Penguin Books launches £1 Modern Classics range in diversity push

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23 Feb 2018 | Katie Grant | Independent

Penguin Books is launching a new series of “modern classics” featuring authors including Martin Luther King Jr that will cost just £1 each.

The publisher, well known for its popular Penguin Classics range, has produced the Modern Classics series to introduce readers to a “diverse range of 20th Century writers who broke the rules, created new means of expression and made their voices heard against the odds”.

Lack of diversity Too often the authors who have dominated the classics canon “have not represented the true diversity of world literature”, Penguin admitted.

It hopes to go some way to redressing the balance with the 50 small-format books that comprise the Modern Classics range, which will be available to buy on Thursday.

The collection features Dr King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, which the civil rights leader wrote on the margins of a newspaper while serving time in Alabama Jail after being arrested for protesting the treatment of black people in Birmingham, Alabama.

Radical voices Other “radical voices” in the Penguin Modern series include the cult literary figure Kathy Acker, who self published the story New York City in 1979, Shirley Jackson, the gothic writer marginalised and undermined by the literary establishment in the mid-20th Century, and Federico García Lorca, who was executed for his political beliefs by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.

Each slim volume contains a complete story, essay, speech or poem.

Here are some of the titles on offer:

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“So many of these authors were radical and groundbreaking in their time and remain just as provocative today,” said Jessica Harrison, editorial director for Penguin Classics.

“Each book offers a concentrated hit of its author’s work and will, we hope, introduce many readers to these brilliant and diverse voices.”

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