The EU Referendum should be treated as a cultural opportunity, a time when we get to know our EU neighbours better. And what better way to do this than by reading books?
The UK may be geographically at the edge of Europe but is culturally at its heart because the preponderance of the English language provides a gateway to a world-wide audience for the cultures of our EU neighbours. We need to be involved in shaping the Europe of the future and giving it a strong cultural dimension. Ultimately it is not trade and security which will bind us together but culture.
Dedalus Books is an independent publishing house. The Reading Europe project includes works from EU countries that are all translated into English and published by UK independent publishers. The forty-nine books chosen from the twenty-four EU countries which are not part of the British Isles or British Commonwealth have been selected to enhance our knowledge of our neighbours history, literature and culture. The works range from classics and detective novels to serious literary fiction. Yet despite their wide range, there are two main themes which unite many of the titles: war and its aftermath and how the events of history turn people's lives upside down and make them the playthings of fate.
War and the consequences of war feature in eighteen of the forty-nine books, beginning with Simplicissimus by Grimmelshausen, a German novel from 1688, about Europe's longest war, in which the hero went from being a child soldier to an old man and changing sides several times before the Thirty Years War was finished.
One of the stand-out works in the promotion is Miklos Banffy's masterly The Transylvanian Trilogy which charts in great detail the political machinations and turmoil in Hungary which led to the First World War and the break-up of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. It sums up what we are looking for in the promotion as it is both an education and a richly rewarding reading experience.
The focus on war and its aftermath is not accidental as one of the reasons for the foundation of the EU was to bind the French and Germans together so war between them would be unthinkable.
The remit to publishers was to nominate a book that would enhance the reader's knowledge of the history or the culture of the country in some way, being both a reading and learning experience. For some countries we were spoilt for choice and for others the books selected themselves. In the case of Luxembourg we could not find a single title translated into English so we gave its near neighbour Belgium four so both French and Flemish titles could be equally represented.
There are 49 titles featured on the list. The full list of the selected books can be found here.
Eric Lane was born in North London in 1949. His father was English and his mother Italian. He studied Italian and Russian at Manchester University before training to be a lawyer. He founded Dedalus in1983 which he has run ever since with the help of his wife Marie. His son Timothy is the Europe editor and his son Anthony is also a director. Dedalus specialises in original English-language fiction and European fiction in translation, both classic and contemporary.