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Gojko Božović, Founder and Chief Editor of Arhipelag Publishing

Not Everything’s Bad – Books Are Good

When I founded Arhipelag in the spring of 2007, I wanted to work with authors and contributors, partners and friends, to form a space in which readers would have the possibility to choose

Now, after exciting years in complicated times, and with the clear knowledge that such times are still ahead of us, I’m glad that the readers have inhabited that space, both literally and symbolically. It is only in the hands of readers that books gain their meaning and final form, but in order to reach that sense and form, in something that differs with every real reader, books must first provide readers with content. I would republish any book published under the Arhipelag brand in recent years, regardless of sales results or the initial resounding of some of those books in public.

That’s precisely why I advocate the concept of authorial publishing, superior literature and the cultural and social responsibility of publishers. As an editor and publisher, I only publish books that I would definitely want to read even if I wasn’t a publisher, but rather just a reader. I only publish books that, due to their values, I can freely recommend to my children or my friends. And I’m ready to pay a price for that decision to make the publishing work I do part of high culture and superior literature.

A publisher is responsible to its readers, not just its own interests, economic or any other. The value of publishing work is measured as long as a single book of some publisher exists in bookshops or in public or private libraries. In modern history, publishing has been in a natural alliance with high culture and markets. High culture provided equally high and verifiable criteria, while the market created a space for ideas to be tested and validated. The contemporary marginalisation of culture has served to unravel this enduring and fruitful alliance, which is why most publishers around the globe have cut their ties with culture by adapting to trends and meeting their real or assumed expectations. Readers need to be offered a choice. And today this possibility is very limited, despite us being surrounded by many book-shaped products.

Literature mustn’t be boiled down to one taste, one colour, one trend. It must be the voice of differences and the voice of values… The best books have always embodied true securities

We want the Arhipelag mark on the covers of our books to be a kind of contract with the reader. We haven’t abandoned that contract and, more importantly, nor have our readers. People who read good books understand the circumstances of their own lives. And that is the best asset we can acquire, the safest asset that any kind of crisis is powerless to confront. We don’t live to read, write and publish books, but rather we read or even write and publish, in order to fill our own lives with meaning, the foundations of freedom and the power of independence.

Literature mustn’t be boiled down to one taste, one colour, one trend. It must be the voice of differences and the voice of values. It must pose questions and we must bear witness, over and again, that a particular writer has something to say to us and that, as such, his book had to be written. The best books have always embodied true securities.

In terms of the crisis of taste, we are completely consciously and decisively going against the current, because I believe that’s an expression of our social and cultural responsibility. I am very satisfied with the way readers have accepted and supported our choice. The year of Arhipelag’s work relies primarily on the fact that there are enough readers in Serbia who are interested in the kind of literature and human stories that we publish. And from thence we can repeat to readers: “not everything’s bad – books are good”.

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