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Greece participates at the Frankfurt Book Fair October 11, 2007

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Greek publishers participate at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest in the world, which opened yesterday.

Greece is present at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which started yesterday. The Panhellenic Federation of Publishers and Booksellers (POEB) is representing the Greek book trade with a collective stand, while 13 Greek publishers have their own stands. Speaking to the press last week in Athens, the new administration of POEB explained their policy for promoting Greek books more effectively at book fairs. Instead of simply asking publishers for “books for Frankfurt,” as in the past, POEB’s librarians have made a selection of books that are likely to interest foreign rights buyers. In the future, they will take only books published in the previous 12 months.

The National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI) is using part of the POEB stand at Frankfurt to promote the Thessaloniki Book Fair by actively schmoozing with makers and shakers in the book world.

One strong card that Greek publishers can now play when selling foreign rights is the news that the Culture Ministry’s long moribund program for supporting translations of Greek books has at last been reactivated.

Frankfurt Book Fair, a subsidiary of the German Publishers & Book Sellers’ Association is the world’s largest book fair, attracting more than 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries.


The week ahead in Athens > books October 11, 2007

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Enjoy Greek fairy tales on CD at noon Saturday at Eleftheroudakis Bookstore, when Acroasis Publications presents the CD “Organa kai Toumbana”  [Instruments and Percussion]. At Eleftheroudakis Bookstore, 17 Panepistimiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3258440.

Happy Village > SOS Children’s Villages Greece and Starbucks celebrate their fifth anniversaries with the launch of Eugene Trivizas’s latest book “To horio tis haras” [Happy Village], published by Papadopoulos, at Starbucks in Kolonaki on October 17 at 12.20 p.m. Starbucks Coffee, 12 Skoufa Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 2816134.

Paul Valery > The Paul Valery University of Montpellier, the French Archaeological School of Athens and the European Translation Center (EKEMEL) are holding a two-day international conference on “Paul Valery, Greece, Europe” next week, October 18-19. Valery’s work, which included philosophical dialogues based on the Platonic model, had a deep connection with Greece. Speakers from Greece and abroad will explore Valery’s connections with poetry, modern Greece and Sikelianos. Starting 9.30 a.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. Friday. French Archaeological School, 6 Didotou Street, Athens, tel 210 3679902-2.

Adventure of writing > Writer Zefi Kolia will appear at the Nikaia Cultural Center at 8 p.m. on October 15 to talk about her books and the adventure of writing. Fellow-writer Christos Christopoulos will read extracts from Kolia’s work. At Nikaia City Hall, 10 P. Tsaldari Street, Nikaia, tel 210 4278100.

Dragon-mania > Theater games will be part of the fun at noon this Saturday at the Evripidis ston Stoa Bookstore, when popular children’s writer Philippos Mandilaras presents his book “Dracomania” (Dragonmania), published by Patakis. At the Evripidis ston Stoa Bookstore, 11 A. Papandreou Avenue, Athens, tel 210 6800647.

Coming poetry and book launches in Athens October 4, 2007

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Author and translator Gail Holst-Warhaft’s first and critically acclaimed foray into poetry, “Penelope’s Confessions,” will be presented in its bilingual edition by Cosmos Publications at the Ianos bookstore cafe, 24 Stadiou Street, Athens, on Monday, October 8.

The Australian-born scholar of ancient and modern Greek life, literature and music is adjunct associate professor in the departments of classics and comparative literature at Cornell University and works as a freelance writer, poet and translator. Following her studies in Australia, Holst-Warhaft came to Greece, where she worked as a musician and journalist during the 1970s. She also played harpsichord in the orchestras of Mikis Theodorakis, Dionysis Savvopoulos and Mariza Koch.

Koch will be at Ianos bookstore to open the event with a recital of poems she has set to music, while poet Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke and author Iakovos Kampanellis will discuss the book and its author. The event begins at 6 p. m. and attendance is free of charge.

Tomorrow at Eleftheroudakis Bookstore, 17 Panepistimiou Street, Athens, Pascal Bruckner, the prolific French writer of the nouveaux philosophes school, and author of “Temptation of Innocence” and “Bitter Moon”, which was made into a film by Roman Polanski in 1992, will be signing the Greek editions of his books from 5-7 p. m.

Israeli poet Rami Saari will also be in town this week for the presentation of his poetry collection “Under the Feet of the Rain”, published in Greek by Oxy, at Patakis bookstore, 65 Academias Street, Athens, at 7 p. m. tomorrow.

Saari studied and taught Semitic and Uralic languages at the Universities of Helsinki, Budapest and Jerusalem and got his PhD in linguistics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. By January 2006 Saari had published seven books and translated more than 40 books, both prose and poetry, from Albanian, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Portuguese and Spanish into Hebrew. He has been awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature twice (1996, 2003), and the Tchernikhovsky Prize for his translations (2006).

On Tuesday, October 9, Benaki Museum Director Angelos Delivorias, writer Philippos Drakontaidis and Athens University professor Giorgos Maniatis will present A-I. D. Metaxas’s new book “Ypainiktika Portreta” (Suggestive Portraits: The Imperceptible Depiction of Authority). The presentation will begin at 8 p. m. at the Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari Street and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Kolonaki, Athens.

Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis October 3, 2007

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I fear nothing

I hope for nothing

I am free…

Greek celebrated author Nikos Kazantzakis  (1883-1957)*

Greece’s Ministry of Culture has declared Year 2007 as “Nikos Kazantzakis Year”. It has also declared 2007 as “Maria Callas Year”, “Nikos Engonopoulos Year” and “Dionisios Solomos Year”.

Prize-winning British author James Meek visits Greece October 2, 2007

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Prize-winning British author James Meek author of compelling novel ‘The People’s Act of Love’ visits Greece > James Meek’s ‘The People’s Act of Love’ (Canongate, 2005) was translated into Greek by Maria Zachariadou for Ellinika Grammata.

Siberia during the Russian Revolution is the setting for James Meek’s latest novel, “The People’s Act of Love,” winner of the 2006 Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award and the 2006 Ondaatje Prize.

In that harsh, remote landscape, a singular cast plays out the extremes of human emotion and belief. A Jewish lieutenant in a Czech legion stranded by the fortunes of war, a sect of Christians who seek purity through castration, a woman who flouts convention in the pursuit of love, and a man who claims to have escaped both a prison camp and a would-be cannibal, encounter what the author calls “life’s absolute tests.”

Meek, author of three novels and two collections of short stories, also worked as a reporter for 20 years, winning awards for his articles on places such as Guantanamo Bay and Iraq. He contributes to the Guardian, the London Review of Books and Granta.

Meek is currently visiting Greece as the guest of the British Council and his Greek publishers Ellinika Grammata.

Meet James Meek today at the British Council in Thessaloniki, 9 Ethnikis Amynas Street, at 7.30p.m., and tomorrow in Athens, 17 Kolonaki Square, Kolonaki, at 8 p. m.

The blossoming and downfall of the Greek grindhouse movie theaters September 28, 2007

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Athens Film Festival highlights a genre that carved its own path in the country’s capital > The Star cinema, on Aghiou Constantinou Street, was designed by Zach Mose. Were it not for its pornographic films, it could be one of the most charming movie theaters. The Athinaikon, behind Athens City Hall, was a purpose-built theater.

Early on in the history of cinema, there were trends and schools of thought that were not always aimed at the same group of people. Just like today, a large chunk of cinematic output is destined for mass urban consumption, while artistically oriented films are doomed to be shown at just a limited number of theaters.

The Premiere Nights Athens International Film Festival, which ends on Sunday, addresses this issue with a tribute to grindhouse. The term does not describe a particular genre of film, but a very specific category of movie theaters that mushroomed throughout the United States in the 1960s and well into the 80s. Nestled in the seedy neighborhoods of America’s cities, grindhouse theaters reflected the faded, filthy death of the glamorous theaters of the 30s and 40s.

The repertory at America’s grindhouse theaters was surprisingly broad: shocking pseudo-documentaries and wannabe snuff movies, topless starlets and hardcore porn, exotic cannibalistic banquets, rioting women’s prisons and Nazi S&M orgies, zombies and bloodsucking beauties, spaghetti westerns and angry nuns. All day and night, prostitutes, junkies, pimps, homeless people, voyeurs or just lonely Joes with a bent for the weird would pay the meager fee and choose these repugnant theaters as shelter to conduct shady deals or as a refuge from demanding spouses and nosy neighbors.

In the Greek equivalent of grindhouse theaters the selection was somewhat more limited: westerns, war movies, thrillers, martial arts adventures and adult movies. The customers, however, were the same, according to Giorgos Lazaridis in his book “Flash Back: A Life of Cinema” (Livanis Publications), who describes Greek grindhouse theaters as “hangouts for bums, professional idlers, improvised shelter for homeless passers-by, schools for thugs, an easy hideaway for truants from every high school in Athens.”

One big difference between Greek and American theaters is that pornographic movies did not make their way into Greek theaters until the early 70s, according to Dimitris Fyssas, who wrote “X-Rated: Programs of Athenian Sex Cinemas” (Delfini Publications). He describes how in the early years, projectionists would simply splice in a few scenes of pornography during the screening of a regular movie, with the audience below knowing very well, and anticipating, what was to come.

Rising property values in downtown areas, the widespread introduction of television and later video players into people’s homes drove most of these movie house owners to despair. In an effort to secure their financial survival, those two three-minute clips became increasingly longer. But the audiences wanted more sex, and mainstream fare was gradually supplanted by a strictly pornographic program.

Grindhouse, or to use the Greek term “laika” or popular, theaters are a thing of the past in Athens, but Fyssas disagrees: “The multiplex, as far as I’m concerned, is a modern version of grindhouse. That’s where you find movies to help you pass the time of day, movies the entire family can enjoy. These are not necessarily my choice of preference, but I have to give them credit for reviving a feeling that was almost lost.”

The natural heirs of laika theaters are those that play X-rated fare only. From 35 theaters in the 1980s, their numbers have now dwindled to five and this is not so paltry if one considers how easy it is to watch these movies at home nowadays. According to a theater owner, the clientele falls into three categories: immigrants, older men and people hoping for more intimate encounters under the cover of darkness.

The Star, on Aghiou Constantinou Street, is the king of its flock. And if it didn’t play pornographic films it would also probably be one of the most popular and charming cinemas in downtown Athens. Designed by Zach Mose, it began as a family theater with an interesting art deco facade, but the decline of the areas in and around Omonia Square in the 1970s left the owner with little choice. At first they played westerns, martial arts adventures and erotic films.

There are another four such cinemas. The Averof on Lykourgou Street is a historical cinema built in the late 1950s. Hard as it may be to imagine today, it used to be a lot like the grand Attikon cinema of Stadiou Street in its heyday, with elegant balconies and boxes. The clientele was exclusively families who knew that the owner always had his eye out for entertaining Greek movies. The Averof’s decline went hand-in-hand with the decline of commercial Greek cinema.

The Cosmopolite, built in the interwar years near Omonia Square, has retained its architectural charm. Paradoxically, the crisis of the 1980s gave birth to two more theaters. The Athinaikon, behind Athens City Hall, was a purpose-built theater, named after another theater with the same name further down that closed. The Orfeo, in Attikis Square, the only cinema of this type that is not in downtown Athens, opened in 2003 in the place of a small manufacturing business.

Related Links > http://www.aiff.gr

Publishers turn from Greek fiction to translated titles September 27, 2007

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National Book Center statistics show new trends > Readers will have a wide range to choose from by Christmas, as new titles are starting to appear in bookstores. 

As the publishing season opens, there has been a decrease in the amount of Greek fiction, according to statistics from the National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI). It is partly because of an excess of titles in previous years, partly because the big names in the field have recently published books. But it is also due to a preference among Greek publishers for foreign fictions, both classics in new translations and contemporary works. Another factor that plays a part is the rising interest in non-fiction, essays, studies, history and politics.

EKEBI’s figures show that in 2006, even though fiction represented the greatest number of titles, there was a fall of 5.9 percent over 2005 and 2.1 percent over 2001.

Translations represented 44 percent of the total output in 2005 (out of a total of 9,209 titles), but a higher percent of fiction titles. In 2006, for instance, 47.9 percent of fiction titles published in Greece were translations.

In their latest books, many of the leading names in Greek fiction, including Pavlos Matessis, Vassilis Alexakis, Manos Eleftheriou, Dimitris Mingas and Mitsos Kasoulas, have embarked on mystery and detective fiction. Primarily, however, they have focused on the past, the years of childhood and youth, in a journey into self-knowledge.

Few new titles deal with contemporary society and problems. Among newly published writers there is a special interest in urban settings, inner quests, and historical fiction.

Greek publishers offer a broad range of foreign fiction in translation. Apart from new translations of foreign classics, such as Dostoevsky, Celine, Forster, Hemingway, Gorki, Camus, Nabokov, Eliot and Chekhov, there are novels by leading contemporary writers who come to grips with the world and the societies they live in.

Philip Roth’s political fantasy “The Plot Against America” and Jonathan Coe’s portrayal of 1940-50s English society “The Rain Before It Falls” are both published in Greece by Polis. Antonio Tabucchi, John M. Coetzee, Jose Saramago, John Updike, Yasmina Khadra, John Banville and Orhan Kemal are some of the highly regarded writers that Greek publishers have chosen to translate.