ELNet September 2016 Newsletter by West Camel

It’s West Camel again, bringing you the news literary-European in these times when, as our own Rosie Goldsmith (currently on some kind of Grand Tour!) says, #WEARESTILLEUROPEANS.
I wonder whether these words have yet been spoken by any one of the cabinet ministers who, as I write, have decamped to the Prime Minister’s country residence, Chequers, to ‘brainstorm’ Brexit.
For our part, the cultural, literary and publishing sectors have already spent much of the summer thinking through the effects of the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union.

At the beginning of August The Publishers’ Association and the Independent Publishers’ Guild published the results of a joint survey of their members’ Brexit reactions. Three quarters of respondents thought they would continue, for now, with their pre-Brexit plans. However, the fact that, in 2015, a third of UK publishers’ physical book revenue came from the EU means that many publishers expect a severe crimp in their balance sheets when Brexit finally comes to mean Brexit.

The outlook for arts funding is also looking mixed. While Creative Europe has postponed deadlines for its Culture sub-programme, the Arts Council England has been more bullish, pointing to guarantees from government that arts organisations wouldn’t lose funds as a result of the vote to leave the EU.

The European Literature Network is doing its bit to explore the implications of these, and, no doubt many other, important developments in the Brexit debate.

On 20th September, the European Literature Network meeting – our regular talking shop and networking night – will focus on funding for arts and culture in the wake of the Brexit vote. We hope as many of our key EUNIC, Arts Council and other colleagues will attend as possible, so that, together, we can find some footholds in what are very slippery conditions.

Then, on 28th September, we hold our next *Euro Stars* panel discussion. This time, we gather at Waterstones Piccadilly, where author, translator and Italophile TIM PARKS, French novelistANTOINE LAURAIN, British writer and illustrator JOANNA WALSHand the Romanian diplomat and prize-winning *EUPL authorCLAUDIU FLORIAN will read from their work and discuss how international literature will be received in a country going through a process of extricating itself from a transnational club.

My own work over the months since the referendum decision has seemed particularly pertinent to the situation around translated literature in the UK.

In my role as editor at Orenda Books, I have seen translations of two European authors to publication. One, The Exiled is written by a Finn, Kati Hiekkapelto, and the translation was funded by FILI – the Finnish Literature Exchange. However, the book takes its protagonist, Anna Fekete, a Hungarian immigrant to Finland from Serbia, back to her home town on the Serbia-Hungary border. There she is caught up in the wave of refugees attempting to gain access to the EU, and in the tensions between the area’s various communities – Hungarian, Serbian and Romani. Will this kind of artistic exploration of pressing contemporary European issues continue in a post-Brexit UK? Will publishers still bring stories from across the continent to a British public? I trust that we will strive to do so.

Another title I’ve been working on raises other post-referendum questions. Orenda’s publication of The Bird Tribunal, being written by the Norwegian Agnes Ravatn, might seem outside the scope of the Brexit debate. However, this literary gem, in which a young woman takes a job as housekeeper for a saturnine recluse, seems to owe much of its intensity to Jane Eyre or Rebecca, even though Ravatn tells me she has read neither book. Does this not reveal the connectedness of European literary culture – in which key stories are imbedded and transmitted from one language to another, without the writer even realising it? Furthermore, Rosie Hedger’s exquisite translation of The Bird Tribunal won an English PEN Award. So an organisation in a country which is soon to be leaving the EU funds the translation of a work from another country, whose commercial relationship with the EU the first country may or may not emulate … Long may such literary facilitation continue!

You can read about more products of such literary connections in both our #RivetingReviews section and our new #RivetingReadsstrand. With Rosie gallivanting at the Mantua literary festival, yours truly will be editing this month’s reviews. We are always looking for new reviewers, so if you fancy offering your opinions on translated European literature, please contact us. In October – to coincide with Rosie’s return from Mantua and a special event devoted to Elena Ferrante – all our #RivetingReviews will be of Italian titles; strong opinions and ‘affascinanti appraisals’ are welcome.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as can attend at our September events.

20th September: European Literature Network meeting
Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA, 1800-2100
RSVP: anna.blasiak@yahoo.co.uk

28th September: Euro Stars, Waterstones Piccadilly
with Tim Parks and writers from Romania and France
203-206 Piccadilly, London W1V 9LE, 1900-2030

Please come along. Now more than ever, it’s important for us to collaborate to remind anyone that will listen that our literature is European!

By West Camel

Category: ELNet Newsletters

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