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American Literature Shines as Guest of Honor at Thessaloniki Book Fair

Thessaloniki Book Fair, which took place from May 4–7 and is the largest professional publishing event in Greece, this year had "American literature" as its guest of honor
on Jun 26, 2023
American Literature Shines as Guest of Honor at Thessaloniki Book Fair | Frontlist

Even while it may seem to many people overseas that Americans are not particularly interested in foreign literature, American literature continues to attract attention on a global scale. 

The United States hasn't been a "guest of honor" nation at any of the major international book fairs in a while, maybe due to its status as the world's largest publishing market. At the Buenos Aires International Book Fair in the middle of the 2010s, the U.S. embassy sponsored a pavilion for several years even though the only items on exhibit were Amazon Kindle devices and iPads displaying e-books.

One director, who preferred to remain nameless, claimed at a recent fair that the United States doesn't need to advertise its literature overseas because everyone already purchases the rights to its novels. Who would we even approach to fund and manage the initiative, furthermore? When it comes to concerns outside of the United States, the Association of American Publishers appears primarily concerned with monitoring copyright infringement.

However, book fairs are still figuring out methods to spotlight American books. Thessaloniki Book Fair, which took place from May 4–7 and is the largest professional publishing event in Greece, this year had "American literature" as its guest of honor. 

The American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, and as a result, the Combined Book Exhibit had a stand there with books from over 20 American publishers, including Abrams Books, Insight Editions, Penguin Random House, Quarto Group, Sourcebooks, and Yale University Press. James Wood, Claire Messud, Saskia Vogel, and Nell Zink, all American authors, participated. 

The Bulgarian novelist Georgi Gospodinov, who won the 2023 International Booker Prize, was among the authors from Europe who attended the expo. Greek authors included best-sellers like children's novelist Katerina Kris and up-and-coming writers like Alexandra K*, who graduated from the University of Iowa's program in international writing and wrote Things the Virgin Mary Thinks While Smoking Hidden in the Bathroom.

Under the direction of fair director Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, the Thessaloniki Book Fair has made an effort to interact more fully with the global community. This year, it established its first professional fellowship program and opened a rights center. Participants included senior rights manager Michela Pea from Insight Editions and literary agent Chrysothemis Armefti from the 2 Seas Agency, both of which have offices in Ojai, California. Armefti is from Cyprus, whereas Pea is Italian and resides in Lisbon. Both are headquartered in Europe. Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs, another American, represented the Tel Aviv-based Deborah Harris Agency.

Thessaloniki's professional program featured panels that addressed issues that directly affected Americans, such as book prohibitions and the market for literary translations, notably in the United States. The lack of literary agents operating in the nation was noted by several Greek authors and publishers as a barrier to selling additional rights. Only Evangelia Avlioniti of the Ersilia Literary Agency and Catherine Fragou of the Iris Literary Agency is now representing Greek authors on the worldwide market.

According to Chatzigeorgiou, "We have a large number of extraordinary writers whose works have global appeal but are as of yet unknown." "We hope that the fellowship program encouraged greater global networking and trade. 

Additionally, having American literature as the featured guest allowed for fruitful cooperation that built a new commercial and cultural bridge between the United States and Greece.

It may be the beginning of a trend. The United States will be the special guest at this year's Getafe Negro, a crime and horror literary festival in Madrid, which runs from October 20 to 29. Bringing one author over was made possible, according to festival director Maica Rivera, thanks to backing from the American embassy in Spain. The author has not yet been chosen. The United States, with authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, and Jim Thompson, is where noir literature first emerged, according to Rivera.

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