Memo November 2016


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in November 2016

We are living sinister times: few of BO correspondents think differently.

Back to normal?

Normalizace sounds dreadful in this part of the world. The word denotes the process by which the communist leadership liquidated the 1968 Prague Spring and reinstalled the rigid oppressive variant of state socialism.

Are recent political events the signs of another normalizace period? End of the European Spring? From Jean Monnet back to Palmerston? (“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual” – 1848thanks, Guido.)

How does this affect culture? (BO risked one partial answer.)

Ministers met

The documents on the regular meeting of EU ministers in charge of culture indicate some progress in a few ongoing projects.

  • About audio-visual regulation we can read “divergences remain on some issues with some member states wishing for a more restrictive approach, while others would be willing to be flexible on some of these subjects”.
  • With regard to the European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018) “the Council adopted a general approach” with which they can “enter into negotiations with the European Parliament on this file during the Maltese Presidency”.
  • To the discussion of the international cultural relations of the union the Assistant Director-General of Unesco was invited whose intervention made the ministers put the issue of illicit trafficking of cultural objects to Europe on the agenda.
  • Political (preliminary) decision was made about the involvement of Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway into the European Capitals of Culture programme in the future. One of them may jump in as early as in 2023 if the United Kingdom is to relinquish of its turn to host an ECoC in that year.

Festival labels

With the decision of the European Commission the EFFE programme has levelled up from a pilot project (an experiment) to a “preparatory action”, the phase before fully integrating into the activities of the European Union.

Translation grants

The festival awards will complement the set of EU prizes on heritagearchitectureliterature and rock. BO regrets the absence of a translator award (after a failed attempt). Top quality literary translators are probably fewer than quality festivals, and are not much more difficult to compare than it is with the huge variety of festivals.   

The latest round of literary translation grants confirmed the centrifugal nature of the programme, which propels mainstream literature to the peripheries, instead of facilitating the ascent of works of lesser known cultures to the centre. Here is publishers, translators and (hopefully) readers in which countries have benefitted most from this EU source in the past three years:

The selection lists contain 136 publishers from 26 countries. Those familiar with the field will find the lists rather mixed. BO had difficulties identifying several of the publishers. In some cases the winners’ websites have no reference to the translated books (or how one can buy them), which calls for stricter monitoring. To unmask Pablisher DOOEL on the 2014 list we consulted an official and an independent detecting instrument but could not decide which of the two publishers on the same Skopje address it can be.

On the other hand, the top of the list delighted us. All seven houses collecting over 150 thousand euro apparently well deserve the grants. The translated works can be spotted on the websites. The home page of Nr. one Persey (Perseus) is fully dominated by the titles brought out with the help of the Creative Europe subsidy.



Translation grant 2014-2016  thousand euro

IK Persey






De Geus



Botime Pegi












11 publishers



57 publishers



61 publishers


less than 50

Altogether 136 publishers


A decade ago

The genetically curious will click and scroll down to Diagram12 on page 27 to find a totally different picture. Between 2000 and 2006 the largest amount, 13.6% of all EU translation grants went to Norway, the country which is difficult to spot on the graph above. The eastern bloc was then led by Lithuania, similarly hardly visible on the current diagram. Two countries holding steady through the years past are Italy from the west and Hungary from the east.

A plentiful glossary

Several BO friends have participated in the grand work which is encyclopaedic and user friendly at the same time. The price is less friendly, a hundred euro for all and thirty for bits. Fortunately, most entries can be read on the screen in full, albeit in a somewhat opaque typeset.

I am talking about the Wroclaw Commentaries, a handbook on terms and concepts in the realm of cultural rights. A true challenge to Wikipedia.

Beyond the obvious

Culture Action Europe encourages you to be an early bird to the conference in January. (Here is more about the poetic motto.)