Newsletter

Amsterdam, December 2001, Number 10
Editor: Hella Rottenberg

CONTENTS

Books in Print

European history and integration

Book reviews online TOL

Successful literary festivals across border

Grants
Books Recently Published
Funding


BOOKS IN PRINT

What is more convenient for a customer than to enter a bookshop, ask for a title, and if it is not in stock, check whether the book is still available and ask for it be ordered immediately? For this seemingly simple mechanism a reliable tool is needed: Books in Print catalogues. These provide publishers, booksellers, libraries and individual customers with up-to-date information about books which are available, both new and forthcoming publications as well as back list titles, and they make clear how and where to acquire the books listed.

Since 1994 efforts have been made to introduce Books in Print catalogues in various Central and Eastern Europe countries. The need for reliable and up-to-date information is not contested, but it is not that easy to convince all people involved to cooperate.

After the structures for book distribution in Central and Eastern Europe collapsed, it has proved difficult to establish new networks, which work efficiently and which co-ordinate supply and demand. Booksellers in the region are primarily interested in new and forthcoming books. Titles older than three to four months are often not available in the bookshops, although they are not out of print. Booksellers are in practice not used to re-order titles which have sold out, meaning that the life span of books is short and that publishers lose income. Thus the development of the book market is obstructed.

The experience in Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and other countries, where pilot editions of Books in Print catalogues have been made, has shown that it is hard to convince publishers that it is in their own interest to provide the data needed for such a catalogue. They are very concerned about competition and their market shares and believe that direct selling to bookshops and direct promotion of their books is more effective than collaboration with other people involved on the book market. BiP-catalogues could be useful for them, however, not only as a tool for market communication, but as well as a means for getting an overview of the topics covered by the book market and thereby allowing them to define their special niches.

The Council of Europe and Soros’ Open Society Institute have been involved in efforts to introduce Books in Print catalogues since 1994. The process takes time; catalogues need a period of several years to be successfully implemented. And they need a subtle strategy for their introduction, tailored to the special characteristics of the national market. In Poland and Hungary Books in Print catalogues have become a normal feature of the book market. Also, in Latvia a Books in Print catalogue is being published. In Lithuania and Bulgaria, however, the projects are no longer continued, due to lack of financing. Elsewhere the process is still underway. In Romania, for example, a focus group of 25 publishers has been formed in order to see what kind of services they wish and to adapt the project accordingly. In Croatia, a literary magazine, Op.a, issues a catalogue of newly published titles every two months, thus accustoming publishers to provide reliable and complete data and making libraries, booksellers and individual customers aware of the usefulness of such information.

Finally new technologies, primarily the Internet and printing on demand, are linked to Books in Print catalogues which makes them an even more contemporary tool for a functioning book market.


EUROPEAN HISTORY AND INTEGRATION

Publishers in East and Central Europe have expressed the urgent need to translate, publish, and disseminate books on European history and European integration. Especially in the EU-accession and pre-accession countries, the need for books on these subjects aimed at non-specialist readers is acutely felt. The translation and promotion of quality titles in these fields can significantly influence the way history is conceived by historians, opinion making intellectuals, and teachers. Most of the history books now available are still written from a rather narrow national viewpoint, and there is a great dearth of information on the background, facts and aims of European integration. Moreover, the current public debate on European integration and the values and institutional arrangements on which Europe should rest is largely inaccessible to the Central and East European reader.

That is why CEEBP has launched a programme of support for the translation and publication of books on these subjects. The list of recommended books consists of titles which offer insight into the historical, philosophical, political, economical, institutional and cultural aspects of the ‘making of Europe’ and stimulate critical understanding of local history in its wider context. The list includes books such as Stanley Hoffmann’s The European Sisyphus. Essays on Europe, 1964-1994; Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century; Walter Laqueur’s Europe in Our Time; Hagen Schulze’s Staat und Nation in der europäischen Geschichte; Karen  Smith’s The Making of EU Foreign Policy. The Case of Eastern Europe; André Szász’s, The Road to European Monetary Union. For the full  annotated list, please click here.

The deadlines for grant requests and the awarding of grants take place within the usual procedures of the CEEBP twice a year.


BOOK REVIEWS ON LINE

Transitions Online (www.tol.cz), the Internet magazine which offers in-depth analyses of developments in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, has launched a book review section. Currently, several book reviews are published each month on such topics as culture, society, religion, economics, media, politics, and history. Occasionally, TOL also publishes profiles of authors and discussions of fiction, especially if these works of fiction reflect the ongoing transition process in post-communist countries.

In the future, the books section would like to focus, first and foremost, on the books and materials produced in the region's languages for a local audience, providing reviews of works which have caused a stir locally or which provide new historical and societal insights, but which would otherwise not reach an international audience – for example, a new Czech post-modern novel, a Russian critique of foreign economic assistance, or a Bosnian investigation of Balkan stereotypes.

The section will include English-language reviews of influential local-language books, as well as local-language reviews of English books that relate to the post-communist region. Ideally, these reviews, perhaps accompanied by translated excerpts, would convince Western publishers to translate and publish important works from Central and Eastern Europe. TOL’s partnership with CNN.com and the WashingtonPost.com and a growing list of syndication deals with Western agencies guarantees that the Book Corner will attract attention throughout Europe and in North America, thereby fulfilling its role as a centre of cultural exchange. In addition, TOL’s audience in the region would benefit from exposure to international debates and foreign viewpoints on local events – an antidote to parochialism and isolationism that dominates in parts of Eastern Europe.

TOL accepts both straightforward book reviews, as well as  longer essays along the lines of The New York Review of Books and reviews of several related books in order to capture the full breadth of local debates. Reviews generally range from 800 to 1500 words. TOL invites interested reviewers to submit queries to the following address: drukerovaa@tol.cz.


SUCCESSFUL LITERARY FESTIVALS ACROSS BORDERS

FAK (Festival A Kniževosti – Festival of Literature) is the first festival of lively prose-reading in the region of the former Yugoslavia. It was launched about a year ago by a group of prominent contemporary Croatian writers and after only a few presentations (in the Croatian cities of Osijek, Zagreb, and Pula) was proclaimed as the cultural event of the year in Croatia. FAK dramatically changed the stale atmosphere of Croatian literature and showed that real excitement in the field of culture is still possible.

FAK functions as an open festival aimed at promoting new literary writing. At the same time, it helps to establish the quality of new written prose works. FAK focuses on ’living’ literature, literature which is in constant touch with the reality of here and now. It makes a link between prose and other forms of literature such as theatre plays and film scripts. The festival demonstrates that literature is not a thing of the past.

The reaction of reading public to FAK was enormous and the sales of the books written by some of the writers involved in the festival (among them Ante Tomić and Zoran Ferić) have multiplied. They became literary stars in Croatia. Print runs reached previously unthinkable figures of five or six thousand copies.

FAK does not believe in borders and wishes to stimulate cultural exchange. From the very beginning writers from other countries in the region also participated in the festival, the most well known being: Nenad Velicković from Bosnia, Bora Cosić, Teofil Pančić, Aleksandar Tišma, Svetislav Basara and Vladimir Arsenijević from Serbia. FAK festivals usually last two or three evenings and the programme continues for 6 to 7 hours. Thanks to the performing quality of some of the writers (Franci Blasković, Boro Radaković, Đermano Senjanović) and to the host of FAK, the Croatian literary critic and the editor of the cultural monthly magazine Godine Nove, Kruno Lokotar, the festival is exciting and never dull. Reviewers said that the atmosphere at a FAK festival is much closer to rock concerts than it is to literary evenings.

The festival crossed borders. After Novi Sad, it was time for Belgrade to be the host. In association with the Centre for Cultural Decontamination, the Serbian publishing house Rende organised FAK-JU-BGD. Altogether 22 writers read from their own work: 14 from Croatia, 6 from Serbia, and two special guests from Hungary and Great Britain during three days in September. The festival was advertised two weeks in advance, in the magazine Vreme, by Radio B92, the daily newspaper Danas and other sympathetic media. FAK-JU-BGD attracted some 400 visitors each night. After the Festival, Rende published a book called FAK JU, an anthology of the texts read in Belgrade. So far, this is the only title on the Serbian book market with contemporary Croatian literature. And it sells well. FAK helps to reconnect Serbs and Croats and to rediscover each other after a whole decade of aggression and war. 


GRANTS

In September 2001, the CEEBP awarded 31 grants to publishers in Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Yugoslavia. Grants were allocated for sixteen books and six periodicals (two of which were for equipment and websites and one for subscription campaign), while book publishers received seven grants for equipment, website, and a joint e-bookshop and catalogue. Another grant was awarded for a festival. The CEEBP also sponsored the entries of Central and East European publishers in the Frankfurter Buchmesse Rights Catalogue, e-Stands, and participation in the Buchmesse conference on "Big Questions in Publishing".

The grants for books were allocated for fourteen West-East translations and for two East-East translations. The CEEBP launched the European History and Integration Programme, matching funds for publications in Romania with the Fundaţia Concept similarly as in the case of the Balkan History Programme.

Books

Journals

Other grants


BOOKS RECENTLY PUBLISHED

In Albania the publisher Onufri has published a biography of Dostoevsky by Leonid Grossman. This book was published in the Soviet Union in 1962, but had not reached the Albanian reader.  In Albania there is now a renewed interest in Dostoevsky, after a long period (1944 – 1990) in which the communist regime obstructed the publication and reading of this classical Russian author.

This 600 pages biography has been acclaimed as a thorough account and analysis of Dostoevsky’s life and work, written for the general public. The author, Grossman, spent his whole life doing research and collecting information on Dostoevsky. In the Soviet Union, Dostoevsky was perceived as a problematic writer in official literary criticism, for ideological reasons. The socialist utopianism of the younger Dostoevsky disappeared in his later works in which he depicted human kind as a complicated, violent and irrational lot. His Notes from the Underground were dismissed by Maxim Gorky as an expression of the ‘anarchistic ideology of the defeated’. Grossman defended the Notes in the 1920s, but was later on forced to recant. Grossman’s biography bears the imprint of  Soviet times. He presents the Dostoevsky who was acceptable in the 1960s: essentially a humanist and theist who tragically abandoned socialism on his return from imprisonment and exile in Siberia, but who in spite of reactionary religious and political views never lost his love for humanity or his sympathy for the oppressed. His mysticism and, what we would nowadays call his existentialism, was disregarded.  

LIK Publishing House, Sofia, has published Zygmunt Bauman’s Postmodern Ethics in a translation by Maria Dimitrova. The book gives an uncompromising account of the crisis of morality in the modern and the postmodern age. Its main thesis is that the present fragmentation of universal moral law proves the failure of the modern effort to subject the individual to new restraints of reason and calculation. The individual's impulses and emotions, which were set free after the breakdown of the power of the Church, were suppressed by laws – laws produced by reason. According to Bauman these laws lost their grip, because they lacked moral substance. As such they are not able to handle the problems of a human kind that possesses overwhelming technical powers.  

Bauman, however, by no means glorifies the fragmented outcome of the moral crisis. His refreshing polemic wit restricts itself not to universal law alone, but also sharply attacks communitarianism, neo-tribalism and all kinds of artificial post-modern identity building that have proved to be as violent as the former rational system. Bauman's effort is a genuine philosophical one: neither lamenting nor blindly accepting the fragmented state of affairs, he searches for transcendental forces set free in the process of disintegration.

Bauman sees opportunities emerging from the ruined system of moral law, identifying uncertainty and ambivalence as the essence of morality itself. This is where Bauman embraces the ethics of the French philosopher E. Lévinas, whose central thesis is: ‘I am free as far as I am a hostage of the other’.

Whatever one may say about Bauman's rather conventional adherence to the opposition of the rational and the irrational, his book is worth reading for its lively and energetic effort to rescue moral philosophy from tedious formalism, and for its uninhibited distrust of the equalisation of morality and the rule of law.

By Karel Markus

The publishing house PT in Bratislava has issued a Slovak translation of Auf den Marmorklippen by Ernst Jünger. Lord Ralf Dahrendorf, one of the CEEBP’s founding trustees, wrote in his review of Jünger’s book in The Times Literary Suplemment in February 1997: ”… I discovered a world which leaves me bewildered to the present day: the world of an author who fascinates without informing, who creates a crystal world without colour or warmth, a man whose brilliance is untainted by any trace of morality.” … ”A country and an epoch unworried about freedom can rejoice to have such an eccentricity expressed. However, in more worried times and places – in Weimar Germany, say, or the first years of Nazi rule – the same attitude contributed to the disaster, because the line between the immoral and the amoral is no longer there. We still await an analysis which places one of the great authors of the century into the context.”


FUNDING

       Corporate donors

       Private support to individual titles


Back to Archive