Memo May 2013


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in May 2013

Amidst the waves of national re-awakening this newsletter upholds the European flag.

European prizes

A study was published on the impact of the EU prizes for culture. The authors appreciate the architecture and the built heritage awards the most, they acknowledge the younger rock music prize, and are reserved about the fourth award: “a coherent strategic vision is yet to emerge for the literature prize”. Concerning the latter, BO maintains the original critique. Competition within previously set geographical frames is of limited worth (see also ECoC after 2019).

The great virtue of the two most successful European prizes is that they had a successful civic career before the European Commission adopted them. That would be the trajectory of the much needed European translator’s award, too: are there promising initiatives?

À propos prizes. Not one of the 16 prizes in Cannes (including Un certain regard) came to Eastern Europe. Our region was more successful in Venice: the jury made a special mention about the project with the strange title oO, shared between Lithuania and Cyprus. An odd couple, aren’t they? Why not a Golden Lion for the national participation? Because it went to – Angola.  

European celebrations

International organisations have a habit of adopting celebrations and events, too. Here is a list:

  • The European Heritage Days were born in France in 1984 as Doors Open Days, held in most countries between August and November.
  • The Open Garden Weekend will be held next weekend, as far as we know only in Britain.
  • Also soon is the World Music Day, called a feast in most languages, certainly in the original, initiated in France in 1981 as Fête de la Musique.
  • Not to be confused with the International Music Day, held on the 1st of October.
  • A little complicated is the genealogy of museum nights, white nights, long nights etc. Nuit blanche is the oldest (France, 1984), Taiteiden yö followed (Finland, 1989), then camedie Lange Nacht der Museen(Germany, 1997).
  • All these attract more genuine attention than the World Day for Cultural Diversity.

European discourse

Work on ways to promote cultural and creative industries goes on. This is good. What has bothered BO from the outset is the lack of distinction within this combined term. Cultural industries (and culture at large) can indeed gain from being treated together with the creative industries. But putting the advertisement of business and classical concerts, or software design and art galleries in the same basket indiscriminately can do harm.

Browsing through the myriad pages of working papers (this, and this, and this, and this, as well as this) which are paving the way at the European Parliament towards a final version of an EU strategy on the issue, I found one single slight incidence of acknowledging the problem: “the very disparate nature of the cultural and creative ecosystem”, and two disturbing phrases: “cultural and creative sectors are of huge interest to tourists from both the EU and non EU countries” and “the cultural and in particular the creative sector should be strongly supported by the future EU budget”. This is not exactly the differentiation I call for.

It is not too late to switch to using more precise and clearer terms, otherwise expressions like the following will prevail: "I firmly hold the belief that culture is a sector ... which employs some 8.5m people and generates some 4% percent of the EU’s GDP.” (One minister, identifying the smaller slice with the entire cake.) Or shall we believe this document? “The economic performance of the cultural and creative sectors is recognised: in the EU they account for 3.3% of GDP and employ 6.7 million people.”  Unidentified figures spread like bushfire: “With a turnover of $2 700 billion world-wide, 6.1% of global GDP, 8 million jobs and 4% of GDP in Europe for culture and creative industries…”

European publishers

Continuing the topic of translation promotion agencies, our survey done with Literature Across Frontiers last year asked 80 publishers in Europe whether they found the information provided by these organisations useful. A “very useful” response was given 3, “occasionally useful” 2, and “of limited use” 1 (with zero as fourth option). The absolute ideal would be if all 80 publishers agree that the work of an agency is “very useful”. That would deserve a 100% tall column on the graph that shows the opinions on the 25 best used organisations.

The 45% reached by the relevant Dutch body is spectacular. Also highly appreciated is the work of the Goethe Institute in this field, and the most favourite from east-central Europe is the Polish organisation.

The lesser identifiable codes are FLA for Flanders, CAT for Catalonia and WLS for Wales, which also run organisations to promote translation from their language. TRA stands for Traduki, a peculiar institution that promotes literatures from South-East Europe, based in several places: 20% on our graph implies their considerable impact on publishers.