the comments above. It seems the Myths series is becoming an “uncollectable” series with each publication. I also emailed my disgruntlement at the last book being paperback, and I’m even more saddened to hear this one will be published as a paperback too. Sign of the economic times, perhaps or simply that the Myth series’ sales has started to diminish? I have to say that the original 35 year publishing schedule that I heard bandied around is a tad ambitious. If that’s true then I’m not sure whether anyone will still be buying the series in 2040!

  5. justine hadcroft (September 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm) :

    I’m interested in the comments already posted. I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in my disappointment in the change in format. I have all the hardback myths but refuse to buy the latest two, published in large format paperback. Has Canongate scored an own goal here?

  6. Cameron O'Steen (September 10, 2009 at 3:47 am) :

    I’d like to toss my binding preference into the ring as well: hardcover! I special ordered many of the older titles in hardcover through my local bookstore and desire that format. I love this series and want them to last. I anticipate a full shelf of beautifully bound modern myths, and paperback does not factor into that. Could a compromising special run of hardcover be made available perhaps?

  7. David (September 11, 2009 at 2:27 pm) :

    Does Canongate’s reference to “its first outing” mean that a subsequent hardback edition will be issued for this (and the previous title)? I hope so. If not, and the issue is one of cost, the suggestion above of a special run of hardcovers could be a good solution – perhaps marketed as ‘exclusive’ editions. It seems that a lot of goodwill has been built up towards this series. It would be a shame to lose this – along with readers – by ignoring their preferences.

  8. Jay (September 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm) :

    I agree with Susanna. Hardcover books really elevate this particular series. As these are rewrites of timeless myths, it only seems right that the series have a special quality too, in the physical sense.

  9. briana (September 18, 2009 at 2:44 am) :

    It is really not a collection if all the pieces do not match. I have all 11 books and I agree with Marcus. The Ostergren paperback sticks out like a sore thumb in my stack. It seems a bit ridiculous that one would look at the “publishing strategy” of each book individually when one knows that it is not going to stand on its own. The stories are marvelous but the presentation is starting to wane. Hardcovers all the way through the series, Please!

  10. Jeanie Boldero (September 21, 2009 at 8:09 pm) :

    I wholeheartedly agree, hardcovers all the way through the collection please.

  11. Spencer (October 18, 2009 at 6:52 pm) :

    I agree with the Hardcover plea! Again, I’ll say that I think even a limited run just for those of us who are freaky enough to want a HC copy would do the trick! I will still buy the books because I believe in the series and the power of these myths and these writers, but I’d be thrilled and willing to shell out some extra cash for a HC edition!!! Please!!!

  12. Robin Pelkki (October 21, 2009 at 2:51 am) :

    Collecting books that do not fit is disappointing. They do not even match in size?

    Also, I see that Donna Tartt has been mentioned in multiple titles as an author in this series but no mention of a forthcoming title or subject myth.

    Canongate would be appreciated for sharing some of the rationale for the changes in book format.

    Instead of being titillated, I find myself irritated.

  13. Canongate (October 21, 2009 at 9:18 am) :

    Please see this comment, Robin:

    Donna Tartt is no longer mentioned on the website or in current printings, as she will no longer be contributing a Myth.

  14. Dan Canon (November 4, 2009 at 10:59 am) :

    Oh dear, oh dear. Another paperback. Canongate has learnt nothing from the comments left for the previous book in the series and do I detect a slight tone of aggression in their set response? How dare the reader have an opinion! Perhaps a case of the publisher ‘knowing’ what we want more than we do? Down to economics? Maybe that’s why so many new writers sit on slush piles and so many ‘established’ writers push out dross. Time to listen to your readership Canongate, before that name comes to have negative connotations when we scan shelves in book shops! Remember, we’re the people who pay our money for your product.

  15. Charlie (November 28, 2009 at 10:44 am) :

    To all those p*ssing themselves with worry over the fact that this isn’t a hardback: the moment the presentation of a book becomes more valuable than what is actually written, and the moment you consciously decide not to read a book based entirely on the degree of thickness of the material that encloses it, is the moment we should all kill ourselves. I don’t know about you but I like to read books. I don’t like to sit in my room and stare at them. If you like looking at things you should consider purchasing a painting.

    Yes, I know it makes your bookshelf look ‘nice’, and that you might come across as slightly more attractive on your commute to work if you’re clutching a beautiful hardback in your hands. But let’s not forget that literature is not a process bound up with ‘seeing/regarding’; that is the death of literature, which you’re contributing to by your moaning. Above all, a book is to be read. So read it.

  16. Dan Canon (November 29, 2009 at 11:41 am) :

    Response to Charlie: Perhaps Charlie would do away with all hardbacks? Why even bother with a cover? Indeed, a book is about reading, but it is also about pleasure and touch, it is also a visual thing (does Charlie not think something as ‘superficial’ as the font type or page layout actually affects the process of reading?). Even the smell of the page is important – a book enriches the senses as well as the intellect. Readers do not worry about the impression made to other people on trains. Charlie seems to have a one-dimensional approach to reading and, as such, is missing out on many of the riches reading offers. If he got more involved in the reading process perhaps he might then be able to construct a comment using less melodrama “we should all kill ourselves” and perhaps even more complex words than “p*ssing”. Perhaps he should work for Canongate, where a one-dimensional approach to publishing seems to be the way forward.

  17. Charlie (December 1, 2009 at 12:47 pm) :

    Response to Dan Canon:

    “Perhaps Charlie would do away with all hardbacks?”

    The reason hardbacks exist are to increase money earned for the publishers and the author. They also increase their durability, especially when a book is to be well used (such as a reference or academic book). Mainly, in commercial ‘chart’ publishing, a hardback is published first, and then we have to wait typically 9 – 12 months before a paperback is published, to make us more likely to spend money on a book that we cannot wait for.

    Now, I think some of the larger trade paperbacks are important to have around, not least because the font is often larger so visually impaired people are able to benefit from them. I don’t think hardbacks should be done away with, and I don’t think I actually said that in my comment. I am merely pointing out that the massively hysterical response to the cessation of this particular series in hardbacks is ever so slightly over the top, when you consider that, whilst the aesthetic appeal of how a book looks might be important to you, it should never be more important that the actual words the book is composed of. By choosing not to buy further books in the series, you are saying that how a book looks is more important to you than how it reads.

    “Why even bother with a cover?”

    Obviously, you need a cover in order to contain the book and to be able to advertise what the actual book is. I’m not sure why you are saying this.

    “Indeed, a book is about reading, but it is also about pleasure and touch, it is also a visual thing (does Charlie not think something as ’superficial’ as the font type or page layout actually affects the process of reading?).”

    I’m not denying that the cover of a book has an effect. I’m commenting on the fact that there are people here who are ‘reconsidering’ or even refusing to purchase further books in the series based on the fact that hardbacks are not available. I think this is rather silly. It implies you are simply buying these books as objects to be regarded (or smelt), rather than the interactive reading process that they actually are.

    “Even the smell of the page is important – a book enriches the senses as well as the intellect.”

    The scent of a book adversely affects your decision on whether to read the book or not, to the point where you would cease purchasing a series of books based on the introduction of an undesirable new scent? I realise there are various components to a book: as you say, scent, cover design, thickness of cover etc etc – but these are all manufactured or marketing components of the book. The actual book, the thing that was written by the author and the thing that we want to read, is above all the essential and most important thing. I’m not saying we should do away with all those other components, but I do think it is important to remember exactly their ‘position’ and that the extreme valuing of them that we see in these comments are often bound up in a sort of wishy-washy, pseudo profound romantic attachment to books that degrades literature because it displaces our interest away from the text and onto these less important details.

    “Charlie seems to have a one-dimensional approach to reading and, as such, is missing out on many of the riches reading offers.”

    I thoroughly enjoy reading, that’s why I studied books and why I work with books. I also have a bookshelf in which I anally arrange them in a way that is visually appealing to me. I don’t deny a book can look beautiful quite apart from it’s content. But I would always make the content of the book my priority over anything else. The reason I recently enjoyed reading Anthony Burgess’ “A Dead Man in Deptford” is because the imitative Elizabeth prose style takes my breath away. And whilst the picture of Marlowe on the front looks a bit naff, shrouded as it is in odd foliage, and whilst the book does have a lovely old-bookish smell, and the black font on white on the spine gives it a cleanness which does look good when aligned with my other books – none of these things ever take priority over the substance of the thing I read. I remember and enjoy what the book said and how it said it, not the picture of Marlow on the front. I think you think I’m suggesting all books should be issued in entirely plain, blank white covers. This is not the case. I am aware books are visually pleasing but this is secondary to the content.

    In a nutshell: I think basing your decision to read a book on how it smells (!), how it looks, how it feels, how it is presented etc., and valuing this over and above the content of the book is a bit silly.

    “If he got more involved in the reading process perhaps he might then be able to construct a comment using less melodrama “we should all kill ourselves” and perhaps even more complex words than “p*ssing”.”

    The existence of that melodramatic sentence I made does not imply that I am consequently incapable of constructing a comment that could use less melodrama, so that’s an odd point to make. I’m sorry that you find ‘p*ssing’ a not very complex word, and I’d be interested to hear what words you deem to be complex and which are simple, and by what methods you go about deciding this. That was part of my rhetoric, to try and highlight the degree of almost child-like veneration of cover over content that we see in these comments.

    - By the way, the glaringly obvious reason that canongate have published these latest titles in paperback are to do with money. Not enough people buy the hardback to make it a financially viable option for them. The alternative is not to publish them at all. I know which one I’d rather.

  18. Pam Cee (December 7, 2009 at 10:28 am) :

    I too am disappointed – I started buying these as a gift to my daughter who is studying classics thinking I was creating an annual treat to be trasured – paperback just does not do it….

  19. John Kent (December 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm) :

    Amazon is currently listing the Philip Pullman myth as scheduled to be published in hardback (April 2010). Can it be true? Is the Myths series back on track? Fingers crossed!

  20. Kate Brahms (December 22, 2009 at 12:07 pm) :

    Superb news and hopefully the way forward with all the Myth titles. Am looking forward to it. Am sure Charlie won’t mind waiting for the paperback! (What a silly pompous man, well, it has to be said!)

  21. Paul’s Review: Orphans of Eldorado, by Milton Hatoum | Bookgeeks (February 12, 2010 at 10:03 am) :

    [...] The decision to publish in paperback has prompted a flurry of angry comments on the novel’s official page on the Myths website, but binding aside, Orphans of Eldorado doesn’t [...]

  22. Jacqueline Boston (February 19, 2010 at 11:06 pm) :

    I agree with the others. Call me a book snob but the addition to any personal library in which a hardback book provides is the pleasure of a book which looks good and lasts the with test of time. I also started collecting with the first books simply because they were great reads and also for the binding. Come on Canongate, at least try and appease those who love books and want them to last. My bookshelf is looking a bit lost with the mix and match so please make a decision one way or another.

  23. John Barry (March 23, 2010 at 11:07 am) :

    Interesting one Canongate – an article on the importance of a book’s cover, on your own website. Double standards?


  24. Andrea on behalf of Canongate Books (March 23, 2010 at 11:23 am) :

    John, Meet At The Gate is a website that talks about things of interest to our readers and is not a vehicle for selling Canongate titles direct to the public, so I’m not sure it’s entirely relevant in the context of a discussion about binding.

    We do pay attention to what the readers say about the Myths series, and we also have to consider what is best in our publishing strategy for each title, as they are (and should be) strong enough to stand alone as novels as well as being part of a series. So we hope you, the readers, do understand that sometimes a new Myth is better served as a trade paperback in its original outing.

  25. Benjamin (March 31, 2010 at 2:18 pm) :

    I think there is a real trust issue when you present this as a series and then say part way thorugh “we also have to consider what is best in our publishing strategy for each title” ie this is only a series when we can make money on it.

    By publishing books in varying formats within a seies you are shamelessly seeking to have your cake and eat it – using the goodwill and branding of the series concept when it suits you but not supporting this goodwill with appropriate editions when you fear you may not do so well out of it. This is not the concept originally promoted and I like others bought into.

    Books are bought or hired – I do not buy paperbacks I hire them from libraries as what is the point of buying a book to read once and give away or buying something to keep on a shelf which immediately looks shabby as paperbacks invariably do.

    Very disappointed in being sold a line like this and will cease buying the series.

  26. Orphans of Eldorado « Milton Hatoum (May 27, 2010 at 1:21 am) :

    [...] that. The decision to publish in paperback has prompted a flurry of angry comments on the novel’s official page on the Myths website, but binding aside, Orphans of Eldorado doesn’t [...]

  27. The myths series, published by Canongate « Milton Hatoum (November 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm) :

    [...] http://www.themyths.co.uk/?p=73: [...]

  28. Eli (Chapter 1.org) (December 10, 2010 at 4:42 am) :

    I just have to echo again that I believe it is a mistake not to publish entries in this series in a hardback edition. Perhaps it is more cost effective to take the trade paperback route, but I know there are plenty of faithful readers (like myself) who will skip these entries entirely, or find a free copy at the library. I might be wrong, but I believe the loss of goodwill in a project of this scope will be far more harmful to Canongate in the long run than the loss of profits that might be experienced by published hardback editions of these specific entries.

  29. Di (January 8, 2011 at 11:39 pm) :

    I have to briefly add my word of support to Charlie. I can’t believe this entire thread has said pretty much nothing about how wonderful the Myths series is, or anything at all helpfully critical about the choice of authors, myths or style.

    We are so lucky to have access to books, when so much of the world does not! Get a grip, folks! These myths were around long before any of us were born, and they’ll be around long after our hardbacks and paperbacks have disintegrated into nothingness. Having such a wide range of eminent authors bringing them to new life for us is a luxury.

  30. Fascinating re-telling of an acnient Amazonian myth, by Shane Creevy – www.Politico.ie, 08 March 2010 « Milton Hatoum (May 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm) :

    [...] but recently the publishers switched to paperback, much to the consternation of their readers. The official page for Orphans of Eldorado has received a plenitude of complaints about this but once the covers are [...]

  31. Clare (July 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm) :

    Well said Di – I’m sure we all have more important things to spend our energy on!

  32. Kirsten (September 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm) :

    As former publisher of a tiny, struggling nonprofit press, I must add my own contribution to the comments above. Many, many considerations go into the economic decisions of any one title, and even those who determined that certain titles needed to be paperback did not necessarily prefer paperback. Book publishing is a very difficult business with an incredibly low profit margin, all for a product that is in great competition, within a shrinking market (e-everything), and that is always returnable by the store and easily damaged en route. Many bookstores will keep paperbacks on the shelves but return hardbacks that haven’t sold within their first few months. Given the much higher printing costs of hardback, and the much smaller selling window, in some cases, were a book not published in paperback, it would not be published at all.

    I commend Canongate for persevering with the series rather than letting it die simply because certain titles could not pay their way in hardcover. That’s really what it comes down to. For some books, it’s paperback, or it’s not printed at all.

  33. David (January 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm) :

    In reply to Kirsten, good points. But why couldn’t Canongate produce a limited pre-order hardback edition? Pre-orders would cover printing costs and the books could be bought directly from this site, circuventing the bookstore returns issue. Worth a trial?

  34. Orphans of Brazilian literature | Chicagoano (April 20, 2012 at 6:18 am) :

    [...] I prepared my class for next week, I wondered if my students would like the assigned Orphans of Eldorado (Orfãos do Eldorado) by Milton Hatoum. I truly believe it has all the elements to please gringo [...]

  35. Orphans of Brazilian literature (September 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm) :

    [...] I prepared my class last week, I wondered if my students would like the assigned Orphans of Eldorado (Orfãos do Eldorado) by Milton Hatoum. I truly believe it has all the elements to please gringo [...]

  36. Alex (January 5, 2013 at 8:24 pm) :

    While I have no issues concerning the cover issue, I would like to point out one thing: the book, in its English publication, is not the product of Milton Hatoum alone, as it is a translation from the Portuguese.

    Would it be possible for Canongate to include, in the Author section on this page, one line about John Gledson?


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