Last Wednesday, DH and I went to hear Alexander Hemon (The Lazarus Project) introduce a number of actors reading stories from The Best European Short Stories 2010, which Hemon edited.
Hemon is a wonderful writer, and an incredibly engaging, almost hypnotic speaker as well. His voice, with a strong Eastern European (he would probably say not Eastern European but Bosnian) accent, and an evocative, lilting tenor, would have been enough to captivate me even if I wasn't such a huge fan of his writing.
2 of the three stories read were wonderful. The first, by Igor Stiks, and titled "At the Sarajevo Market", was both mine and DH's favorite. The story takes place in a war-torn Sarajevo. The male narrator and a female friend are walking through the "market", where people are selling books, jewelery, antiques, anything to get some money to buy food. A simple summary can't do justice to the poignant majesty of this story. The book would be worth buying, I think, for this story alone. But this is not the only great story by a writer you've never heard of in this collection.
Hemon made the cogent point that we publish the same amount of books in translation in America as Serbia does. While we are a country of 300,000,000, Serbia has between 2 and 3 millions people. That is sad. Understandable (we don't speak other languages with ease, we publish a lot more of our own books per capita than Serbia) but still sad. This book, which Hemon hopes will be an annual occurrence, is a step in the right direction.