Memo September 2003


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in September 2003

September is usually the month of new beginnings. Dragging along with ongoing tasks, BO managed to complete two minor projects in September (just a few weeks later than due).

Out after a hiding species
BO decided long ago to discover what happened to the controversial ‘cultural houses' in the east, and whether there exist approximate equivalents in the west. Summer was spent by virtual trekking in search for this hiding species, on shelves and on the monitor. BO found much more than expected, see report . We had some information about Germany and the Nordic countries; the rich yield from Belgium and Spain was pleasant surprise.

BO is now looking for sponsors and partners for a more substantial mission with roughly the same goal.  For more, see research outline.

Do you know what a MILC is? Don't worry, nobody does. Before reading BO report.

Dreaming about reform
Does the network of cultural institutes abroad need a reform, or not? That is the question posed by the culture ministry in Hungary.

BO contributed with a paper and some proposals. In setting them up, we have drawn on examples in other parts of Europe, especially from Austria, Czechia, Estonia, Germany, Poland; and others of course.

Seven questions again
First BO inquired about corporate sponsorship to culture in east-central Europe nearly three years ago. What we learned from colleagues then is still available here.

Now BO repeated the exercise, keeping some of the seven questions, replacing the rest. The subject is the same: money from businesses to culture. The first answers have reached us, thanks, friends! Especially to earliest bird Baiba, to the highly economical Katalin (full response using 73 characters!), to the laborious Malgorzata on the opposite end, and to Stefan, the first to participate in both polls.

Never too late: BO is curious about your views as well - please submit them here.

Taking pains about the Union
EU Observer has not been neglected. BO tackled two fundamental issues lately. The place of culture in the famous internal market -  and how the Union funds culture.

Taking pains to be digestible.

Books keep multiplying
In September, too, BO went along collecting information for the Mercator Centre project on subsidising translations (see previous memos).

We take country by country. On the average, the number of new books has grown by about 50% during the past decade everywhere. This is amazing, especially if one considers that the amount of texts - including literature - stored and disclosed digitally, probably has grown over 500% (if not 5000) in the same period.

The variety of offer has tremendously multiplied in our lifetime. Much more difficult to discern the time that people devote to reading, traditional books or downloaded files.

Comparing translation output
Analysing the figures of Canada, BO was not surprised to find that translations to and from French and English dominate the scene; yet we were quite uncertain about the rest of the list. Could you have guessed the following order: German - Italian - Spanish - Latin - Dutch - Russian? Next comes Cree, with 83 titles translated from this native American language over twenty years. (The period of 1979-2000 was covered.)

Czech figures are of course different, with English - German - French topping the list. The fourth position of Italian lends itself to comparing the two countries: 378 books were translated into Czech against 340 into one or other Canadian language. The total number of Canadian titles being about double that of the Czech Republic, the proportion of Italian translations is about half in Canada. We found two years only when the number of literary titles translated from Italian exceeded 20: 1994 in Czechia and 1999 in Canada.

Sometimes BO is asked to correct items of our memos. Sometimes we give in. Go to ‘Creative potentials in Vienna' .

Whether BO found it by incidence, or was alerted by someone, we do not remember. However, we have been following the steps of Fundtracer with sympathetic curiosity. They promise to collect and display info about conditions and chances of getting money for culture, for the time being in four countries. They seem to manage, there are new items every time you click on the Fundtracker website . Some children's diseases add to the charm. The title ‘Milano Film Festival' takes you to Germany and informs about the rich cultural activities of the city of - Salzburg. BO is uncertain about the shopping trolley icon though. Are we expected to pay later on?