Edward Vick: The Quality of Bulgarian Books will Increase
Edward Vick spoke to Sofia News Agency Editor Petya Bondokova
Q: Why did you choose Bulgaria to establish the Novel of The Year awarding?
A: I came to Bulgaria five years ago, for pleasure. We decided to invest in Bulgaria, because we see it as a country with a future.
We started in Bulgaria four years ago, and have been successful here.
I also studied English literature at Cambridge and so love literature. When I was in school my teacher won the Booker prize, which is the prize for the best novel written in English and not published in the USA. And so with this love of literature and my interest in languages and translations, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to combine the interests here in Bulgaria.
The big prize is 10,000 levs for the best novel published in a specific year. There is also a prize of 1,000 levs for the book which gets the most votes from the public.
We have established a committee of seven people and they choose the jury - basically literature figures. The committee is the same every year, and the jury is chosen specially each year. There are four members of the jury, they vote on who will be awarded the prize. The public vote is one vote in addition.
Q: Will there be any international members of the jury?
A: No, it's not an international jury because the books are read in Bulgaria, and so it's Bulgarians to choose Bulgarian novels.
It is a prize for the best book published in Bulgaria.
Q: What is your impression of the book publishing industry in Bulgaria?
A: I think the biggest problem in Bulgaria is the distribution structure. We went looking this week for books of the last six. We could only find three of the six in the bookshops. We have been making publicity, a lot of publicity, for people who are interested.
The question is that many people are interested really not in Bulgarian books, they read for business. You can ask people when was the last time you read a Bulgarian book by a Bulgarian person. The answer is almost always: "I can't remember."
Twenty years ago a bestseller novel in Bulgaria would sell 100,000. Today its 3,000.
But then of course there's a lot of translations of American, English, Canadian, German books which can be read now.
Q: Do you think Bulgarians do little reading, or they just don't read Bulgarian books?
A: Many people ask whether it's a question of money. I don't think it's a question of money. You have a mobile phone - therefore you can afford to buy two books.
Q:Do you think that other sources of information, like the Internet, could be the reason for less book reading?
A: Not at all. This is a question that has been asked three times in the last 100 years. Will radio make a difference to reading? Will television make a difference to reading? Now, will the Internet make a difference to reading?
No. It's always nice to read a real book.
You could ask the same about would it make any difference to sex. You can meet people now on the Internet, but nothing is better than actually meeting two people. Nothing is better than the reality.
Q: What was the first Bulgarian book you read?
I read a science fiction book about 20 years ago.
The problem is a question of translation.
Part of the prize is the option of the translation of the book into English. The idea is that not only Bulgarian people can read books. If we have a prize for the best book in Bulgaria, and translate the book, there is a possibility that someone outside Bulgaria will read it.
Q: Do you think there are future classics among Bulgarian books written nowadays?
A: The problem about writing is that you have to write, and the books need to be read. In an international world you can go and eat in the same restaurant everywhere, buy the same clothes.
I think the important thing, especially for writing, is the differences. That is why I really think this is a good chance for a Bulgarian to be extremely successful because he has the differences.
There is one thing especially true in East European countries. Fifteen years ago everything was moving towards the West. In the West everything was wonderful because it was new. And now I think the clock is moving back slowly, and people are beginning to say: "After all, our own culture, our own interests, our own language, food and customs are more important."
This is partly why we started the prize.
Q: Do you think that the winner has the chance to achieve international popularity?
A: At least with the possibility of a translation there may be opportunity to do so.
It depends on the quality of the books. I think that the quality of the books will increase as a result of the possibility of some extra money for writing. After all, I believe that there is only one writer in Bulgaria that actually lives from writing.
Q: What is your favourite Bulgarian novel?
A: I have no favourite Bulgarian author. I studied English literature in Cambridge, and this disqualifies me because I've read so many books. If I have to name one, what can I say - I will have to say Vazov.
Q: Does that mean you like Bulgarian classics?
A: The question is - what books do I have the chance to read? This is part of the chance for me to read another book. We offer the possibility of a translation, and then I can read the book.
I am like the other foreigners. They have no chance to read the book. I have a translation company and we have offices across Europe. I speak four languages myself but I cannot learn to speak twenty languages!
Q: Are you saying that there aren't enough Bulgarian books translated in other languages?
A: Well, just think that only 66 novels total published in Bulgaria in 2003. The quality of some of these books is terrible, and some are fine.
Q: Has your company translated any Bulgarian books?
A: No, our business at EVS is largely business translations. It is a very important matter that language is actually something which moves things. Language is a very important thing to make sure that success is achieved at some point. This is why our work is mainly business translations.
But we are obviously very interested also in literary translations.
The question is that if you don't sell books, it's not going to be successful. And if a bestseller only sells 3,000 copies that is not what I call success.
Several million Bulgarians are living in Bulgaria, but only 3,000 maybe have read a Bulgarian novel, because 3,000 is the bestseller! How many have you read? None!
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