CULTURE

Books beyond national borders

Getting Greek books and book people beyond national borders to address the global community is the main thrust of the recently elected government’s policy on books, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis told Kathimerini English Edition in an interview on Thursday. Tatoulis expects the newly appointed administration of the National Book Center (EKEBI) to bring fresh impetus to promoting this policy, promises support for public libraries, and reveals plans for a new network of mobile lending libraries in remote areas. What plans does your government have for promoting Greek books and writers in Greece and abroad? In what was essentially my first press conference, held in the presence of the new National Book Center (EKEBI) board and in reference to the Scripta [2004 Book Fair], I said that our main concern is for Greek books and book people to go beyond national borders and address the global community. We are determined that Greek books secure a central position on the shelves of the largest bookstores in Western Europe and in the hearts of readers. This will happen by our transforming EKEBI from a place of stagnation where favors are done for friends and acquaintances into a modern organization with robust management, proper allocation of duties and responsibilities and, above all, a desire to work and make a positive contribution. EKEBI’s new board of management, which will be the agent promoting a new outlook on books from the political leadership of the Culture Ministry, comprises people of recognized worth and long experience in the field, as well as young, hardworking people with new, advanced ideas and expertise in modern management. At EKEBI, we have managed to combine experience and dynamism, and I think this is the key to achieving all the significant goals we have set for Greek books. Do you have any plans to help publishers? There are plans to boost everyone involved with Greek books, and not only with literature, but everything that has to do with the written word. To our way of thinking, there are no privileged groups that should be supported to the detriment of others. One of the basic planks in our party platform, for which we were elected by the Greek people, was the achievement of equality before the law and the State for Greek citizens, regardless of their social origins and political views. We shall safeguard this in every aspect of culture, including books. What will you do to develop public libraries and foster reading? Public libraries are an area where Greece in general lags behind. It is very disappointing, for instance, that remote areas have no public libraries at all, and that in those areas which possess the infrastructure, it fall shorts of the public’s justifiable requirements. One of our priorities is to develop a program of state assistance – reactivating the institution of funding and providing incentives for publishers to make donations of books – so as to build up a planned, coordinated network of public libraries throughout Greece. And I can reveal to you that we are in the process of planning an ambitious program for the creation of a network of mobile lending libraries that will give residents of outlying areas the opportunity to come into contact with the magical world of books. How do you see the role of translators in promoting Greek books and do you have any plans to support them? Translators do indeed play an exceptionally important role in promoting Greek books abroad. As for state support, my answer is in line with what I said about publishers. Discrimination and personal favors are a thing of the past, something that Greeks ratified with their vote on March 7. You have said that Greek participation in international book fairs should have specific goals in each case. Could you give an example of this and how it might be achieved? In Turin, for example, the exhibit could have been centered around books about the Olympic Games, archaeological sites, tourist guides and travel literature. Of course, something of that sort demands the total cooperation of all the agencies involved in books with the executive board of EKEBI. That was not seen to happen in the past. With the appointment of the new administration, I am sure that it will at last become feasible. The book sector needs people who are determined to help and have a vision to offer. Only then will the sector be able to emerge from its narrow, local world and venture beyond the Pillars of Hercules to broader horizons.