The other side of culture

At the State Literary Awards ceremony on Monday, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis acknowledged that his ministry has been «in the eye of the storm» lately. That’s putting it mildly, but the minister himself, who inherited a problematic organization, is not generally held to be the culprit for its missteps. The event itself, which comprised awards for two years, 2006 and 2007, was a reminder of the delays for which the ministry has been known. The explanation offered at the ceremony Monday by a ministry official – that the delay in the 2006 awards was due to the Olympic Games in Athens – was unconvincing to say the least. Weren’t the Games in 2004? Better days may come when the ministry cleans its house. Promising to rectify matters, and to «give culture new content,» Liapis made some commitments that people in the Greek book world have been waiting for. One was to reactivate the program for funding translations of Greek books, which was inactive for years, leaving translators and publishers unpaid and damaging the reputation and prospects of Greek books. It will take time to reverse the damage. All is not gloomy in the world of culture, however, as novelist Ioanna Karystiani pointed out when she took the microphone after receiving the 2007 award for fiction. «I feel I’ve got my breath back,» she said, «being here with people who care about books.» She cited examples of fine plays and exhibitions happening around town, clearly a suggestion that we engage with culture events rather than wallowing in scandal.