Newsletter

Amsterdam, June 2006, Number 19
Editor: Hella Rottenberg

CONTENTS

Legacy of the Book Market Project in Serbia & Montenegro
Books Recently Published

Grants

Funding


The legacy of the Book Market Project in Serbia & Montenegro

The project, which was launched in April 2003 and comes to an end this June, has resulted in a wide range of essential elements for the book trade infrastructure across the country.

Book Information System

The daily updated Books in Print catalogue KnjigaInfo (www.KnjigaInfo.com) includes information on books available on the market with ca 32.000 titles in the database searchable online, about 22.000 scanned covers, 1.200 publishers, 354 bookstores, 380 libraries, 20 wholesalers, 9 book importers, and 79 printing houses. KnjigaInfo provides online more than 37.000 texts on books, authors, translators and editors, such as summaries, reviews, interviews, biographies and bibliographies. KnjigaInfo publishes weekly a top list of bestsellers based on reports from 22 bookstores. One of the most important presentations of new data is a regular monthly programme on national television. Since January 2005, the electronic bulletin Shop Window KnjigaInfo informs users about the most recent books in various fields. The weekly electronic bulletin KnjigaInfo – Weekly Survey comprises reviews, information about events from the book sector, news from the book market, interviews with authors, information on literary competitions and awards, etc. Each bulletin consists of some 60 articles and is sent via e-mail to about 1.500 addresses – publishers, booksellers, libraries, journalists, and other book trade professionals, providing them with a unique source of relevant information. The user-friendly and reliable KnjigaInfo has gained wide professional recognition at home and abroad.

Distribution

The project supported the development of professional distribution, serving a large number of publishers, booksellers, and libraries on equitable terms, to increase efficiency and decrease the high distribution costs, introduce buying of books instead of consignment or barter trade, and make the supply of titles possible country-wide. Professional specialised book trade software for distributors, wholesalers, and bookstores was developed to enable them to increase their efficiency.

The distribution centre BookBridge established cooperation with more than 150 publishers, 76 booksellers and 25 libraries in Serbia & Montenegro, and sold more than 100.000 books. Moreover, BookBridge carried out the Books across Borders Library Program in close cooperation with the Croatian partner company Distriks, acquiring books from Croatian publishers for Serbian and Montenegrin libraries. The books were selected by participating libraries.

Bookstores

The project supported the establishment of good bookshops across the country outside the capital cities. Quality bookshops were opened between 2004 and 2006 in towns outside Belgrade and Novi Sad with the support of the project - Cetinje and Podgorica (Montenegro), Kragujevac, Kruševac, Novi Pazar, Smederevo, Sremska Mitrovica, Subotica, Vršac, and Zrenjanin. The project brought improvement to  other bookshops, too, through training, consultations, and assistance in initial investment in equipment and the development of book trade software.

Training was also provided for publishers and distributors in a series of seminars, workshops, and expert consultations on topics such as Cooperation within the book chain, Publishing strategies, Management in publishing, Marketing and promotion, Distribution, Bookselling, and New technologies in the book trade. A well-attended public presentation followed by a debate on the Slovenian Book Price Agreement took place, and resulted in an initiative to develop a Serbian version of book price maintenance.

Books across Borders The project provided matching funds for working visits of publishers, booksellers and distributors aimed at cooperation with colleagues in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, which resulted in a number of joint projects and co-production of books.

Funding

The project, implemented in partnership with the National Library of Serbia, has been co-financed by the Matra Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the CEEBP, the Ministry of Culture of Serbia, the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro, Next Page Foundation, Fund for Open Society Serbia, and increasingly by the participating publishers, booksellers, and distributors.

BOOKS RECENTLY PUBLISHED

In Minsk, Belorussia, Logvinov has published the Belorussian translation of Michal Viewegh’s novel Báječná léta pod psa (Those Wonderful Years that Sucked). The original Czech edition was issued in 1992.

Michal Viewegh (born in Prague in 1962) is the number one best-selling Czech author and a prolific one, too: since the late 1990s he has published a novel every spring. He writes about romantic relationships and contemporary human behavior. Because of the subject and the style (lots of humor and irony), Viewegh is often compared to Nick Hornby. Those Wonderful Years that Sucked is Viewegh’s second novel. It is by far the most popular Czech book of the 1990s; it has been republished six times and about 120.000 copies have been sold. It has also appeared in many translations. In 1997 a movie was made based on the novel.

Despite (or because of?) his tremendous commercial success, Viewegh has fallen out of favor with literary critics, who accuse him of milking the idea of a rough-diamond-male-protagonist for the sake of commerce and offering only linear stories filled with stereotypes. If you as a reader, however, are looking to have these stereotypes confirmed, reading Viewegh’s novels can be quite rewarding. His audience seems to be of this opinion.

The title Those Wonderful Years that Sucked craftily refers to the two topics of the book – the era of ‘normalization’ of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion in 1968, and the perils of growing up. In both cases, hindsight often distorts fair judgment of the period in question; adults can talk very nostalgically about their teenage years, whereas in reality those days quite often simply ‘sucked’. Similarly, after the Velvet Revolution plenty of disgruntled unemployed Czechs felt they had lost something and seemed to romanticize ‘those wonderful years’ of employment and security. There was something rewarding in keeping your mouth shut and steering clear of politics.

In this semi-autobiographical novel, the main character Kvido describes through the eyes of a child the everyday life of his family over the years from the 1960s till 1992. We get to know his grandfather Josef, who has the habit of letting his parakeets pick food from his teeth, his grandmother Líba, who never puts meat on the table in order to save money to go on foreign trips with her geriatric girlfriends, and his paranoid father who desperately tries to flee from (political) reality – or at least tries everything within his powers to ignore it as long as possible. The bizarre attempts of his father ‘not to become involved’ are hilarious and sad at the same time. He refuses to become a party member, but pays a price: he is forced to play in the local soccer team (although he lacks any talent and is an embarrassment to the eye) and to buy a guard dog, although his wife has a severe dog phobia. But all goes awry, when Kvido’s mother and father accidentally run into the writer Pavel Kohout, who is banned from Prague to their little village, in the local supermarket. They still fight about where they were standing when they saw him, who talked to him first and who decided to take him up on his offer to come over for dinner, but their decision to do so costs them dearly: father loses his job and is forced to become a night porter. He sees no alternative but to lock himself in the basement and put together his own coffin. In the end even Kvido’s Don Quixote-like father is overtaken by history.

Those Wonderful Years that Sucked is one of the first novels to appear since the Velvet Revolution to deal with the effects of communism, and especially the normalization period, on people. With plenty of humor and irony Viewegh shows what absurd behavior was asked of citizens if they wanted to play the game, that is, lead a ‘normal life’. More often than not, this behavior went directly against the natural tendencies of an individual. And even if one tried very hard to fall in line, the outcome was unpredictable. One could become an outcast overnight, as becomes clear from the story of Kvido’s father.

By Bronja Prazdny

Ideea Europeana in Bucharest published the famous Correspondence from 1926 by Rainer Maria Rilke, Marina Tsvetayeva and Boris Pasternak, in a translation from Russian and German into Romanian.

The correspondence between the three European poets lasted only several months. Then Rilke, who had been ailing, died of leukemia. Boris Pasternak, on whose initiative the correspondence had started, was devastated by the news of Rilke’s death. His dream that together with Marina Tsvetayeva he would visit the elder German poet would never come true. But their letters, written in the summer of 1926 and released for publication fifty years later, testify to their intense relationship.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) had special feelings for Russia. He had travelled to Russia twice, in 1899 and 1900, and was deeply affected by the country and its people. After his first trip he immediately started to learn Russian. He called Russia ‘the homeland of my instinctual being’ and ‘the basis of my perceptions and experience.’  During his visits to Russia Rilke met with writers and artists, among whom the well-known portrait-painter Leonid Pasternak. Pasternak’s son Boris (1890 – 1960), the future poet, translator and prose-writer and a great admirer of the German lyricist, was only ten years old when he met Rilke.

War and revolution separated Russia and Germany. When in 1925 Leonid Pasternak, who had moved to Berlin, learned that Rilke was celebrating his 50th birthday, he wrote him a letter of congratulations. Boris, who had stayed behind in Moscow, took up the correspondence with Rilke. Switzerland, where Rilke was living, and the Soviet Union did not have diplomatic or postal relations, so Pasternak had to make use of an intermediary. Instead of his father in Berlin, he chose his soul-mate, the Russian poetess Marina Tsvetayeva (1892 – 1941). At the time she was living in France.

And so the correspondence started. In German, when Rilke was on one side of the correspondence, in Russian when letters were exchanged between Pasternak and Tsvetayeva. Borders, nationality, dramatically different circumstances and fate did not seem to be an obstacle for them: all of them were European artists, who sought inspiration with one another. Tsvetayeva even felt offended when she surmised that Rilke thought of her as a real ‘Russian poet’. She wrote Rilke that the language in which a poet was writing did not matter: ‘Writing poetry is in itself translating, from the mother tongue into another, whether French or German should make no difference.’

Both Pasternak and Tsvetayeva felt deeply influenced by the poetry of Rilke and passionately wanted to become intimate friends with him and form a kind of bond. Rilke did not know enough Russian to appreciate the poetry of his young colleagues in the original language. He reacted amicably enough to their letters, but for him the contact was not of such importance, it seems. By that time, also, he was already too ill to fulfil their high expectations. The most elaborate exchanges are those between Pasternak and Tsvetayeva, mostly detailed comments about recent poems. What strikes the reader, is the dominance of Tsvetayeva in the relationship. She freely and rather bluntly criticises Pasternak’s work, while Pasternak expresses only admiration to Tsvetayeva’s brilliant ideas and verse. For those who know the work of Pasternak and Tsvetayeva, their letters must be very interesting, because they bring their creative process close. For readers who are not so familiar with their poetry, however, the texts are often somewhat hermetic.

By Hella Rottenberg


GRANTS

In April 2006, the CEEBP awarded twenty-two grants for books and five special grants. The grants for books were awarded for twelve West – East translations, nine East – East translations, and one original title. The special grants were awarded to a Belarussian publisher for equipment and to a Serbian one for a website, to Transitions On Line for its book reviews and promotion of reading, to a publishers’ training course in Prague, and last but not least for entries of Central and East European publishers in the Frankfurter Buchmesse catalogues and e-Stands. 

Books

Panajotov Civikov, Kralica Mab, Sofia

Bulgarian translation by Kaloyan Pramatarov, SONM, Sofia

Hungarian Jewish History – A Jerusalem Anthology, Hungarian translation from English and Hebrew by Judith Stöckl, Múlt es Jövő Kiadó, Budapest

Curtea Veche, Bucharest

Ljubljana

Slovo, Skopje

Agniezska Łasek , Czarne, Wołowiec

Economies and Societies: Land, Lords, States and Middlemen, Serbo-Croatian translation from French and English by Nikola Bertolino and Veselin Kostić, Equilibrium, Beograd

Other grants


FUNDING

Back to Archive