Greek authors meet European book critics

Good… Greek novels have been translated, found foreign publishers and gone into the market. And now what? Now the translated works are sailing in harsh waters… What sort of extra help can the State provide, considering that in the last few years it has exported writers, promoted books and funded translations? One answer came from the European Translation Center (EKEMEL), which, in collaboration with the National Book Center, organized the First Meeting of Greek Novelists and European Literary Critics on Rhodes last weekend. At the International Writers and Translators’ Center of Rhodes, with the wind blowing and the Asia Minor seaside keeping the cosmopolitan gathering in good company, the effort to get acquainted began shyly in the beginning, but then got a bit bolder. On the one hand were the writers: Ioanna Karystiani, Petros Markaris, Nikos Panayiotopoulos, Nikos Themelis, Eleni Yiannikaki, Takis Theodoropoulos, Evgenios Trivizas, Ersi Sotiropoulou and Vangelis Hadziyiannidis. On the other were media figures including Boyd Tonkin (The Independent), Maya Jaggi (The Guardian), Alix MacSweeney (The Times Literary Supplement), Florence Noiville (Le Monde), Thierry Fabre (La Pensee de Midi, France), Michel Grodent (Le Soir, Belgium), Hubert Spiegel (Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung), Angel Vivas (El Mundo) and Francisco Solano (El Pais). The event’s novelty did not negatively influence its outcome. The writers spoke openly, almost in a confessional manner; charmingly nervous, they responded to some timely questions with long explanations or by simply stating that they didn’t have the answers. In order to attend the event, Ioanna Karystiani escaped from the filming of Pantelis Voulgaris’s movie «The Brides.» Although her new novel («The Saint of Solitude») is due out in a few days, she demurred from discussing it in detail. Rather, she opted to passionately sketch an outline of what she writes about: «I write about gray people and burnt pieces of paper… There is beauty, grandeur and shine in each and every one of us,» she said, adding that she began writing at the age of 42, felt pressured by time, and compelled to give as much as possible. Nikos Themelis also took the opportunity to discuss his writing methods and talked about how his sagas aim to record and explain Greece in the period between the wars, the Venizelos era and urban modernization. Does literature serve as an approach and interpretation of history? Themelis did not answer this timely question. Nikos Panayiotopoulos explained his work’s indirect relationship with science fiction, while newcomer Vangelis Hadziyiannidis spoke disarmingly about how the idea for his first book came about: among other small and revealing details, by observing the various provenances of honey on the labels. During some relaxed and friendly evening gatherings, we heard that the English-language market is not seeking translations, that it is hard to break onto the scene simply because the periphery (the vast Commonwealth) produces a vast of amount of works in English, endlessly enriching the market. Should we then avoid translations and getting acquainted? On the contrary. The fruits of these meetings were not all obvious or one-sided. At least we communicated with open-minded intellectuals like Boyd and Maya, people just like us, eating together and sharing time in a friendly, multicolored and equal Europe. We are looking forward to the next step.

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