As I keep telling everyone who will listen – this is the FIRST TIME that Croatia has had a stand at the London Book Fair.
Yesterday we kicked it all off with a glass of Mistletoe brandy and an event to celebrate the publication of RELATIONS literary magazine, which highlights Contemporary Croatian literature in translation. Roman Simic – chief editor – was there, wooing the crowds with his passion for telling the world about the writing his country has on offer. Will Firth – faithful translator of literature from the region – was also there, passionate in his own under-stated way about the novels and stories that he painstakingly transposes into a new language. The audience consisted of writers, other translators, other publishers and those who were curious about why we were all so passionate!
And so the outcome of the first event at the first Croatian stand could be summed up thus: without the passion and commitment of a few dedicated and under-paid people, there would be almost no Croatian literature outside its home country and we would all be the poorer; not in terms of cash this time, but in terms of culture, knowledge and entertainment.
Isn’t the fact that the short-lists for the Man Booker International and the Independent Prize both have Croatian contenders for the title just one more proof that what we are doing makes sense? Culture is something you cannot put a price on, although we all know it has a cost. If it weren’t for the efforts of the Romans and Will’s of this world, I think we would all be the poorer