Wednesday, May 6, 2009



Essay by Gustáv Murín

In these days I use to recall the times when in every corner we had slogan saying: "With Soviet Union forever!" Maybe it is why I am (in contrary to some others who had very probably never any problem with previous slogan) so reluctant to call these days so enthusiastically "With European Union forever!". However different are these unions I feel that criticism is only way how to adopt any big idea with certain dignity. Especially when I have my personal experience with European Commission and its support of literature. And literature is a topics we would to talk about here and now.

First problem of grant system supporting financially literature in European Union (such like Culture 2000 where I was engaged as an expert of selection committee) is its enormous bureaucracy. Well, if someone is chosen as bureaucrat out of ten thousand other candidates , and than well paid, he or she naturally want to show us their "skillfulness". Therefore application forms looks much more like puzzle than normal document. And supplements required are numerous. And again, naturally, this steeple chase over bureaucratic traps is able to survive only strong subject. And who they are? Writers, poets, literary critics or enthusiastic editors and publishers? Of course not! Only another bureaucrats can manage this hard trace and, again naturally, there are big and well funded publishing houses who are paying to whole bunch of their bureaucrats to succeed in applications for grant of EC. Bureaucrats of EC call the previous "red rats", but how we may call bureaucrats of EC who made all these troubles out of nothing?
It is fairly possible that some real fanatics of literature with all their must succeed to jump over this first obstacle. Well, than they will face second one. Bureaucrats of Brussels really do not like a small boys, lonely enthusiasts. Thus, you can apply for EC support only with BIG project. In terms of translation of books from one EU language to another you have to have at least TEN books project in the same time. With all agreements from authors and their agents, and with capacity to make it all from editing to printing and distribution. The lonely publisher who like very much particular author and would to publish only his book is ultimate looser. And in this moment you may recall well know paradox of capitalism that only strong ones become stronger, and week one will simple vanish. So, who may succeed - red rats (with "projects" like translation and publication of Agatha Christie in Greece), of course! Do you wonder why?

Well, do not let us to be entirely pessimistic. There are always some publishers who (with great sympathy of members of selective committee, who are also mostly enthusiasts) may obtain grant from EC. And well, just there will start their real troubles. All those previous struggles were just in theoretical level, now comes real ones. It is because EC grants are, by regulations, covering just a half of expenses and these you have to pay first by yourself. And than to wait for months for reimbursement. Same it is for literary conferences or any other activities alike. And believe me, you will hate the day you ever become so foolish to start all this circus with EC "support". It is because it may last not only months when you will see promised funds and this all only in case that everything is perfect in eyes of EC bureaucrats. And it is no often so. Not because you wouldn't like to be perfect, but because also EC bureaucrats are just humans. It means not really perfect. And thus by small mistake or formal obstacle you may never see your money again. That's life - and as we already know in this life only those strong will survive. Let's call them red rats, for example.

If we all talking about the fortune of literature of small nations in a unifying Europe it is better to be very realistic. In newly unified Europe only domestic sources for support of literature will really help. It is so simply - more independent we will be from bureaucrats in Brussels, more happy we will be in EU.

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