Tatters in the Iron Curtain

New York--The most likely recurring publishing news of 1988 will be books behind the Iron Curtain--not just Soviet publishing but publishing in other Eastern Bloc countries as well. The stories may not always be happy ones, but in 1988, there will be many of them.

In the fall, Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish a book whose German title, in English translation, is simply "Accident." By the East German writer Christa Wolf, it is an account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. East Germany, like the rest of the Soviet Bloc, downplayed Chernobyl, and as a result, Wolf's book has acquired something of the status of a dissident book, not least because of its warm reception in West Germany. There, Chernobyl was bigger news than it was in any other country in the world, and "Accident," at only 120 pages, was on the best-seller list for 29 weeks. Last Fall, Wolf won the 20,000 DM ($12,000) Scholl Prize (named for a hero of the anti-Nazi Resistance), which is given by the city of Munich and the Bavarian Publishers Assn. Partly in consequence of this success, Wolf herself, though still little known in the United States, has become one of the most noticed writers in the German-speaking world, one of a very small number who have a major following on both sides of the border. Wolf, who lives in East Berlin, is allowed to travel to West Germany several times a year. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which has published several of her earlier works, including "A Model of Childhood" and "No Place on Earth," may publish her Chernobyl book under another title than the literal translation "Accident," its publicity director reports.

Another Eastern Bloc book that is being awaited with particular interest is Soviet literary critic Oleg Mikhailov's "River of Time," a discussion of 20th-Century Russian writers that, though published in the Soviet Union, will discuss works by emigres whose poetry and prose only recently has been officially acknowledged.

The book is to include "the 1920s through the 1940s, including creative works by Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937), Ivan Shmelev (1873-1950) and Boris Zaitsev (1881-1972)," Mikhailov told Soviet news agency Tass some weeks ago, according to a Times wire service report.

Mikhailov said he chose the title because it is the passage of time that helps to "soberly evaluate the works that for one reason or another were created far from the motherland."

Some short works by Nabokov have been published in Soviet journals in the last two years, and Zamyatin's 1929 novel "We," describing an authoritarian society of the future, is to be published next year in the Soviet literary monthly "Znamya."

"The book, which is to be issued by the Moscow publishing house 'Soviet Writer,' is part of a large undertaking by Soviet literary experts to remove the 'blank spots' in the history of our literature," Tass said.

Tass did not indicate whether Mikhailov's book would be issued first in book form or in segments in a literary monthly.

Soviet publishing houses generally issue small printings of novels, while literary magazines have circulations in the millions and are more readily available to readers.

A NOD FROM THE WHITE HOUSE: Although Nicholas Gage was surprised to hear his book "Eleni" referred to by President Reagan following the summit talks with Mikhail Gorbachev, it was not Gage's first encounter with the Oval Office. As a young man just 14 years on American soil, Gage was invited to the White House by John F. Kennedy to receive the Hearst Foundation award for the best writing by a college student in America. That prize enabled Gage to make his first trip back to his native Greece to research the imprisonment and murder of his mother that became the basis for "Eleni." His next book, an as-yet untitled memoir covering the story of Eleni's children growing up in post-war America, will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 1989.

IN MEMORIAM: In honor of James Baldwin and in celebration of black history month in February, Dell will reissue six Baldwin classics, "Go Tell It to the Mountain," "Giovanni's Room," "Another Country," "The Fire Next Time" and "If Beale Street Could Talk," under the Laurel imprint. Of Baldwin, who died Dec. 1 at his home in Southern France, Dell president and publisher Carole Baron said, "his works have profoundly altered America's social and literary consciousness."

INTELLECTUAL THEFT? That's what Assn. of American Publishers president Nicholas Veliotes has charged in announcing the AAP's amicus curiae filing made on behalf of a West Coast software publisher who is suing UCLA for copyright infringement. The AAP echoes the challenge of BV Engineering to a U.S. District Court ruling that individual states and state agencies (such as UCLA) have immunity from copyright enforcement. In his statement about the suit, in which BV contends that UCLA copied seven software programs and related materials manufactured by BV, Veliotes said, "We cannot accept a situation in which the states and their agencies are free to infringe copyright--a polite way of describing plain theft of intellectual property."

THREE-WAY MERGER: Mega-bestseller Sidney Sheldon, Waldenbooks and Dove Books on Tape have joined forces to promote taped versions of Sheldon's "The Naked Face," "Rage of Angels," "If Tomorrow Comes" and "Windmills of the Gods." The promotion, with a budget of apprioximately $250,000, begins immediately after next month's telecast of the miniseries of "Windmill of the Gods."

NEW IMPRINT: Doubleday has announced plans to launch a new cloth imprint for science fiction and fantasy, Foundation Books, in May, 1988. Foundation Books' authors include Isaac Asimov, Raymond Feist, Janny Wurts, Pamela Sargent and Parke Godwin.

NEW TITLE: Jane Amsterdam, founding editor of the magazine Manhattan Inc., has joined Alfred A. Knopf as a senior editor. Amsterdam previously was an editor at The Washington Post, New Times, American Lawyer and New Jersey Monthly.

SVETLANA'S PROBLEMS: Glasnost may be making a major difference for some writers, but it has not bettered the literary fortunes of a Soviet publishing sensation of some seasons past. In letters to several friends, Svetlana Stalin has taken to pleading poverty. The Washington Post has reported that the 61-year-old daughter of the late Josef Stalin wrote one friend: "It is hard for me to beg, but I must continue to write. This is my worst time I have ever met." She complained in particular that although she wrote two books in the late 1960s, publishers do not seem interested in anything new from her. "The attitude toward me, after my return from U.S.S.R. in 1986 (we stayed there for 18 months, I hoped to join my family there), is hostile," she wrote. Now living in Spring Green, Wis., she uses the name Lana Peters. Her teen-age daughter Olga attends a Quaker school in England.

SPECIAL RECOGNITION: The U.S. Department of Education has honored the four Ethnic Resource Centers of the L.A. County Public Library as among "the finest examples of special collections and resource centers serving the needs" of U.S. citizens. The centers--the American Indian Resource Center, located at the Huntington Park Library; the Asian Pacific Resource Center, at the Montebello Library; the Black Resource Center, at the A. C. Bilbrew Library; and the Chicano Resource Center, at the East Los Angeles Library--provide strong multi-media collections on the communities they serve, as well as referral information and current events files.

AWARDS, HONORS: On April 23 in Madrid, King Juan Carlos of Spain will preside over ceremonies presenting the Miguel de Cervantes Prize to Mexican novelist/essayist Carlos Fuentes. The award carries an honorarium of 10 million pesetas, roughly $90,000.

Winners of the 1987 Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards are Leonard Barkin, for "The Gods Made Flesh"; Alfred W. Crosby, author of "Ecological Imperialism," and Hugh D. Crone, for "Chemicals and Society." The awards have been presented annually since the 1950s for the outstanding nonfiction books published in the United States in the fields of literature, the social sciences and science and mathematics, and carry a prize of $2,500 to each of the winning authors.

HANDS ACROSS THE CURTAIN: A story about two 11-year-old girls, one Russian and the other American, who travel around the United States together, is the first book to be written, photographed, edited and designed in the United States and produced in the Soviet Union. "Making Friends," the real-life tale of Katya from Moscow and Star from San Francisco, is a joint project of Henry Holt & Co. in New York and Raduga Publishers of Moscow. The book was issued simultaneously in the United States and the Soviet Union on Nov. 30.

Katya and Star, who now correspond regularly since their initial meeting in March, 1986, met in New York and participated in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 27 to launch "Making Friends." Their book tour took them to the West Coast and then back to Washington, D.C., just in time for the summit meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev. Sen. Alan Cranston hosted a Senate reception in the girls' honor.

Star Rowe hopes to study ballet with either the Kirov or the Bolshoi and has been offered a chance to audition for both.

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