Why is the London Book Fair important for literature from S E Europe?

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As you have hopefully already heard, Croatia is having a national stand at the London Book Fair this year, for the first time ever. In fact, it is the first time that any republic of the former Yugoslavia has taken a stand.

So why have they decided to take this step? Well, it is part of a series of events organised to highlight the country’s culture and achievement by the Welcome Croatia Festival, in the lead-up to Croatia’s entry to the European Union this summer. And as luck would have it (or some might call it ‘fate’), two Croatian writers are up for major UK literary awards: the north-American resident Josip Novakovich has been nominated for the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement and Daša Drndić’s book – Trieste – has been long-listed for the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. These two facts in themselves just go to prove what riches Croatian literature has to offer to the world, and are one more piece of proof (as if we needed them!) that literature from S E Europe has important things to say and can reach a mass audience through translation and dissemination.

And this is why the London Book Fair is important, and why it is so important for writing from the region to be translated and published in English. And its important for 3 reasons:

– obviously, it allows the work to reach an audience not just in the UK, but – because of the global online book suppliers – also in every other English-speaking country.

-it also allows all those other millions of people who speak English as a second language to access these works

– and thirdly, it allows publishers and agents across the globe – who might not have readers in Croatian or Romanian or Macedonian – to read works that might never have reached them, through the English translation.

The London Book Fair is the largest English-language book fair in Europe, and attracts over 24,000 book professionals from all over the world. Very much a trade fair, it is THE place where people come to buy and sell rights to and from English; where literary agents and scouts and publishers and book professionals come to meet and make deals. And therefore – not being part of this event is an obstacle in reaching British publishers and consequently, in achieving that all-important English translation.

Croatia’s participation at the fair this year can be seen as a test for other interested countries from around the region who haven’t yet made the decision to take part in this way. With Romania already leading the way for some years now – with its beautifully designed stands and its quality literary events – lets hope Croatia can be a worthy colleague. And the proof – as they say – will be in the pudding: keep watching the Istros media outlets for news of press coverage, publishing deals and translations which will surely follow as a results of their efforts!

The London Book Fair is the biggest European fair of its type focused on the English-lanuguage. 

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Filed under Balkan Literature, Balkans, Contemporary European literature

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