Newsletter

Amsterdam, December 2005, Number 18
Editor: Hella Rottenberg

CONTENTS

Legacy of the Croatian Book Market Project

Croatian book trade software “Insight”
Books Recently Published

Grants
Funding


Legacy of the Croatian Book Market Project

The Croatian Book Market Project, which ends this December, has left an extensive legacy of essential tools and building blocks for the country’s book trade infrastructure.

The Book Information Service  Moderna Vremena Info (www.mvinfo.hr) consists of a large online database of new and antiquarian books available on Croatian market, information about Croatian authors, publishers, and booksellers, book market news, and book trade services. The Serbian-Montenegrin counterpart is to be found at www.KnjigaInfo.com.

Book market research

Analysis of the book trade and book market consumer research were developed in cooperation with the CEEBP and carried out by the Croatian GfK in quarterly surveys since September 2004. The CEEBP has made the results freely available on the project website (www.bibliodyssey-croatia.org), and organized workshops for publishers, booksellers and distributors on the use of the research in daily book trade practise.

The project supported the development of a sustainable, professional distribution, intended to  serve all publishers, booksellers, and libraries on equitable terms, to increase efficiency and decrease the currently high distribution costs, introduce buying of books instead of consignment or barter trade, and make supply of titles possible country-wide. New sale channels were created in places where none had existed outside the capital, and professional specialised book trade software for distributors, wholesalers and bookstores was developed to enable them to increase their efficiency (see below further details about the “Insight” software).

The project supported the improvement of bookshops through training, consultations, and assistance in initial investment in equipment and the book trade software that would enable the integration of the bookshops in the distribution network.

Training was also provided for publishers and distributors in a series of seminars, workshops, and expert consultations for publishers, distributors, and booksellers on topics such as Cooperation within the book chain, Publishing strategies, Management in publishing, Marketing and promotion, Distribution,  Bookselling, New technologies in the book trade, and Market research. Training material, including the Croatian translation of the Booksellers course made available by the Training Centre VOB of the Dutch Royal Book Trade Association for the project, is published on the project website.

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

Last but not least, the Books across Borders Library programme, assisted Croatian libraries with matching funds for acquisition of books from from Serbia & Montenegro. The books were selected by participating libraries.

In Serbia & Montenegro runs a parallel project (2003 – 2006): http://bibliodyssey.nbs.bg.ac.yu.  

The Croatian project has been co-financed by the CEEBP, the Croatian Open Society Institute, the Next Page Foundation, and the Matra program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Croatian book trade software “Insight”

Insight is the first software designed to meet the needs of retail and wholesale booksellers in Croatia. One of the problems Croatian booksellers was lack of appropriate software. There was no specialized book trade software, the existing ones were too general to be used for bookselling, while the available foreign book trade software was far too expensive and would need costly adjustments, not to speak of foreseeable support problems.

Insight has been developed in cooperation between four booksellers from the Zagreb bookstore Tamaris and the young Zagreb based company Neos, with the support of the CEEBP and the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Two other booksellers from Zagreb (Moderna Vremena and Knjižara MAK), and knjizara.com / KnjigaInfo from Belgrade joined the design team together with the Distriks distribution network, where the software has been used since May this year, to test it thoroughly before Insight would be released. In the second half of 2005, two public tenders were published and the software, together with necessary hardware was donated to 25 booksellers throughout Croatia. The beneficiaries contribute with their own investment in the required Oracle license and Internet connection.

Insight offers a flexible and reliable tool for everyday retail and wholesale operations, access to databases of wholesalers and distributors, the possibility of exchanging all documents in electronic format with other Insight users, and advanced analytical reports such as differentiated sales statistics and stock control, thus helping to structure an efficient distribution network in Croatia.

In order to adjust its features for the different needs of retail booksellers, wholesalers, and distributors, Insight was developed in several modules: retail, wholesale, cash register, and data exchange module. Booksellers can access the distribution databases online using PCs working on Windows or Linux.

Because of different size of potential users, two versions of the system have been developed: a large-scale system for bigger bookstores, bookstore chains, and distributors with more than three local users and possibly more than one location. It requires a central server where all the data is stored and from where the software application is run. A small-scale system for smaller bookstores, fit for up to three PCs, works with one of the PCs as a server. All features of the large version retail module have been kept, but the system has been downscaled and adjusted.

The reactions of the bookstores where Insight has been installed, as well as colleagues in Serbia who tested also the wholesale module, and the consultants from the Polish Book Market Research, were very favourable. Judging from the reaction of users in Croatia and Serbia, with minor adjustments to meet local legal requirements and small language differences, Insight may become the book trade standard on both sides of the border, and possibly in other countries of the region.

By Mladen Marković


BOOKS RECENTLY PUBLISHED

In Belgrade, Geopoetika has published the Serbian translation by Zia Gluhbegović and Srdjan Simonović of Svetlana Boym’s The Future of Nostalgia. The English original was published by Basic Books in 2001.

Svetlana Boym, a native of St. Petersburg, emigrated to the United States about 25 years ago. She teaches Slavic and Comparative Literature at Harvard.

Nostalgia is a longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed, for a time when one was not nostalgic. It is not so much memory, but an idealization of the past. Boym says this is ok, as long as you remember that the dreams of imagined homelands cannot and should not come to life. “There should be a special warning on the side view mirror: the object of nostalgia is further away than it appears. Nostalgia is never literal, but lateral. It looks sideways. It is dangerous to take it at face value.” Nostalgia is a funny thing, then: the past never really was the way you recall it –you are nostalgic for your worry-free school days, but you forget the bullying and loneliness you sometimes felt.

The first part of the study surveys the history of nostalgia, or “hypochondria of the heart”, from a  “passing ailment” to “incurable modern condition”. It was first diagnosed in 1688 by a Swiss doctor amongst Swiss soldiers abroad. Its cure? Leeches, emulsions, opium and a return to the Alps. Today nostalgia is inextricably bound up with modernity. It rebels against the modern conception of progress: the idea that time is everything. The acceleration of time makes people nostalgic, however. Everything changes so quickly around us that it’s difficult to recognize “the familiar” anymore. Nostalgia, then, rebels against the irreversibility of time.

According to Boym there are two types of nostalgia: reflective and restorative. Reflective nostalgia is about longing (algia) and does not try to “restore” the past. It allows for remembering and contemplation. “It’s a positive force that helps us to explore our experience, and can offer an alternative to an uncritical acceptance of the present.” Restorative nostalgia, on the other hand, stresses the nostos (return home) and tries to reconstruct the (imagined) lost home. “It is at the core of recent national and religious revivals [and] knows two main plots –the return to origins and the conspiracy.” It is not about memory and history, but about heritage and tradition – a critical difference.

Part two focuses on (post)communist cities and memories. Boym takes us on a virtual tour through the ruins and construction sites of St. Petersburg, Moscow and Berlin and explores how different eras have influenced the nostalgic visions on art and architecture in particular. Because of the wealth of information and descriptions of sculptures and houses, this chapter might be of interest to someone who is familiar with any of these places (for nostalgic reasons, of course). It is less appealing to someone who has no (intimate) knowledge of those cities.

Part three explores the imagined homelands of émigré artists and writers Nabokov, Brodsky and Kabakov. It also examines the diasporic souvenir collections of ordinary immigrants. Both homesick and sick of home at the same time, these immigrants have mutual belongings. Their souvenirs tell this tale: they are more about exile than roots.

Boym ends with cyberspace. She argues that globalisation and the accelerated pace of modern life have made us more nostalgic than ever. The faster we go, the more we need ‘slow time’ to remember and reflect on memory, especially when all is hectic around us.         

The Future of Nostalgia is fact-filled, erudite and witty and is chock-full of a zillion personal anecdotes. Its drawback, however, is that it is too eclectic and ambitious. It introduces too many different topics and views, uses too many styles and gives too much information for the scope of one book. By itself, each chapter would have made for a fine read. All together, however, they read like an encyclopaedia: they make the head spin.

Lege Artis (Pleven, Bulgaria) has published Elias Canetti’s Party im Blitz, Die englischen Jahre in the translation of Elissaveta Todorova Kusmanova. 

Party im Blitz is the memoir of Elias Canetti’s ‘English years’, at least the early ones (1940s and 1950s). In this sense it can be read as the fourth volume of Canetti’s autobiography. The book is, however, more a social account of an era than a description of Canetti’s days during the War.

Party im Blitz consists of different diary entries, chapter drafts and notes that Nobel Prize winner Canetti wrote in the early 1990s. He was still working on them when he died in 1994, so the book is clearly unfinished. Before publication in 2003, these recollections were edited and provided with explanatory notes. This, together of course with Canetti’s brilliant style, has resulted in a fascinating little book that, although unfinished and fragmentary (sometimes a sentence ends abruptly), reads very well. One could even argue that the incompleteness of Party im Blitz works to its advantage.

The book strings together apparently unrelated scenes, sketches, impressions and descriptions of encounters with many fascinating people Canetti met in England. Canetti himself calls these short sections “brief lives” – a description of someone, or a thing in a few lines, fragments rather than complete depictions. It works rather wonderfully, I must say. Even in a few words, Canetti is able to bring to life both an unknown street sweeper and someone ‘important’. 

Party im Blitz presents a very fascinating insight (of course, this is Canetti’s view) in the higher literary and intellectual circles of that era – an era that Canetti states, “is now forever gone”. Hardly anyone knew who Canetti was when he came to England. The only book he had thus far written had not been translated into English. This peripheral role actually worked to his advantage, for it allowed Canetti to sharply observe and portray some of the many colourful people (like Bertrand Russell, Veronica Wedgwood, Roland Penrose and Kathleen Ranes) he met in England in the 1940s and 1950s. He speaks with great tenderness of his friend Sir Aymer Maxwell and his protégée Friedl Benedikt, others are portrayed in a much less favourable way – such as T.S. Eliot. Canetti exploits every opportunity to fulminate against his “pitiful character” and although he hardly ever met him, Eliot is described in an exceptionally vicious way; he calls him a “stifling dictator” who is “utterly and totally corrupted.”

Most of his venom is reserved for Iris Murdoch, however. In one of the longer sections, Canetti gives an unusually cruel and detailed account of the repulsion he has for his ex-mistress. (“Everything I detest in English life, is manifest in her.”) According to him, everything she wrote breathed Oxford; “one might call her the Oxford ragout”, he maliciously remarks. Murdoch supposedly had no original thought of her own. Instead, she collected men and used their thoughts for her fiction. “She possessed a predatory nature and was more after robbing her lovers’ minds than their hearts.”

Besides portraits, quite a few pages of Party im Blitz are dedicated to the ‘soirées’, the London literary evenings that Canetti  has, rather brilliantly, labelled “don’t-touch-parties”.

The term stands for everything Canetti abhorred in the strict social etiquette that dictated these nights. “The trick is to stand very close together and yet not to reveal anything important about oneself. [Nor touch one another literally]…I have never felt more unhappy than at these parties.” Interestingly enough, though, Canetti attended quite a few so one can only guess at what motivated him to show his  face so often. In fact, quite a few portraits in Party im Blitz offer an extraordinary (unintentional?) insight in Canetti’s own character, for how else could one read a venomous description of Eliot or Murdoch but as an outflow of envy?

By Bronja Prazdny


GRANTS

In October 2005, the CEEBP awarded seventeen grants for books and two special grants. The grants for books were awarded for seven East – East translations, and ten West – East translations. The special grants were awarded to a Belorussian literary journal, and the Slovak distributor of quality literature, Artforum, for its Internet bookstore.

Books

Other grants

 


FUNDING


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