The European Literature Network
The European Literature Network was established in 2011 to help ensure that Euro-lit stays in the UK. I came up with the idea out of frustration after a trip with 20 British publishing and media colleagues to Brussels to attend the prize-giving ceremony for the European Union Prize For Literature – which few of us in the UK then knew anything about (we still don’t but any progress on anything European is incremental!).
With my Network hat on I work closely with our EL Night partners (see previous ELN blog posts 1, 2 and 3), but the Network is deliberately free, non-political and autonomous, to encourage broad participation and creative independence. So what does it do? The Network lobbies on behalf of all those publishers, writers, translators, booksellers, arts institutes and festival directors who want to work together to exchange ideas and information about international literature. It’s about getting our parochial national media (my beloved BBC included) to cover more international literature; it’s about hubs, networking meetings and workshops, using multi-media as promotional tools and improving the standard and number of Readings and public events.
The appetite for, and the quantity and quality of, Euro-lit in English has shot up in the past couple of years. There are today more independent publishers, more awards for translation, more festivals, more attractive book covers and better blurbs. But if we don’t maintain this energy and enthusiasm we may sink back below the dreaded ‘Three Per Cent’. Hence a Network. Especially for lesser-known literary nations (Montenegro and Lithuania spring to mind). I hold 2-3 Network meetings a year in London: they’re always packed. We’ve had prominent guests, book deals, translators signed up with publishers, writers signed up for festivals. I personally network with Europe House, the European Union Literature Prize, Freeword Centre, English PEN, BCLT, Dalkey Archive and Literature-Across-Frontiers. I chair numerous foreign literature events from the Hay Festival to the Southbank Centre. I review books, I blog and run a Facebook site (eurolitnetwork.com). And last year I started collaborating with ELit/European Literature Days in Austria and with the inspirational writer and festival director Walter Grond (read Walter’s Blogs on the same website). Regular brainstormings, articles, blogs and the ELit festival every autumn in the wine-growing Wachau to celebrate our common European literary ideas and legacies: yes indeed, networks work!