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Changing The Perception Of Greece Through Modern Culture And Literature

05/07/2017 17:04
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How can the economic crisis be the springboard for the development of a small business? - more specifically, for a business in Greece, whose commercial activity is book publishing? How can a business person, precisely because he or she is Greek, can overturn her foreign colleagues' underlying suspicion regarding her credibility and trading behaviour? And how can contemporary Greek culture have a decent dialogue with European and global culture? Why should a foreign publisher invest in the translation and publication of contemporary Greek plays in their own language?

These were the primary questions I faced as publisher of the Sokolis publications when I was obliged - especially under the capital control imposed on Greece in June 2015 - to take drastic measures to avoid the shrinkage of my business due to lack of liquidity in the market, while trying to keep unchanged the quality of our publications and our sense of responsibility towards the reader.

The crisis in the publishing industry, and Greek culture in general, became apparent in 2008. Gradually, government grants to publishers began to decline. Today, public debts to individuals are systematically delayed, a fact that creates an extra burden to the private sector, if one takes into account the overtaxation of entrepreneurs, mostly small and medium-sized, the lack of access to bank finance - factors that exhaust market liquidity. As far as publishing is concerned, the negative consequences are even more obvious.

Today, more than ever, the turn to foreign markets is imperative - not only in the field of publishing. At any rate, an outgoing gesture is not only a basic commercial strategy that should be based on the four pillars knowledge of the international market-professionalism-perseverance-competitive and good quality products, but it is also a cultural need and requirement, because nowadays, more than ever, we need to find a channel of communication and exchange of ideas with other nations. It seems that in a sense the economic crisis woke us up to the global cultural reality.

Who is to blame for the current situation in our country? The economic situation in Greece is the result of many years of wrong practice and social behaviour. However, business people must not stick to the question of who is to blame, but must discover ways to overcome any obstacles and shape the conditions that will, firstly, secure the viability of their business and, secondly, maintain profitability.

In this endeavour, however, the Greek businessman or businesswoman is often treated with some degree of mistrust, which sometimes touches the limits of scorn. In my view, the worst of all is the projection of a distorted image of Greece abroad. However, as everywhere in the world, there are good and bad entrepreneurs in Greece. And there are many Greek entrepreneurs with a vision and, as I said, a high sense of responsibility towards their consumer.

Considering all of the above, I felt that the economic crisis and its distorted recount abroad was an excellent opportunity for me to change the negative image of my country and its entrepreneurial might to the rest of the world. In short, I wanted to give the economic crisis a positive sign.

And, at this historic turning point for Greece, when the country is paralysed in many sectors, the area of culture is essentially the field in which the country produces incessantly and creatively and to which one should rightfully invest since Greece has a pivotal position in laying the foundations for world culture - most notably in the Theatre.

The main activity of our publishing house, besides the multi-volume anthologies of Greek poetry and prose, works that are taught in the classics departments in Greek Universities and constitute a bibliographical source for all the Modern Greek academic chairs abroad, is the publication of theatrical works, covering both Greek and World dramaturgy. We are the official publishers of the National Theatre of Greece and we host the most important voices of contemporary Greek theatre.

Soon after the imposition of capital controls in Greece, I visited the Oberon and Nick Hern publications in London. We were already acquainted with Nick Hern because we had recently issued the excellent book by Peter Brook, The quality of mercy. The purpose of my trip was to offer them a collection of Contemporary Greek Playwrights in English. I had already sent them a lot of remarkable works translated into English. Methuen & Methuen also showed an interest. We ended up making an agreement with Oberon, and, since March the Oberon Anthology of Contemporary Greek Plays is available in the market throughout the English-speaking world. This is a collection that hosts texts of five important Greek playwrights, two women and three men (L. Kitsopoulou, N. Rapi, Y. Mavritsakis, A. Dimou, Ch. Giannou), covering almost all kinds of theatre: lyrical drama, existential monologue, black comedy, full-length multi-character drama.

This is an anthology I am particularly proud of because it is the first time that works of contemporary Greek playwrights are published in an independent form and in the most spoken language in the world, English. And I feel the need to warmly thank Oberon publications for their trust.

This project is titled "Greek Theatre Travels Abroad", and at the moment texts from the most important contemporary Greek playwrights travel to different parts of the world. The aim of this project is to demonstrate that the Greek dramaturgy does not end in Greek tragedy and comedy and in the works of Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides and Aristophanes. Owing to these insurmountable works Greece is considered the birthplace of Western Theatre and, through the legacy of these works, it has also promoted a wider Greek theatre education. Something similar happens with Shakespeare in England, whose works are read and produced and will do so in the future around the world. Thus, Greek culture was and will always be inseparably linked to the theatre.

Nowadays, Greece has a number of notable playwrights whose works, even when conceived from a personal experience of the Greek reality, touch upon a certain universality and can, therefore, have a strong and meaningful appeal to the foreign reader and theatre person, no matter which the author's country of origin is - or even because of it.

In conclusion, my vision and goal is to change the perception and image of modern Greeks, by promoting the contemporary Greek culture in theatre and literature.

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