Words can transport us to different worlds and times in just a few lines, while getting lost in a story, via a book, e-reader or even the spoken word, we learn about life, ourselves and the world around us.
Books and literature have long been at the heart of a good education, at home and at school.
Learning by any means fuels the engine of a considerate and well-informed society and many of life’s hardest lessons can be learned by reading a rich blend of literature and poetry from writers old and new, from close to home or further afield.
My love of books came from my parents. Books have always been a large part of my life and I enjoy reading different genres to suit the time, occasion or my mood.
Such determining behaviour can embed so deeply in our collective mind that it corrals opinion about us and shapes our lasting impressions.
In that way, caricatures, stereotypes and misconceptions can be created – or they can be put straight for evermore.
The overwhelming floods in the Balkans will impact on the lives of so many people in so many ways. Thousands are already homeless, having lost everything to the dirty stinking waters, while the growing death toll ticks up to who knows where.
The scale of this natural disaster is unseen in Europe in recent decades, with the flooding in Serbia the worst in more than a century.
Artist, writers and filmmakers can tell stories, raise debate and confront difficult issues that otherwise might be brushed under the carpet. Modern times have seen the valuable role played by art in appraising a country’s recent history and helping a country to accept its past.
Of course, tackling such subjects can have its own issues. In Serbia, a list was circulated naming writers, filmmakers and actors who were considered to have spoken unfavourably about the country’s recent past or social issues.
Unsurprisingly, some of these people have received direct threats and even politicians have openly criticised artists for daring to provide a perspective that does not sit well with officially sanctioned views.
Often these artists receive a more open ear abroad, where their views can be seen and heard at international film festivals, regional conferences and book events.
In literature, there are exciting worlds to be discovered beyond the realm of the cut-price supermarket reads that are more readily promoted for our attention.
With a little effort on our part and the experienced hand of sensitive publishers who are willing to seek out and share modern works from beyond borders, it is possible to enjoy and be enriched by some fascinating books.
Istros Books is a leading publisher of literature in translation. In a relatively short time, this London-based book house has become a reliable source of contemporary authors and modern classics from South Eastern Europe, and opened an English-speaking audience to a wealth of Balkan literature, poetry and political commentary.