Book fair pulls rug on UK authors

In a shock decision, the organizers of this year’s International Book Fair in Athens have withdrawn their invitation to Britain to be guest of honor at the fair next month. Acting in response to what it sees as anti-war feeling among Greeks, the Athens Publishers and Booksellers Association (SEBA), which organizes the fair, decided it did not want the official British contingent on board. «Our problem is not the culture of Great Britain. Our problem is the policy that Britain follows today,» SEBA advisor Dimitris Papaleonidas told The Associated Press, adding that the fair would now honor peace. A stand displaying anti-war books from around the world that have been translated into Greek will replace the British stall, and international authors, including Oscar-winning American filmmaker and writer Michael Moore, have been invited to participate, The Associated Press reported. The British Council is taking SEBA’s action on the chin. «We’re a cultural and educational organization. We believe in dialogue; that’s the core of what we do,» acting Director Moses Anibaba told Kathimerini English Edition. «We don’t know the details behind SEBA’s decision, but we understand their feelings in the current situation and we respect their decision. We just hope that Britain will be the guest country next time round.» With strong anti-war sentiment making security an issue for the Athens fair, SEBA expressed its concern to British Council officials that it could not guarantee the safety of the authors. The British participants at the fair had intended to highlight contemporary fiction in «meet the author» events with leading crime writer Ian Rankin and James Tait Black memorial prize-winner Andrew Miller, and the Magic Pencil exhibition of children’s book illustrations. Individual British authors and publishers will not be excluded from the fair to be held in Pedion tou Areos park from May 9-25.