My day at London Book Fair

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Now this is London book fair , well part of it . I was lucky to get an invite to come and spend the day from Susan at Istros books at The Croatian writers stand .I got there just in time for the opening of the stand by the Croatian ambassador .

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Where he mention the events over the next few days and the wonderful list that Peter Elborn and the British Croatian society which featured all the books from Croatia translated to English although a few more have appeared since it is a wonderful list one I will be using to find a few books to read .Now the first event at the stand was a reading from the Bulgarian writer Alek Popov , who’s first book Istros published Mission London my review of this book.

20150414_120755He was reading from his second novel to be translated into English Black Box a dual story of one man in New york a Bulgarian abroad and a man returning to Bulgaria to find a man named Kurtz (Yes a connection to Heart of darkness /Apocalypse now ) . His new book is to be published by Peter Owen  , I will have a review soonish as I managed to get a copy from them  .At this point I decide to wander the fair although having made the unwose decison on new shoes for the day hop round the fair would be a better . I took chance to say hello to some people I know via twitter .Catherine Taylor from English Pen , Victor from Haus publishing , he told me about a great book they are due to publish this year about Thomas Mann and the decision he made in 1936 to writer a letter about the Nazi Regime and send it to a paper in Germany .I also had a nice long chat with Alan the blogger from Words of mercury . I also finally meet Malcolm from Oxygen books that publish the city lit series of books but is also doing a project for the arts council in the south-east promoting books in translation .I eventually got back to the Croatian writer stand before the next event .

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The next event was the launch of Farewell cowboy by Olja Savičević , this was the first of two launchs of the book here and in the evening at the embassy .Olja read from here book in Croatian then the passages she had read were read in English by the translator Celia Hawkesworth .The book follows a sister returning to find out more about her brother’s death . I have read the book twice and will be reviewing soon. I managed later in the day to grab Olja and have a short chat with her about the book .

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Then after the reading we had two types of traditional Croat Spirits Rakija one is made from Honey Medica and the other from Mistletoe Biska .Then we all departed to the evening reception and launch for the book at the Croatian embassy , so as I said to my wife I was in Croatia ,which did worry her that I had run off til I explained i was still in London .

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So The ambassador Dr Ivan Grdešić, introduced Olja and Celia again and we had another reading and then some wine and Fig cake to celebrate the books launch .Then Olja, Celia and Susan from istros books were all filmed by the Croatian News team as they were going to be on last nights news in Croatia . I was amazed that writers still make the news and arts is still held in such high regards to be newsworthy in Croatia . It was a double celebration for the ambassador his son-in-law had won this years European union literature prize that day 

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Thanks to Susan from Istros for the day and all the lovely Croatian writer union and publishers I meet on tuesday

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Cafe Europa life after communism by Slavenka Drakulic

Slavenka Drakulic

Notes – Slavenka lives in Sweden and is married to a swedish national ,she is one of the most respected Croatia writers and journalist ,she lived in Croatia til the early 1990’s .She has published a number of novels and other books of non fictions .she worked on a newspaper and magazine in Zagreb from 1982 to 1992 .

The book –

The book is a collection of short essays on the Balkans mainly they range from historic to personal and tell how Croatia mainly but also the other Balkan country’s cope post communism the book was written in 1996 ,the story slavenka tells are wonderful ,the first follows the changes of names in Croatia post communism how things change to Europa instead of the communist names ,elsewhere there are story’s interconnect about the period in the second world war when Croatia side with the germans her father a Croat joining Tito partizans the effect this had on him ,a interview with a former camp commandant from that period who still felt he’d done nothing wrong .and Slavenkas trip to Israel and the fact she was one of the few Croats to travel there but also the questions of Croatia’s role in second world war .there are some funny tales like running round wien (vienna) trying to buy a vacuum cleaner and get the shop to give them a receipt for 99 dollars as that is the max they could take in with out duty .There is also the tale of Tito ‘s wife that still lives in Serbia but doesn’t have id ,pension and lives of state charity the accept she is there but don’t acknowledge the fact .and my favourite is a tale set in london where Paddy Ashdown is in a conversation with the Croat president of the time Tudjman where he ask Tudjman about the future of the region and is drawn a map of what Tudjman see’s and what in the end did happen .

Since her husband’s death ,Tito’s wife Jovanka Broz has lived in a villa in Dedinje surrounded by bodyguards .With their permission she goes out on rare occasions she doesn’t not own the villa ,but she doesn’t pay rent for it ,either .How could she when she doesn’t even get her husbands pension? Jovanka Broz enjoys Serbia’s state “charity”,although it is forced upon her .

from story Who’s afraid of Tito’s wife .

My view –

I so enjoyed this book ,i ve always had an interest in the Balkan’s ,since i worked in a factory in germany in early nineties with Serbs,Croats ,Bosnians and kosvions the tale’s the told made my hair stand on end and also made me think ,this book does the same and brought back memories of that time some of the oddities of the communist world and the strong nationalism of the time ,this book is like a fly caught in amber ,it has wonderfully caught a period of great changer in the Balkans ,it makes you laugh ,cry and think in equal measures which is no mean feat .

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