According to the Roman orator Cicero “a room without books is like a body without soul”. Is ancient maxim still valid in today's Greece?
On the eve of the International Book Day GRReporter seeks answers to this and other issues in a conversation with the translator of Russian literature Dimitris Triandafilidis. He has translated over 50 books by Russian writers, poets and thinkers and, in parallel, is the author of poetry, a collection of short stories, three books and a satirical essay on "Totalitarianism and art”. He is the chief editor of a program for immigrant communities in the municipal radio station of AIR 104,4 Athens and is currently working on preparing a series of books of translations of works of Russian poets from the era we call "Russian avant-garde."
Do people in Greece read books?
Greek, like many other Western societies divides into two broad categories. People who belong to the first one, do read books, while the others do not read. It's hard to be a society defined as a society of readers. But surely in Greece there is a large readership with a wide range of interests from the so-called "light literature" to the philosophical essays. According to statistical studies about the publishing activity during the last decade in Greece 9500 titles are issued annually.
What books do Greek readers prefer?
According to the latest survey by the National Book Centre the most readers, especially those who prefer to read literature, are women. In this line of thought it is quite natural that the interest is focused on the so-called, wrongly in my opinion, "female literature". Certainly we should not underestimate the readers conduct of men who prefer criminal, historical and philosophical books, but also literature with general knowledge. What matters is the continuous improvement of the trend of publishing and reading poetry. It shows the reviving interest of Greeks in works of Greek and foreign poets.
Did the economic crisis change the choice of readers?
Yes, it changed the reading interests of Greeks. Many people seek an answer for the path that led us to today's situation. This is why we see re-releases of historical, economic and political essays and releases of new ones. However, literature and poetry continue to occupy first place in the preferences of readers. There are insufficient data to show a decrease in book sales in the country over the past two years. If, however, we do see crisis in the book industry today, it is due to disparities in the relationships between publishing houses and book selling chains.
Did the crisis affect the opportunity for people to buy books?
Without a doubt, yes. And this will henceforth be the main criterion which will determine the survival of the publishing industry in Greece. Publishing houses that act judiciously and are not aggravated by the payment of large loans will survive. What is expected to occur in the Greek market is the formation of two major categories of publishing houses: one will be very large and will issue books for the entire spectrum of reader interests, and others will be small publishers, so-called publishers - boutiques, which will have books for a very specific readership. In this sense, the crisis provides an opportunity to heal the industry. In it can enter new, more financially stable forces who love the book.
Are you a translator of Russian language. Please describe the development of the Russian book in the Greek market. What are the favorite Russian authors of the Greek audience?
The first touch of the Greek reader to Russian writers dates from the last two decades of the 19th century. This is when the first books by Tolstoy, Nekrasov and Lermontov appeared. Some of the books have been translated directly from Russian, and others through translations from other languages, mainly French. Translation of Russian literature, however, has flourished over the 20th century. I will mention, as typical examples, the brilliant translation of Dostoevsky's works by Aris Alexandrou and Mitsos Aleksandropoulos, who except for his rich translation work, bequeathed us his essays with relevant Russian literature theme.
Greeks love Dostoevsky, Tolstoy - the classics of Russian literature. On the other hand, through theater they have been touched by the works of Chekhov, Dobroedov, Leonid Andreev, and other contemporary playwrights. I will make a huge omission, if I do not mention Russian poetry. Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Boris Pasternak and other poets are favorites of Greek readers for many decades.
Have books by Bulgarian authors and writers from other Balkan countries entered the Greek market?
I would say that over the past 20 years we have witnessed flourishing of the works of Bulgarian writers and poets and authors from other countries in the Balkans. I think this is due to the need to know our neighbors, but also due to the freedom of circulation of ideas that emerged in the late 20th century after the collapse of authoritarian regimes in the Balkan countries. Besides publishing, however, organized are many conferences, meetings and seminars with the participation of writers from Greece and its neighboring countries and close cooperation of the institutions in the book field.
What would you recommend to readers during this period?