FMCM Associates

FMCM Associates

October 20, 2005 10:31 ET

THE MYTHS - THE MOST AMBITIOUS SIMULTANEOUS WORLD-WIDE PUBLICATION EVER

LONDON, ENGLAND--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 20, 2005) -

MEDIA EMBARGO - Thursday 20th October 3.30pm

Canongate Books, together with thirty-two publishing houses from around the world, gathered today at the Frankfurt Book Fair to launch a new series - The Myths - in the most ambitious simultaneous world-wide publication ever undertaken.

A Press Conference at the Frankfurter Hof hotel was attended by four leading writers - Karen Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, David Grossman and Jeanette Winterson - and their International publishers. The following titles launch the series:

Karen Armstrong - A Short History of Myth
Margaret Atwood - The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus
Jeanette Winterson - Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles
David Grossman - Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson
Victor Pelevin - The Helmet of Horror: The Myth of Theseus and The Minotaur

Further myths will be published in 2006 and beyond. Other confirmed authors for the series include Chinua Achebe, A.S Byatt, Milton Hatoum, Natsuo Kirino, Alexander McCall Smith, Ali Smith, Donna Tartt and Su Tong.

STATEMENTS FROM AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS

Karen Armstrong

"There is never a single, orthodox version of a myth. As our circumstances change, we need to tell our stories differently in order to bring out their timeless truth. In this short history of mythology, we shall see that every time men and women took a major step forward, they reviewed their mythology and made it speak to the new conditions. But we shall also see that human nature does not change much, and that many of these myths, devised in societies that could not be more different from our own, still address our most essential fears and desires."

Margaret Atwood

"I've chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of The Odyssey: what led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in The Odyssey doesn't hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I've always been haunted by the hanged maids; and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself."

Jeanette Winterson

"My work is full of Cover Versions. I like to take stories we think we know and record them differently. In the re-telling comes a new emphasis or bias, and the new arrangement of the key elements demands that fresh material be injected into the existing text.
Weight moves far away from the simple story of Atlas's punishment and his temporary relief when Hercules takes the world off his shoulders. I wanted to explore loneliness, isolation, responsibility, burden, and freedom, too, because my version has a very particular end not found elsewhere."

David Grossman

"There are few other Bible stories with so much drama and action, narrative fireworks and raw emotion, as we find in the tale of Samson: the battle with the lion; the three hundred burning foxes; the women he bedded and the one woman that he loved; his betrayal by all the women in his life, from his mother to Delilah; and, in the end, his murderous suicide, when he brought the house down on himself and three thousand Philistines.

'Yet beyond the wild impulsiveness, the chaos, the din, we can make out a life story that is, at bottom, the tortured journey of a single, lonely and turbulent soul who never found, anywhere, a true home in the world, whose very body was a harsh place of exile.

'For me, this discovery, this recognition, is the point at which the myth - for all its grand images, its larger-than-life adventures - slips silently into the day-to-day existence of each of us, into our most private moments, our buried secrets."

Victor Pelevin

"According to one definition, a myth is a traditional story, usually explaining some natural or social phenomenon. According to another, it is a widely held but false belief or idea. This duality of meaning is revealing. It shows that we naturally consider stories and explanations that come from the past untrue - or at least treat them with suspicion. This attitude, apart from creating new jobs in the field of intellectual journalism, gives some additional meaning to our life. The past is a quagmire of mistakes; we are here to find the truth."

Alexander McCall Smith

"One of the most important things about Canongate's brave foray into myth is that it is a reminder. Realism tells us what happens in the world, but it is coy about telling us why things happen. The message of myth is this: it has all happened before and this is the reason why it happens. Myth, then, enables us to understand our collective human insights into the workings of our world. This is not a new message - Freud and Jung appreciated this - but it is one which we have recently somewhat forgotten. Perhaps it is time we reminded ourselves again"

Milton Hatoum

"Myth is the place in which the nature of narration becomes explicit. It gives movement to unconnected, separate images, articulating them through ritual. A myth is a kind of story, a verbal art, as Northrop Frye has pointed out. And, like all art, it is related to the world that humans invent. A world whose content is nature, but whose form is human. In myth, desire is all-powerful. In the world of fiction, desire is a pursuit that is rarely fulfilled. For this reason, when myth loses its currency, it becomes literature. Parodying Jorge Luis Borges, I would say that the fate of myths is to become a select part of the The Library of Babel, that is, of all of the world's cultures. Is this not the fate of Canongate's collection of Myths?"

Ali Smith

"Myth is really the basis for all narrative and our need for myth is the source of all narrative. Why tell stories at all? Myths are our way of saying what's happening in a form which helps us understand what's happening. We apprehend our existences in ways too complicated for what, these days, we call realism. What just happened to me? I turned into a tree. I was rude to a god and the god skinned me alive. I heard music so beautiful that I pulled up my roots and walked. That's what myth is - made up truth."

Richard Flanagan

"Since Aldus asked Erasmus to help edit classical texts for his revolutionary Aldine editions, great publishing has often been about joining the best of contemporary writers and the new currents of an age with the great works of the past, and creating a new public for the resulting work. In the present day, when power and wealth ceaselessly misrepresent reality with lies, what a wonderful idea to once more ask writers to rework old myths with new ideas in the hope of illuminating some truths of this life, and taking the resulting books to a global audience."

AS Byatt

"Myth comes from an instinctive human need to construe the inhuman in terms of the human. We are creatures who use language in time. We make stories. (And histories.) Feuerbach understood the process - homo homini deus est. Myth both reduces the cosmos to recognisable (human) tales, and extends our narrowly personal interests to an interest in the nature of things."

Michel Faber

"I grew up thinking that History is the stuff that makes newspaper headlines and gets analysed by journalists, while Myth was something that primitive people swapped around the campfire. The distinction seemed quite simple. Politicians in suits, discussing policy and shaking hands for the camera? History, obviously. Aboriginal elders telling credulous youngsters about ancient gods? Myth. The Great Depression? History. The Great Flood? Myth.
And so on. Recently I realised that the distinction is nonsense. We are living in a post-Enlightenment era of mythology, a volcanic eruption of new legends. Savage, virile metaphors to rival anything from the Bible or the Bhagavad-Gita hold sway in our awed and anxious world."

Statement from Publishers

"Our modern alienation from myth is unprecedented. We are also living at a time when our sense of a shared humanity has never been more under threat. The fundamentalist mindset has polarised the world and has created divides that have made the world a more dangerous place. Never before has the planet been more ravaged. We seem hell bent on destroying it and ourselves.

The tragedy of all this is that what unites humanity is much stronger than what divides it and this seems especially evident when one considers the myths that all cultures share. It is these myths that feed the stories we tell one another, that underpin all literature and it is in the act of reading that we are able to cross borders and barriers of any width and height. Furthermore myths not only survive translation, they are, in part, defined by the fact that they exist in translation. They are renewed and strengthened by the very act.

The fact that the myths series is being launched today and simultaneously in so many languages around the world is proof of the desire amongst people to celebrate our shared humanity, to remain open to the possibilities of life rather than retreating behind divides and becoming imaginatively barren. This collaboration is a timely reminder of the connections that create a human community --- for it is through myth that we are able to understand the very essence of what it means to be human."

The thirty-three Myths Publishers to date are:

Argo (Czech Republic)
Berlin Verlag (Germany)
De Bezige Bij (Holland)
Bjartur (Iceland)
Bonniers (Sweden)
Boreal (French Canada)
Brilliance (World English Audio)
Canongate (UK)
Cappelens (Norway)
Companhia das Letras (Brazil)
Concern Group Soyuz (Russia, audio)
Flammarion (France)
Geopoetika (Serbia)
Great Falls/Chongqing (China)
Grove Atlantic/Canongate US (America)
Ink House (Bulgaria)
Janis Roze (Latvia)
Kadokawa (Japan)
Knopf Canada (Canada)
Locus (Taiwan)
Mlandinska Knijiga, Slovenia
Munhakdongne (Korea)
Oceanida (Greece)
OM Publishing (Russia)
Penguin (India)
Penn Publishing/Yedioth Aharonoth (Israel)
Rizzoli (Italy)
Salamandra (Spain)
Slovart (Slovakia)
Tammi (Finland)
Text (Australia)
Tiderne Skifter (Denmark)
Vukovic & Runjic (Croatia)
Znak (Poland)

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