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LITHUANIA RETURNED TO INTERNATIONAL BOOK FAIRS WITH TOPICAL DISCUSSIONS AND NEW LITERARY TRANSLATIONS

Lietuvos kultūros institutas
Severinos Venckutės fotografija

In March 2019, the Lithuanian Culture Institute represented Lithuanian literature at the London Book Fair and the Leipzig Book Fair. Monika Vaicenavičienė, the children’s books artist who has received international acclaim, the head of the publishing house “Tyto alba” Lolita Varanavičienė, and the literary translator from Lithuanian into English Julija Gulbinovič shared their insights at international discussions aimed at professionals from the literary and publishing field within the London Book Fair. The visitors of the Leipzig Book Fair heard about Lithuania from as many as three new publications released in Austria, Switzerland and Germany: novels by Undinė Radzevičiūtė and Ieva Simonaitytė and the memoir by the theatrologist Markas Petuchauskas.

Within the international London Book Fair which started on 12 March, Lithuania continued building onto its successful participation in the special programme of the fair 2018 “Market Focus“ which was dedicated to the Baltic countries, and together with partners presented topicalities of the literary and publishing sphere in Lithuania and in Baltic countries. “For several years now, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have been continuously strengthening the UK public’s awareness of the literature coming from our region and nurturing the established partnerships that have been paving the path for our long-term entrenchment on the literature and publishing map of the British Isles”, said the Director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute Aušrinė Žilinskienė. “We have noticed that both the London and the Leipzig book fairs appreciate the professional approach of the Baltic countries, while partners trust the relevance of the issues we raise. For example, the discussion about the women’s role in the publishing industry was included the programme of the international London Book Fair at the initiative of the Lithuanian Culture Institute, as was the panel discussion bringing together British publishers to discuss the books by Baltic authors that they chose to publish. Alongside our partners, we discussed programmes that can help develop literary translators and presented the most prominent Baltic children’s books authors.”

The discussion “Women in Publishing: Voices from the Baltics and the UK” echoed some processes happening inside this market – “The FLIP“, the action group of women’s leaders of publishing industry founded in the autumn of last year has received active support and followers around the world. The talk led by the British journalist and the head of the European Literature Network Rosie Goldsmith featured L. Varanavičienė who, alongside her colleagues from Estonia and Latvia, shared her views on the women’s input into the development of publishing.

The international panel discussion “What Can a Mentorship Do For You?” analysed the mentorship and professional fellowship programmes for emerging translators that in 2017-2018 facilitated the discovery of as many as 5 new literary translators working from Lithuanian into English. One of the speakers, the translator J. Gulbinovič, took part in the literary fellowship programme initiated by the British Council and the Lithuanian Culture Institute and currently actively collaborates with the literary magazine “Vilnius Review“. She has recently translated into English the graphic novel by Miglė Anušauskaitė “Dr. Quadratus. Greimas and His Semiotics”.

The illustrator M. Vaicenavičienė presented to the foreign publishers and journalists her picture book “What is A River?” which has gained international acclaim. This book was recognised as the best picture book at the prestigious competition “World Illustration Awards 2018” held in the UK, while the illustrator won the highest new talent award.

The events programme was completed by the panel discussion between the UK publishers who have published books by Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian authors. According to the data by the British Translators’ Association, the “Brexit” atmosphere made the British publishers more interested in the mainland European literature – the percentage of literature in translation sold in the UK has doubled and now reaches 5,63 per cent. The topics of how British readers see literature from the Baltic states and what marketing challenges are encountered by publishers were discussed by representatives of “Oneworld“ (to release the translation of Alvydas Šlepikas’ novel “In the Shadow of Wolves“ in June this year), “Emma Press“, “Parthian“ (published poetry collections by Aušra Kaziliūnaitė and Marius Burokas, and the anthology of Baltic poetry) and “Peter Owen” (published Sigitas Parulskis’ “Darkness and Company”).

On 12 March, during the London Book Fair, the publishing house “Press Noir” held the launch of Grigorijus Kanovičius’ book “Devilspel”, translated into English by Yisrael Cohen, at a book shop in Nottingham.

On 21-24 March, Lithuanian literature returned to the international Leipzig Book Fair, where Lithuania participated as a guest of honour in 2017 with exceptional success. This year, the visitors of the fair and the festival ”Leipzig liest” (“Leipzig Reads”) were invited to the launches of as many as three new translations of books by Lithuanian authors supported by the Lithuanian Culture Institute and published by Austrian, Swiss and German publishing houses: Markus Roduner’s translations of I. Simonaitytė’s novel ”Vilius Karalius“ (“Vilius King”, publishing house “BaltArt“) and M. Petuchauskas’ memoir “Santarvės kaina” (Price of Condord“, publishing house “LIT Verlag“), and U. Radzevičiūtė’s novel “Kraujas mėlynas“ (“The Blue Blood”), translated by Cornelius Hell (publishing house “Residenz Verlag“). The latter is already the second book by this author published in Austria – in 2017, the publishing house “Residenz Verlag“ successfully presented to its readers the German translation of U. Radzevičiūtė’s novel “Žuvys ir drakonai“ (“Fishes and Dragons”). According to the translator C. Hell, the successful release of the first novel and the stipend for Bamberg residency encouraged the publisher to work on the second book by U. Radzevičiūtė.

The publisher presents the new novel by U. Radzevičiūtė under the German title “Das Blut ist Blau” as “the story about the family whose power could have been envied by the whole of Europe”, while the translator C. Hell forecasts its success. “U. Radzevičiūtė’s novel “Das Blut ist Blau” will be interesting for German readers because it tells the story about the renowned Borgia house – and many will find it surprising that the family had roots in Germany, too. I think this novel is also special because its characters become very familiar and understandable to the reader, while the narrative has been written looking at history with irony. For that reason, at least for me personally, it is a great pleasure to read this novel by Undinė“.

“Lithuania’s input into the international book fairs programmes is solid. We brought real “hits” of the market to the events for both publishing professionals and readers – relevant historical, social and professional issues and unique artists’ personalities. After the London and Leipzig book fairs we will be representing Lithuanian artist at what is called the Mecca of children’s literature and illustration – the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which among its stars of 2019 has already announced the illustrator and writer Kęstutis Kasparavičius and the writer of Lithuanian origins Rūta Šepetys“, A. Žilinskienė shared the future plans.