CULTURE

Positively global literature: e-story by multiple authors

Gobalization could well apply to literature: the idea of a global novel, written by many writers in different languages, is much more feasible today thanks to the Internet. The Cultural Olympiad took on this suggestion and decided to include such a project in its program: About 10 to 13 writers – the number has yet to be finalized – will undertake the responsibility of writing a novel in rotation. As soon as each writer finishes his or her part the text will be immediately available on the Internet, so that those interested will be not only able to read it, but also to compare the different styles and treatment by each writer. Interest, of course, lies in the writers who will participate in this undertaking, and Kastaniotis publications, who had originally made the suggestion, is now busy trying to finalize the list of participants. Publisher Thanassis Kastaniotis has asked Andaios Chrysostomidis, head of the Kastaniotis foreign literature department, to handle the matter. The names which have been announced so far have caused a stir: Pavel Kohut, Abraham Yeoshua and Niccolo Amaniti, the upcoming young star from Italy. On the Greek side, Giorgos Skourtis will definitely take part because, as Thanassis Kastaniotis explains, he was the one to come up with the idea and to make the suggestion to the publishing house. «We just took on the idea and made the official suggestion, because in order to realize such a project, one must be able to get in touch with a large number of writers abroad,» Kastaniotis said. «Our second writer will be Lena Divani. The third one is still up in the air,» said Chrysostomidis. «It is a project that most writers do not dare take on,» Kastaniotis continued. «They daren’t take on the deadline, which will be very restrictive, and means getting hold of the text that the previous writers have prepared and to continue the novel in just a couple of days.» The prospect of comparison with internationally acclaimed writers is probably not very encouraging either. According to Chrysostomidis, the deadline for each writer has yet to be decided on. «Skourtis believes that the novel can be completed within a month, with each writer doing his bit every couple of days. I don’t think it will work out this way, I rather believe it will go on for about three months. Because it is not just about writers producing their work; we will also need at least another 16 to 18 people to translate the text into the languages of the other writers. As soon as a text is complete, it will be translated into eight or nine languages and will be immediately available on an Internet site which we will create. Upon reading it, the next writer will start writing his part. The writers themselves will decide on the amount of time that each of them will need, as well as how many times they will be able to go back to the text and make corrections, because I think that they will need to work on the text twice. They will all meet in Athens in the middle of April.» The writers will also decide on the theme of the novel, which will not be set by the publishing house. «They are big personalities in the field of literature and we don’t want to boss them around. They’ll choose the theme themselves. We might just ask them to restrict their choice to something Greek,» Kastaniotis said. «They could take an ancient myth and place it in the present,» Chrysostomidis added. «Skourtis has some ideas that he wants to discuss with the rest, but he has not even told us about them.» The idea of collective writing is not new. According to Chrysostomidis, the first attempt was made in England around about the time of Agatha Christie, when a group of writers produced a detective novel. «This is not new for Greece either: We had the ‘Novel of the Four’ by Miltiadis Karagatsis, Stratis Mirivilis, Angelos Terzakis and Ilias Venezis as well as another collective effort, more recently, by Antonis Sourounis, Petros Tatsopoulos, Giorgos Skourtis and Costas Mourselas, which was published in episodes by the Ta Nea newspaper. We are also planning for a serialized version of the global novel to appear in a newspaper, but we do not yet know which newspaper it will be in. In the end, of course, it will be published in the form of a book, in different languages and in many countries.» «The fact that this project will receive a lot of attention internationally, because of all the well-known writers who will participate, is a great opportunity for both our country but also for Greek literature to come into the limelight,» Kastaniotis said. «I talked about this project abroad quite a lot the past few months and the response was always very enthusiastic. If we manage to complete it without any mistakes, because it is a very difficult and fragile undertaking, it will be a great success both for Greece and for the book.» The project is definitely a big «PR event» according to Minister of Culture Evangelos Venizelos, a project of international stature at minimal cost that is estimated to come to about 50 to 60 million drachmas, a striking difference from the billions of drachmas spent by the Cultural Olympiad on other events. The sum includes the rather symbolic fee of 5,000 euros (1.7 million drachmas) that each of the writers will receive.