NEA awards benefit Greek books abroad

Good news for two Greek writers: Amanda Michalopoulou and Alexis Stamatis will each have a book translated and published in the United States, thanks to the new International Literature Awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which was announced on February 15. The awards will give American readers «greater access to quality foreign literary work in translation.» As NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said, «Translation provides Americans with as direct a connection as possible to both the individual voice of the author and the heart of a culture.» «I’m very happy to receive this honor, especially for a book of mine that I love,» Stamatis told Kathimerini. He congratulated Michalopoulou, who could not be contacted for comment. «I think Greek literature has got what it takes to do well abroad. Greece has many fine writers and an exceptionally interesting younger generation with its own voice that looks out on the world,» Stamatis added. The first NEA awards go to non-profit presses in Greece and Spain. The publishers, which each receive an award of $10,000, are Dalkey Archive Press for Michalopoulou’s «Tha ithela» (I’d Like), Etruscan Press for Stamatis’s «Amerikaniki fouga» (American Fugue) and Archipelago Books for Unai Elorriaga’s «Vredaman.» The partner countries match the award, so the Embassy of Greece in Washington will award a matching $10,000 grant with support from the National Book Center of Greece. The support can be used «for all elements of the process including publisher fees, publication costs and public outreach activities, such as author and translator tours for educational programs.» Dalkey Archive Press has over 300 books in print from more than 25 countries. Michalopoulou’s short-story collection «I’d Like,» published by Kastaniotis in 2005 (reviewed here July 14, 2005), will be translated by Karen Emmerich, who has won numerous awards for her translations. She teaches Greek and writing at Columbia University. Michalopoulou’s work has been widely translated but this will be the first of her books to appear in English. Stamatis has had other books translated into English, but his road novel «American Fugue,» published by Kastaniotis in 2006 (reviewed here on December 21, 2006) will be his first to get published in the USA. Translator and writer Diane Thiel will translate «American Fugue» with her husband Constantine Hadjilambrinis, a professor at the University of New Mexico, for Etruscan Press, a non-profit cooperative of artists and writers. Good news indeed. But what is the Greek government doing to promote local literature abroad? «The basic means of promoting Greek literature beyond the borders is translation,» noted Stamatis. «I’m struck by the fact that the chief policy tool, the Culture Ministry’s translation funding program, has been stalled for years. I think that [Culture Minister Giorgos] Voulgarakis should look into it at once and find a solution. There are books that foreign publishers have signed contracts for and are waiting on funding to be published.»