New chapter opens for Greek books

FRANKFURT – As the 53rd Frankfurt Book Fair draws to a close, most participants and visitors declared it a success. A few expressed concern that security arrangements had grown laxer as the week went on: I got in here today without any kind of security check at all, said Andrea Strohmeier of Blackwells on Friday, but stricter security was much in evidence near the American stands and security officers patrolled the Israeli pavilion. No complaints were voiced about the Greek presentation and events. They attracted plenty of attention and a very positive reaction from the German press, which plays a decisive role in sales of book rights. German journalist Renessa Renee Woelke-Niese of Media Artemis praised the Greek effort, comparing it favorably with what she described as the mistakes made two years ago when Thessaloniki was Europe’s Culture Capital: The Greeks have learnt a lot about PR, she says. This is their best effort yet. Every day you read something about Greek culture in the German press, and the people providing information were friendly and helpful, after recovering from a shaky start on the first day. Greek publishers at the fair were full of praise for the promotion of Greece. It’s been a pleasant surprise, in general and in particular, said Eva Karaitidi of Hestia Publishing, of the Greek presence this year in Frankfurt. It is a visually attractive presentation, and in fact this has been the first time we didn’t all complain. Business has been brisk for most firms, led by interest from German publishers. Once a book has been translated into German, says Karaitidi, other publishers show an interest, a view echoed by several Greek representatives. There were fewer visitors, but this was due to external events, Fiona Andrikopoulou of Kastaniotis Editions believed. Her firm had a successful fair, with several countries showing great interest in their authors Ioanna Karystiani, Alexis Panselinos, Amanda Michalopoulou, Ziranna Zatelli and Yiannis Xanthoulis, whose latest book, The Turk in the Garden, has sold 22,000 copies in two months in Greece. Among the authors for whose books Kastaniotis has bought the rights are Nobel-prize winners Nadine Gordimer and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Kedros’s front runner is Ersi Sotiropoulou’s Zigzag Among the Bitter Orange Trees, which has sold more than 6,000 copies in the German translation. Kedros sold the Spanish rights for Blue Book winner The Handsome Captain, by Menis Koumandareas, to Destino Publishers. Agra Publishers are pleased, according to Florence Lozet, who said there was quite a lot of action at the fair. We made the contacts we wanted, with most interest being expressed in Rhea Galanaki, Andreas Staikos and Nikos Kavvadias. The fact that modern Greek writers from Greece, Cyprus and the rest of the world are becoming known is a good thing. The events For the Greek contingent at the fair, Friday’s Book Evening at the Hesse State Radio was the undoubted highlight. An annual event held during the fair, this four-hour program with an audience of 2.5 million listeners around Germany is said to wield tremendous influence over book sales. In fact, many visitors to the fair Saturday came carrying newspaper reports of the program and asking for the books mentioned during it. Among the authors presented were Katerina Angelaki-Rook, Menis Koumandareas, Ersi Sotiropoulou and Ioanna Karystiani, who read from their work and answered questions. Popular actress Rosemarie Fendel read the extracts in German. Ruth Fuhner and Heinz Boehnke, the two highly skilled moderators, had done their homework thoroughly but wore their learning lightly, presenting a lively program in front of the large audience that had paid to attend the broadcast. As the fair opened to the public on Saturday, increasing numbers of visitors attended readings and discussions with novelists, poets and dramatists, and musical performances at the Greek Forum. Fellow-writers Koumandareas, Angelaki-Rook and Alki Zei joined the crowd to hear Zatellli read from Sto Lykofos Xanarchontai and answer questions. Yesterday morning, children’s writer Evgenios Trivizas offered a lively reading of his work accompanied by slides. For music lovers, last night offered The Roads of Erotocritos I, II, III’ with Psarantonis, Loudovikos ton Anogeion and Evgenios Spatharis. Poets’ Night took place shortly afterward at the Literaturhaus.

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