Greek books in translation

“Translation shapes the image of a culture in the eyes and imagination of different countries and different cultures,» said Jacques Bouchard yesterday at the Zappeion Press Center. The National Book Center (EKEBI) had invited the press to «The Journey of Greek Literature,» a panorama of Greek books translated into 40 other languages over the past 10 years. Bouchard, professor of modern Greek literature at Montreal University and a noted translator, analyzed statistics from a survey EKEBI conducted with the help of publishers and embassies in view of the Athens Olympic Games. Though the survey does not pretend to be conclusive, significant trends emerge, he explained. As Bouchard commented, no information was available about Greek books that have been translated into the languages of India, the Arab world, some regional languages of the former Soviet bloc or of Africa, so future research will doubtless enrich and alter the picture. French heads the list of some 1,400 books, with 264 titles translated in the past 10 years. English is next, with 215 titles, followed by German with 179, Spanish with 132 and Italian with 90. Among the 40 languages into which Greek works have been translated are Turkish, Albanian, Finnish, Hungarian, Basque, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Japanese and Baltic and Scandinavian languages. The most translated authors are C.P. Cavafy, Nikos Kazantzakis, George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis and Yiannis Ritsos. Among contemporary works, Eugene Trivizas’s children’s literature and Alki Zei’s fiction for young people are widely translated. The novelists whose work has been translated into at least 10 languages are Vassilis Vassilikos, Rhea Galanaki, Apostolos Doxiadis, Menis Koumandareas, Pavlos Matesis and Andreas Staikos. Contemporary poets translated into at least five languages are Manolis Anagnostakis, Nassos Vagenas, Kiki Dimoula and Antonis Fostieris. Hazarding a guess at the image the statistics reflect, Bouchard said it was of «a multifaceted Greece… a new dynamic Greece that charms and attracts.» Bouchard emphasized the need to support centers for modern Greek studies abroad, and to use existing European Union translation programs to acquaint new EU members with Greek writing.

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