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This report is taken from PN Review 149, Volume 29 Number 3, January - February 2003.

Letter from Slovakia James Sutherland-Smith

Two years ago my medium-term goal was to withdraw from hard currency employment and work locally to pay household bills and keep food on the table while the equivalent of an annuity supplied the difference between subsistence and comfort, enabling further letters from Slovakia, not necessarily about Slovak poetry, but poetry in the region. It would be egregious to claim that the events of 11 September, 2001 were responsible for this rather than the behaviour of the markets which continue to evade reliable forecasts. Moreover, I continue to work because my day job for the British Council still compels my interest.

Perhaps now there is more emphasis on the notion of marketing Britain although the idea of mutual exchange still holds. Sometimes certain realities are over-emphasised to the point of distortion. Britain is multi-cultural and ethnically diverse, but for more than ninety per cent of us our cultural and ethnic diversity had its origin hundreds of years ago. One of the more grating of the British Council's images is a portrait of Lord Byron side by side with one of Benjamin Zephaniah. Why not Jackie Kay? She's rather more diverse than the rapmaster of vegetarianism.

Despite this gripe, the British Council has enabled me to bring out a little of the interaction between writers and education in Britain to Slovakia. This has been well received by teachers in Slovakia and a number of other Central and Eastern European countries who are now planning Creative Writing ...


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