PH-Europe literary ties keep making waves with ‘Agos’

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European diplomats and cultural officers, and Filipino publishing players, led by Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Jaroslav Olša Jr. and Anvil Publishing General Manager Andrea Pasion-Flores (seventh and 12th from left, respectively), pose with copies of “Agos: Modern European Writers in Filipino” at the opening of the European Literature Fair in National Book Store-Glorietta branch in Makati City on April 4. (Photo by Alvin I. Dacanay)

Almost a year after “Layag: European Classics in Filipino” was released, European diplomats and cultural officers partnered with Anvil Publishing to launch the latest title in their European anthology series, “Agos: Modern European Writers in Filipino,” at the opening of the European Literature Fair in Makati City last week.

Czech Ambassador to Manila Jaroslav Olša Jr., a translator, editor and publisher who leads the Manila cluster of the European Union National Institutes of Culture (Eunic), collected the 14 stories in the book, which award-winning writer Susana B. Borrero translated and is introduced by prize-winning author and filmmaker Kristian Sendon Cordero.

A copy of “Agos” on display. (Photo by Alvin I. Dacanay)

Among the stories are “Katulad na Katahimikan, Katulad na Ingay” by Alois Hotschnig of Austria; “Tayo na sa Golgota!” by Garry Kilworth of Britain; “Ang Malaking Dagat” by Veronika Santo of Croatia; “Ang Di Pa Naisisilang” by Eda Kriseova and “Ang Natatalong Panig” by Jaroslav Kalfar of the Czech Republic; “Ang Gansa ng Canada” by Maritta Lintunen of Finland; and “Sa Gabi, Sila’y mga Hayop” by Juli Zeh of Germany.

Completing the list are “Crimson and Clover” by Niviaq Korneliussen of Greenland; “Gaano Kahaba ang Daan?…” by Anthony Sheenard of Hungary; “Ang Pinakamahalagang Festival sa Mundo” by Niccolo Ammaniti and “May Dhow na Tumawid ng Dagat” by Ubah Cristina Ali Farah of Italy; “Ina” by Wieslaw Mysliwski of Poland; “Unang Araw sa Unibersidad” by Pavol Rankov of Slovakia; and “Pepa Pepita Pepa” by Nuria Barrios Fernandez of Spain.


“Literature is close to my heart, and I am really happy that it is also close to the hearts of many of my European colleagues,” Olša said in a speech at the fair’s opening at National Book Store in Makati’s Glorietta mall.

Of the stories in “Agos,” the envoy is particularly happy with the inclusion of “Crimson and Clover”—which comes from Korneliussen’s acclaimed 2014 debut novel “Homo Sapienne” and focuses on a transgender individual—to represent Greenland, which is part of Denmark.

In an interview, Olša said some of the stories were selected by the different European embassies and cultural institutes, while he picked the others. Those he chose included “Crimson and Clover,” which he did so after a fellow diplomat and creative writer who translates Greenlandic works recommended “Homo Sapienne” to him; and “Ang Natatalong Panig,” the first chapter of Czech-American author Kalfar’s 2016 satirical novel “Spaceman of Bohemia,” which the envoy described as “quintessentially Czech,” despite the book being originally penned in English.

The envoy hopes that, through “Agos,” readers would truly “see the diversity of Europe,” with “significantly more countries with different cultures.”

Olša holds copies of “Agos” and “Layag: European Classics in Filipino.” (Photo by Alvin I. Dacanay)

‘Unique opportunity’

On the 18-day fair, Olša said in a Czech embassy statement that it offered “a unique opportunity to exemplify the awe-inspiring [diversity]of the European liteary scene, and show that European authors cater to [numerous]literary tastes, and a variety of genres covering many literary styles.”

The fair also shows “how closely and interwoven the cultural heritage of Europe and the Philippines is, regardless of distance,” he added.

Books by the continent’s literary masters—from Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen, and Victor Hugo to Italo Calvino, José Saramago, Nikos Kazantzakis, Günter Grass, and Milan Kundera—will be prominently featured, as well as those by France’s Michel Houellebecq, Hungary’s László Krasznahorkai, and Turkey’s Orhan Pamuk.

The fair will also highlight the poetry collections of Poland’s Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska, Portugal’s Fernando Pessoa, and German-Austrian Rainer Maria Rilke; the crime novels of Norway’s Jo Nesbø and Sweden’s Stieg Larsson; and the fantasy books of Britain’s J.K. Rowling and Terry Pratchett and Poland’s Andrzej Sapkowski.

According to National Book Store, 20 to 30 of its branches, mostly in Metro Manila and a few in the cities of Cebu and Davao, are participating in the fair.

Organized as a collaboration between European embassies and cultural institutes in Manila, the European Literature Fair aims to “not only showcase European diversity, but also promote the transnational circulation of literature.”

“Agos: Modern European Writers in Filipino” is priced at P250 and available at National Book Store branches. The European Literature Fair runs until April 21.

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