Greek books go abroad in attempt to gain a larger reading public

The Greek book world hit a high spot last October, when Greece was guest of honor at the 2001 Frankfurt Book Fair. That occasion successfully galvanized activity on the publishing and translating front. Now the challenge is to capitalize on the momentum and keep Greek books and writers in the spotlight. This October, the international book fairs of Barcelona and Frankfurt will see a concerted effort by the National Book Center (EKEBI), the Greek Culture Ministry, the Panhellenic Federation of Publishers and Booksellers (POEB), the European Translation Center (EKEMEL), the Hellenic Authors’ Society and the writers themselves to keep up the good work. Barcelona and Frankfurt Greece will be making its first official appearance at Liber 2002, the 20th International Book Fair of Barcelona (October 2-5), presenting established writers whose work has been translated into Spanish. In the now regular appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair (October 9-13) the focus will be on writers who have recently made their literary debut. At both fairs, Greece will have a national stand, housing all the participating organizations. The stand at Barcelona is also hosting eight Greek publishers who are involved in the Spanish-speaking market: Agra, Estia, Kastaniotis, Kedros, Metaichmio, Minoas, Polis and Okeanida. An added attraction at Liber 2002 will be an exhibition: «Illustrated high-quality books on Greek art, culture, architecture and archaeology,» curated by Anny Rayia. The Greek program at the Barcelona Fair starts on Wednesday with a reception at the Greek stand. Professor Vicente Fernandez Gonzales from Malaga University, who is also a translator, will speak on trends in contemporary Greek prose and present Ioanna Karystiani’s book, «Little England.» Later that evening, critic Angel Vivas will present books by Rhea Galanaki and Lena Divani. There are other events on Thursday and Friday to introduce Filippos Drakontaidis, Pavlos Matesis, Dimitris Kalokiris and Petros Markaris. On Thursday at 9 p.m., there is a gastronomic and literary meeting of Spanish and Greek writers and publishers at a literary cafe run by writer Pedro Zarraluki. The Frankfurt program runs along similar lines, and will be reported on closer to the event. Presenting the events to the press yesterday, EKEBI’s director, Christos Lazos, noted that Spain had been the guest of honor at the Greek Book Festival in May. «Though it was a low-key event,» he said, «there was close cooperation among the Greek organizers and the Spanish consulate, which is now paying off.» Building interest The Greek presence in Barcelona will boost interest in what is already a growing market. Spanish-language books represent a significant share of the Greek market, with Spanish titles translated into Greek coming third in volume after English and French titles. The Spanish market is also showing keen interest in Greek literature. Building on that interest, EKEMEL is instituting a Greek-Spanish, Spanish-Greek translation course this semester and EKEBI has made a proposal to the Spanish Culture Ministry for the establishment of a translation prize to be offered in alternate years to a Greek work translated into Spanish and a Spanish-language work translated into Greek. The authors At Liber 2002, leading Spanish Hellenists, critics, academics and translators will present seven Greek authors: Pavlos Matesis, Petros Markaris, Ioanna Karystiani, Filippos Drakontaidis, Dimitris Kalokiris, Rhea Galanaki and Lena Divani, all of whom have titles translated into Spanish. In Frankfurt, there will be six writers who have recently appeared on the publishing scene: Nikos Panayiotopoulos, Maria Kondyli, Asterios Tsirkas, Vangelis Hadziyiannidis, Sergios Gakas, Eleni Yiannakaki and Lena Livani. The authors are not selected by a committee, explains Lazos, as this would imply some kind of evaluation. «It is not the job of EKEBI to evaluate writers,» he says. «It promotes Greek books. EKEBI takes various criteria into consideration, the chief of which for Barcelona is that the writers concerned have had some of their work translated into Spanish.» Making a first appearance as an organization at both fairs is the Hellenic Authors’ Society (formerly the Greek Writers’ Society), which has been recently undergoing a process of reorganization. «We have adopted a more outgoing approach over the past six months,» says Aris Marangopoulos, speaking on behalf of the society. «This includes our participation for the first time as a body in an international fair. And our website is now available in an English version.» The statistics The overall budget for the Greek participation in Liber 2002 comes to 180,000 euros, and for the Frankfurt fair, 295,000 euros. Giorgos Psomadakis, Maria Marinou and Elli Pangalou designed the national stands. Though the Fankfurt stand will not be as large as last year’s, when Greece was guest of honor, it is still one and a half times the size it was in 2000. This year, the Greek delegation will have the advantage of having all their events concentrated in the same area, rather than scattered around the fair and at times that clash. The Greek stand at Barcelona will be located in an optimal position, right next to the stand of Portugal, which is this year’s guest of honor. And at the Frankfurt fair, the Greek stand will be next to that of Lithuania, which is the guest of honor there. As the Greek experience of last year demonstrated, a good site plays an immense part in attracting the interest of visitors. Both efforts have the full support of the Greek Culture Ministry, says Costas Koroulis, who believes that participation in the fairs will lead to Greek books acquiring the international outlets of which they are greatly in need. Future projects include the first official Greek participation in the international fairs of Belgrade and Istanbul, says Lazos.

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