Writers unite for global novel

Commenting on a collective writing effort, «Global Novel,» as part of a four-year series of Cultural Olympiad events leading up to the Athens Olympics next year, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos described the concept as «a writing relay loaded with playful elements» at the project’s recent official launch in Athens. The novel’s idea was proposed by the Greek writer Giorgos Skourtis, who will be taking part as one of the project’s 14 contributors – 11 foreigners and three locals – from a total of 12 countries. The idea is not unprecedented. In Greece alone, two similar experiments have already been published in the past. Skourtis had contributed to the second of these, «To Paichnidi Ton Tessaron» (Game of the Four). Unlike that collective effort, however, whose quartet of writers were already acquainted, «Global Novel» brings together a 14-member team of mostly strangers. The Cultural Olympiad’s administration and local publisher Kastaniotis have joined efforts to coordinate the project. The team of writers recruited are, in alphabetical order: Niccolo Ammaniti (Italy), Alexandros Asonitis (Greece), Feride Cicekoglu (Turkey), Michel Faber (UK), Aris Fioretos (Greece), Gamal Ghitani (Egypt), Artur Japin (the Netherlands), Yasmina Khadra (Algeria), Pavel Kohout (the Czech Republic), Lena Livani (Greece), Ingo Schulze (Germany), Antonio Skarmeta (Chile), Giorgos Skourtis (Greece), and Abraham Yehoshua (Israel). Ten of the project’s 14 writers gathered for the first time at the launch in Athens, held at the Culture Ministry, and followed up by spending three days together to discuss the project, including issues such as the order of writing and subjects to be examined. The other four writers, Ammaniti, Yehoshua, Schulze, and Fioretos, were all absent as a result of last-minute travel complications. Venizelos, who ruled out the tempting thought of disregarding this effort as a mere writing game, described it as a «product of multicultural collaboration.» The minister admitted that the initiative’s global nature had already prompted some early tension because of its link with globalization. «Anything that contains national authenticity can be universal,» Venizelos argued. The 14 writers will examine the definition of civilization, each from their own perspective. Offering his opinion, Venizelos noted that civilization was not just about art, or enterprise behind art’s various domains, but mainly concerned «mentalities, collective identities, accumulation of history, and values,» issues which the minister said he hoped would be raised by the project’s authors. Once completed, «Global Novel» will be released by Kastaniotis next Christmas. As the writing progresses, excerpts will be published in the Athens daily Ta Nea, next summer, while updates will also be published daily on the Internet ( Twenty-four translators will work continuously as a communications bridge connecting the authors, who will translate their writings into 11 different languages.