CULTURE

Greek titles, not just the mezedes, draw interest

LONDON – The bash at the Greek stand at the London Book Fair Monday evening attracted an eager crowd, and not just for the delicious mezedakia and wine. «We saw booksellers’ and publishers’ representatives, as well as independent publishers and agents,» EKEBI official Christina Theocharis told Kathimerini English Edition. Negotiating and selling international rights is still a tricky area for the Greek book industry, Theocharis admits, «but it’s something we’re going to work on.» A key element in the effort to penetrate the international market at this fair was the author presentation event held at the LBF Pitch Place, yesterday afternoon. Literary critic and translator Aris Berlis presented newly established authors Eleni Yannakakis, whose first novel, «Of Appetite and other Horrors,» won the diavazo award for a first novel, and Nikos Panayotopoulos, whose latest work «Benefit of Doubt» has already been translated into French and German. Discussion focused largely on the extent to which contemporary Greek fiction might resonate for foreign readers. Yannakakis, who uses gastronomy as a metaphor in her book, which satirizes the affluent society of contemporary Greece, said, «I don’t think Greek writers should deliberately try to write something that is translatable into another culture, but we do live in an internationalized culture, and much of what applies to Greece will apply to other countries.» Panayotopoulos agreed, noting that while his book was written in Greek, his characters have names from different nationalities, and the action could have taken place anywhere. WIth the fair in its final hours, the audience was perhaps necessarily modest, although interested publishers attended. One publishing house at the LBF that has already published some Greek titles is Arcadia, an up-and-coming firm that was voted Sunday Times Small Publisher of the Year 2002/2003. Arcadia fields a list of established British authors and fiction in translation. Gary Pulsifer of Arcadia told Kathimerini English Edition that his company’s choice of titles was a conscious attempt to counterbalance what it sees as American cultural imperialism in the publishing world. Pulsifer has a long-lasting attachment to Greece, which he used to visit frequently. He expects his firm’s latest release of a Greek title, «The Daughter» (I mitera tou skylou), by Pavlos Matesis, translated by Fred A. Reed, to do very well. «The book has already been translated into nine languages, and Emir Kusturica is making it into a film,» he said. Asked about how Greek books might break into the international market, Pulsifer suggested they take a leaf from the Norwegians’ book. «There used to be no organization promoting Norwegian literature,» he said, «until 20 years ago, when Kristen Brudevoll was brought in to do the job. Since then, Norway has reaped the fruits of her efforts. The Norwegian publishers travel together at the major fairs – Frankfurt, London, Bologna – year in, year out; you’ll see them even if you’re not looking for them.» TLS journalist Alix McSweeney, who often writes about Greek literature, told Kathimerini English Edition she felt Greek books would do better in the English-language market if they were bought and published by British publishers who know how to promote titles in that particular market. The verdict on the Greek effort at the LBF? A good start at a highly significant publishing event, and time to move on to the vital next step of international rights.