Memo April 2016


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

This memo begins and ends with apologies.

Fault alarm

BO sent out messages to addresses that – according to our software – appeared to be idle for some time. Several of our subscribers have been bothered unnecessarily as our software proved to have committed mistakes. Almost human. Sorry for that.

EU funding on translation

The latest selection results of the Creative Europe translation programme reinforced the main feature of the project: lots of literature translated from the west to the east. BO regrets that the resources of the programme are not used more (in fact hardly at all) to bring works and authors from the margins into the centres of the European literary scene. From the altogether 1011 books that receive grants in 2014 and 2015 we found too few instances of translating from an east-European language into German, French, and only fourteen into English, a first step towards the literary mainstream.

The list of 675 authors behind the 1011 books is led by two ladies, Croatian-born German Marica Bodrožić and Romanian Ioana Pârvulescu, recipients of the European Union Prize for Literature. Both award winning novels were translated into ten languages. 

The real champion of the literary translation programme is nevertheless Karl Ove Knausgård. The Norwegian writer’s record is the most diverse among all translated writers in the course of the two years: eight translations of five titles into four languages. Second and third most successful were Hungarian László Krasznahorkai (3 titles, 6 translations, 4 languages) and Flemish Peter Terrin (3 titles, 5 translations, 5 languages).

As a complement to this memo you can click for a full panorama of the programme. For a teaser, here is the spread of literary translations from the Slovene language.


EU funding on cooperation

The flagship programme in the culture strand of Creative Europe is cultural cooperation projects, small and large scale. The latest selection results are out and will give food for evidence crunchers like BO, just like last time.


In the shadow of the cancelled original, the halls of Flagey in Brussels hosted a Culture Forum that sought prospects for culture in an age when “fear breeds populism”, as stated in one of the first (appropriate) keynote and echoed along the two days.

The forthcoming high level documents on culture in the external policies of the European Union took centre stage. The idea of joint European cultural centres was vigorously propositioned in another keynote (enhanced as Europa Houses by BO).    


With the new portal Ifacca has really come of age. User friendly, easy to navigate without fancy ingredients like pictures of twisting bodies to recap that it is about arts (yet the logo reminds BO of a nice frog). Browsing members will reveal the absence of the Baltic and Visegrad areas (except a Lithuanian ministry and a Czech institute).   


With its latest newsletter, or flying website”, Culture Action Europe amazed its members with a “dashboard” that reveals a myriad dimensions of the two major surveys on cultural behaviour in Europe. With perseverance and ingenuity you will find the right connection between facts that explain success or failure, and can be used as the top argument for your cause.

BO was guided to the source.

Local culture

We made a silly mistake in the last memo by matching local public cultural spending to the general expenditure (mainly administration) and not to the total (corrected later on the web). Sorry. Now here is the true picture. Remember, more than half of all public money on culture is spent locally.

We could see that percentage-wise Latvia spends the most on culture, which is largely due to the 6.5% that Latvian cities and regions allocate on the Eurostat-Cofog category 08.02 cultural services within local budgets.

Nordic countries, and especially Great Britain, are in the eyes of east Europeans the models of democracy that also entails local self-determination; which is why the low percentages of local cultural spending embarrass the observer. The generally high share in the post-communist countries has certainly to do with the financing needs of the cultural infrastructure: the Cinderella of European cultural policies, the network of houses of culture.