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Letter from President of International Wodehouse Association
/ 15 2001 .: 120 .. / Letter from President of International Wodehouse Association

Lady and Gentleman

I am very happy to enclose the following for your first Russian Society meeting, which I believe is later this month. I would be very happy if you read it out in English, Russian, or any other language!

Message from Tony Ring, President of The International Wodehouse Association

I have been told that the Russian Wodehouse Society has arranged a meeting in Moscow in October, and I am delighted to write not only with my support but with that of all the member Societies.

The IWA was formed three or four years ago to act as a focal point for Wodehousean projects which required international input, and does not interfere with activities of individual members. We have just completed our second project, to produce an update to the McIlvaine Bibliography of Wodehouses work which had been published in 1990. I am pleased to report that there is a considerable Russian content in this Addendum, thanks to the input of Michel Kuzmenko and Masha Lebedeva, and I hope that the two copies sent to Masha will have arrived in time for your meeting.

The first project had involved each member Society organising a ballot amongst members to determine their favourite short stories in each Wodehouse series. The results were tabulated and presented to the British publisher Hutchinson, which incorporated the most popular choices in their new anthology What Ho, The Best of P G Wodehouse, published in February 2000 to commemorate the twenty-fifth year of P G Wodehouses death.

Members of the IWA include societies in the UK, USA, Sweden. Belgium, Netherlands and India, each of which have been in existence for some years. In three other countries, including Russia, admirers of Wodehouse have established ways of making contact through meetings, correspondence or the internet, but have not yet sought to join the IWA. If your society would like to discuss possible membership with the IWA, I suggest you designate one of your members as a contact point. Perhaps it would be helpful to point out that there are no subscriptions, and meetings are only held when a few of the representatives (one per country) are in the same city for other reasons! The work is done by e-mail and correspondence. I am delighted to say that I have met Masha Lebedeva and one of your senior translators, Natalia Trauberg, to whom I (or to be more accurate, my wife) gave lunch. I have corresponded with another translator, Inna Bernstein and Michel Kuzmenko.

The popularity of the work of P G Wodehouse remains very high, and is increasing in some areas of the world. In a time of international anxiety, his writing represents a haven of peace and tranquillity into which many people like to retreat for a while. In the last ten years many new translations of his works have been made: you will be aware of the almost forty books now available in Russian, but the Bulgarians and the Estonians have also been active. Western European countries such as Spain and France also regularly publish new versions, while there are more titles in print in Italian even than in English!

Many of you are aware of the Jeeves and Wooster TV programmes starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie that were produced in the early 1990s. All four series are available on video using the British configuration, and the first two are now available on DVD. Something like forty of Wodehouses books have been recorded, unabridged, by various readers and issued by Chivers in their Audio Book Collection, and tapes of many abridged or dramatised readings have been produced by Penguin, the BBC or others.

Penguin have recently reprinted almost fifty books, and Everyman has now published the first twelve title in its hardback Collectors Edition. This activity demonstrates that the publishers still think Wodehouse is still highly viable commercially.

One reason why he is popular is that he has created his fantasy world, into which anyone can invite themselves. But another relevant matter is that he is readable on different levels. The good English reader can understand much of the clever use of English. But dont be upset if you think you are missing something. Most English readers read the books the first time for plot and character, and perhaps do not appreciate the quality of the language, and the disguised jokes, until the second or third reading. Perhaps the most important quality of Wodehouses writing is that he is accessible to all, basing much of his writing on the reporting of real, straightforward incidents and characters in a highly exaggerated way, and lightening the complexities of the English language with imaginative metaphors and very funny similes.

From October 12 to October 14, the American Wodehouse Society is holding its Biennial convention, this year in Philadelphia. At the time of writing this note, preparation were being finalised for the meeting, but I plan to report the intention to hold this meeting, and you may be sure that the best wishes of the 150 or 200 people attending will be with you.

I have been trying to trace copies of the books which I am told you cannot find in Moscow. Most of those listed are out of print, but I will continue to offer what help I can. In the meantime, I wish you well, and trust that this meeting will be the first of many.

Tony Ring
President, International Wodehouse Association
October 4, 2001

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