In January 2010, literary publishing house Dalkey Archive Press, in collaboration with Arts Council England and with media and promotional partners throughout Europe and the United States, will launch a unique, highly ambitious project to promote European literature: the annual anthology series Best European Fiction. Edited by acclaimed Bosnian novelist Aleksandar Hemon and with a Preface by Zadie Smith, Best European Fiction 2010 will give English-language readers throughout the world a window onto what is happening right now in contemporary European fiction.
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‚ÄúAt the heart of the project,‚Äù writes Hemon in his Introduction to the inaugural volume, ‚Äúis a profound, non-negotiable need for communication with the world, wherever it may be. The same need is at the heart of the project of literature.‚Äù Inspired by the American ‚ÄúBest of‚Äù series of annual anthologies, Best European Fiction comes at a time when English-language readers are growing increasingly aware of how few writers manage to cross over their national borders. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been publishing world literature for over twenty years,‚Äù said John O‚ÄôBrien, publisher of Dalkey Archive Press, ‚Äúand those books have always found more readers than the media seems to believe, but there‚Äôs only so much you can do. A country like Albania, for instance, might have one book translated into English in ten years, and that one book is supposed to stand in for all of Albanian literature, which of course it can‚Äôt.‚Äù O‚ÄôBrien said that by publishing the anthology annually and including a wide range of countries‚Äîfrom Spain and France, to Croatia, Iceland, Lithuania and Bulgaria‚Äîhe hopes to give readers more immediate access to contemporary currents across European literature. The inaugural anthology will include stories from 35 countries and regions, and will bring together writers already familiar to English-language readers‚Äîsuch as Alasdair Gray, Viktor Pelevin, George Konrad and Julian Rios‚Äîwith many who have never been published in English before. ‚ÄúThe sole criteria for selection was excellence,‚Äù said Dalkey Archive‚Äôs Associate Director Martin Riker. ‚ÄúWe were out there looking for the very best fiction we could find and what we found surpassed our expectations. In fact, we‚Äôve already signed on a number of novels by the authors we discovered through this project.‚Äù Although preparation for the Best European Fiction series has been ongoing for over two years, Hemon and Dalkey Archive have not undertaken the project alone. In addition to hundreds of foreign publishers, agents, authors and translators who helped to gather and translate stories for consideration, the project has received major support from Arts Council England, with additional support from cultural agencies in Portugal, Spain, France, Finland, Norway, Hungary, Slovakia, Wales, Belgium, The Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Switzerland, Estonia, Romania, Iceland, Macedonia, and Lithuania. Kate Griffin, international literature officer for Arts Council England, emphasised the international relevance of the project. ‚ÄúRecognising that work originally written in English travels the world, whereas the level of world literature available in English is very low, Arts Council England is keen to encourage more translation of international writing into English,‚Äù said Griffin. ‚ÄúWe have particular enthusiasm for the fact that Best European Fiction will make languages and literatures not often translated into English available to readers in the UK, and are also pleased to be working in partnership with so many other cultural institutions across Europe to support the publication and promotion of this exciting project.‚Äù An international ensemble of writers‚Äô and readers‚Äô organisations have also signed up to help promote the project, including English PEN, the South Bank Centre, and the Free Word Centre in London; Symphony Space, the British Embassy, and the PEN World Voices Festival in the U.S.; as well as International PEN, Granta, and numerous festivals, bookshops, and cultural agencies throughout continental Europe. Other promotions include serial advertising in international publications. Over its 25-year history, Dalkey Archive Press has become one of the leading world publishers of contemporary literature, publishing both English-language and translated works. With offices in the U.S. and London, and with nearly 500 titles in print from over 35 countries, Dalkey Archive works to promote a vision of literature as an international art form with essential value to our modern world. In 2007, the Press moved its U.S. office to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where it works in partnership with the newly founded Center for Translation Studies. For more information about Best European Fiction 2010 or scheduled promotional events, or to request an advance review copy, contact Martin Riker, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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