December 2012, No 32
Editors: Vera Ebels, Christina Zorich
A Frosty Hall of Mirrors – Walter Benjamin’s Moskauer Tagebuch
In December 1992, the Fund for Central and East European Book Projects (CEEBP) was founded in Amsterdam as a successor to the Oxford Fund for Central and East European Publishing Project (CEEPP, widely known as the Oxford project or fund). The Oxford CEEPP was founded in 1986 at the initiative of Timothy Garton Ash to promote ‘the free flow of culture between East and West Europe’ across the then still entrenched Iron Curtain, by supporting dissident (samizdat) and exile publications, and translations. In the words of another erstwhile CEEPP Trustee, Ralf Dahrendorf, to help create ‘a common market of the mind’. To this end, Timothy acquired the support of a consortium of European and American foundations and assembled a group of eminent scholars, writers and publishers – the afore-mentioned Ralf Dahrendorf, François Furet, Raymond Georis, Jane Kramer, Laurens van Krevelen, and Per Wäsberg. The Oxford fund, in its nine years of existence, supported the publication of a wide range of journals considered as important platforms for debate, and almost 300 books. The first criterion in grant awarding was always the intellectual and literary quality of the publication.
After the demise of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, the Oxford fund, now enriched with new Trustees – the Hungarian philosopher György Bence, the Polish historian Jerzy Jedlicki, and the Czech writer Eda Kriseová (all three former dissidents), and the former CEEPP director Elizabeth Winter – enabled the underground publishers to establish themselves in these new free circumstances and the exile publishers to start again in their country of origin. The fund also assisted in jumpstarting debates about strategies for publishing in Central & Eastern Europe. It gave grants for computer equipment, internships in Western publishing houses, and translation fellowships at the Viennese Institut für die Wissenschaft vom Menschen (IWM), and organized three workshops: on publishing, on the future of journals, and on literary translations in Central and Eastern Europe.
Before the Oxford fund closed down in 1994, when it considered its mission completed, it left a memorable legacy with the books and periodicals it had supported, the standards it had set, and the ideas and initiatives it had helped to hatch. The latter included the Central European Classics Trust, aimed at publishing literary gems in English translation, the idea of a European ‘journal of journals’, and the Amsterdam based CEEBP. (For the history of the Oxford project, see “Freedom for Publishing, Publishing for Freedom. The Central and East European Publishing Project”, (ed.) Timothy Garton Ash, Central European University Press, Budapest, 1995.)
CEEBP was founded by one of the Oxford trustees, the Dutch literary publisher Laurens van Krevelen, with the invaluable support of his colleague trustee, the then director of the European Cultural Foundation, Raymond Georis. The aim was to enhance the free flow of thought and information across borders by supporting quality publishing in Central and Eastern Europe in the transition to a free market and the rule of law. Another blessing for the newly founded CEEBP was that almost all the other Oxford fund trustees joined its board, together with new Dutch trustees. Also throughout the later years CEEBP was blessed with an international Board of Trustees, an Advisory Board, and a network of external experts versed in various fields and languages of the region, who have freely devoted their time and knowledge to its work.
The activities of CEEBP have always been attuned to the needs and requests of publishers and booksellers in a spread of countries ranging from the Baltic in the north to Albania in the south, from the Czech Republic in the west to Belarus (later also Ukraine) in the east.
In the first two years of its existence, CEEBP focused on raising funds, and support for journals to enhance intellectual debate and book reviews. Since 1995, the Fund has been supporting translations into and between the languages of Central and Eastern Europe in the field of literature and the humanities, and assisting associations of publishers and booksellers in introducing professional improvements to the book trade infrastructure, by providing professional contacts, training, and the transfer of expertise and professional skills in order to augment the accessibility of books and information about books to the general public.
Journals and books
From 1992 to 2002, CEEBP supported some seventy outstanding cultural journals. It awarded grants for translation and production, but in order to assist the journals to increase their circulation more effectively and to secure their continuing existence, CEEBP also provided training, offered programs to enlarge subscriptions, and stimulated journals to go online. In the second half of the 1990s, it cooperated and matched funds with Soros foundations in Poland and Bulgaria to develop larger projects toward this end. Projects ensued in professionalizing distribution and promotion, and in the Polish case in a joint online catalogue.
In 2000, CEEBP assisted the Central and East European Online Library CEEOL, to set up an online platform enabling Central and East European publishers to publish, distribute and sell electronic versions of their periodicals and journal articles in the fields of literature, the humanities and the social sciences. Together with the Vienna based Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), CEEBP helped to launch the European online network of cultural magazines, Eurozine.com, which offers translations in various languages of articles from a wide range of European periodicals, thus fulfilling the inspired Oxford idea of a “journal of journals”. Since 2002, CEEBP has supported the Book Review section of Transitions On Line, TOL, and a dissident Belarusian journal.
Book trade projects
At the request of and in close cooperation with Index, an independent association of Slovak publishers of quality books and periodicals, CEEBP helped to set up and run a project for journals and books. The project included joint distribution and a quarterly catalogue of more than fifty publishers launched at public press conferences that became an important cultural event, book presentations and exhibitions in schools, libraries and cultural centres in smaller towns, and joint journals subscription. Due to the stimulating impact of the project, a major daily newspaper started a weekly book supplement. Following the project, the Index association set up a circulating loan scheme to help publishers, including those outside its ranks, to pre-finance their books.
In the 1990s, CEEBP cooperated in the policy development of the Soros Open Society Foundation’s Centre for Publishing Development based in Budapest. This later led to jointly developed projects in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ukraine. In Croatia, the project resulted in Books in Print KIS, which continued till 2010, and in the book portal MVInfo.hr.
The Serbian project went under the inspired name Bibliodyssey, coined by the excellent project coordinators, the then director and his deputy at the National Library of Serbia, Sreten Ugričić and Dragan Purešić. Among the most memorable results were the ‘Books across Borders’ program that stimulated cooperation among booksellers of former Yugoslav countries and brought Croatian books to Serbian libraries and vice versa for the first time since the Yugoslav war, the Serbian distribution Bookbridge and Krug Komerz, bookshops in smaller towns outside Belgrade and Novi Sad among which multilingual ones such as the remarkable Karver in Podgorica Montenegro and Plato in Subotica, and, above all, the Serbian Books in Print catalogue KnjigaInfo.com.
The Ukrainian book trade project resulted in a portal of the Ukrainian association of publishers and booksellers, and – thanks to the dedicated public-minded book distributors Sammit Book, and Dzherela M – in regional book distribution centres across Ukraine outside the capital, in the Books in Print catalogue vsiknygy.org.ua and the online book review Drug chytacha (Reader’s Friend). The regional book distribution network was instrumental in the second Ukrainian project developed at the request of Ukrainian history teachers in cooperation with the Dutch Anne Frank Foundation. The crises swept away some of the bookstores in Serbia and distribution centres in Ukraine, and the absence of the rule of law still plagues the .whole region.
Books in Print
Simultaneously, CEEBP helped to build a Books in Print catalogue in Romania, Infocarte.ro, run by a highly competent team of editors.
Throughout the years, CEEBP organised numerous workshops for publishers and booksellers in the project countries, and working visits of Central and East European publishers and booksellers to The Netherlands, mediating contacts with book trade colleagues, their associations and joint institutions, with special reference to the importance of the fixed book price.
In cooperation with the Frankfurter Buchmesse, CEEBP provided matching funds for entries of publishers from “CEEBP countries” in the rights catalogue.
Varied as the infrastructural projects have been, depending on the needs in a given country at the time, CEEBP’s criteria for its involvement in each of them were the same: reliable and competent project partners; project activities should benefit the common interest rather than individual companies or persons, and have a lasting impact. CEEBP assisted local partners in developing and coordinating the projects, raised funds, monitored the progress, and controlled the use of funds entrusted by donors to CEEBP for the projects. With the exception of the Romanian Books in Print, funded by the Austrian Erste Stiftung, all infrastructural projects were financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The core support of the ECF and later the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and donations from various Dutch, German, and Austrian foundations and individuals have been indispensable, too, for the projects and for grants for journals and translations.
As Books in Print is essential for the professional book trade in general and indispensable for the digitalization of books within Europeana in particular, the latest project focuses on building new online Books in Print catalogues in Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia, and adjusting the existing Czech, Romanian, and Serbian ones to European standards. It also pays attention to the pressing problem of piracy regarding e-books. CEEBP is currently raising funds for the project.
Next to Books in Print, perhaps the most lasting CEEBP legacy consists of the nearly seven hundred supported books, almost all of which translations into or among the languages of “CEEBP countries”.
As the Torah says, “to making books there is no end…”
By Vera Ebels
For all details about CEEBP, see ceebp.org. For the first five years of CEEBP’s work, see Publishers’ Portraits. Publishing in Central & East Europe, Amsterdam 1997.
A Frosty Hall of Mirrors
Walter Benjamin’s Moskauer Tagebuch
Benjamin kept the diary during his stay in Moscow from early December 1926 till the end of January 1927. He went there to see Asja Lacis, a Latvian communist actress and theatre director whom he had fallen in love with. But also to explore the situation in the country, and to fulfil literary obligations. Partly the diary was conceived with an eye to these, as a form to collect material. Thus the book is a repository for those interested in life during the New Economic Policy – particularly among communist avant-garde intellectuals and artists – shortly before Stalin got the upper hand. At the same time, it shows the author relentlessly picturing himself, and at work.
Gershom Scholem points in his preface to a letter to Martin Buber, in which Benjamin summarized his experience: “Moscow as it appears at the present reveals a full range of possibilities in schematic form: above all that the Revolution might fail or succeed. In either case, something unforeseeable will result and its picture will be far different from any programmatic sketch one might draw for the future. The outlines of this are at present brutally and distinctly visible among the people and their environment.”
The diary’s kaleidoscopic montage of hibernal street scenes, architectural images, views on theatre performances (especially Meyerhold’s production of Gogol’s The Inspector General) and museum collections, sometimes naive but mainly astute notes on the Russian situation, fragments of debates on Benjamin’s own position ‘as a free-lance writer’ and the question whether or not to enter the party (which he didn’t), interwoven with increasingly despairing entries about Asja Lacis’s elusiveness and crystal clear inner self-portraits, lingers between hope and disillusion.
“Russia is to take on shape for the man on the street. A major propaganda film, One-Sixth of the World, has been announced. On the street in the snow lie maps of the SSR, piled up there by street vendors who offer them for sale. Meyerhold uses a map in Daioch Evropu [Europe is Ours] – on which the West is a complex system of small Russian peninsulas. The map is almost as close to becoming the centre of a new Russian icon cult as is Lenin’s portrait.”
Just as pertinent, and crucial for Benjamin’s philosophy, is his following observation: “The begging is not as aggressive as in the South, where the persistency of the ragamuffins still betrays a vestige of vitality. Here it is a corporation of the dying.”
Upon his arrival, news is circulating about a purge of members of the opposition. Benjamin himself is confronted with the threatening air when his friend – a German critic, theatre director and companion of Asja Lacis – castigates him for too frankly expressing his opinions publicly. On another occasion, Benjamin registers “the general atmosphere of cautiousness here when it comes to openly revealing one’s opinions. If you ask people whom you barely know what they think of some insignificant play or film, the answer is: ‘the word here is this or that,’ or ‘people have mostly been of such and such an opinion’.”
A sketch of a public trial in the Peasant’s Club – with a woman “accused of illegal medical practice with fatal consequences”, a lawyer pointing to poor facilities and education in the countryside, a prosecutor demanding the death penalty, a Komsomol among the public asking for the severest punishment, and a judge giving a light sentence and recommending medical as well as educational improvement in rural areas – makes the tension between possibilities tangible.
Intermittently, the author mirrors himself on the street, spellbound by a child’s toy for his collection or as a gift.
By Karel Markus
Note: All quotes are from the translation by Richard Sieburth, Moscow Diary, Harvard, 1986.
In autumn 2012, CEEBP awarded sixteen grants, out of which fourteen for book translations, one to a Belarusian monthly for translation honoraria, and one to Transitions Online for its book review section. Eight of the grants for book translations concern works in the humanities, and six are titles in belles letters.
The grants were awarded with the support of the Allianz Kulturstiftung and the Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur.
Raja Alem, Tauq al-Hamam (The Dove’s Necklace), Arabic – Polish translation by Izabela Szybilska-Fiedorowicz, Smak Słowa, Sopot
Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, English – Polish translation by Joanna Gilewicz, Jagiellonian University Press, Cracow
Halil İnalcik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300 – 1600, English – Albanian translation by Dritan Egro, Dituria, TiranaDaniil Kharms, Selected works, Russian – Bulgarian translation by Ivan Totomanov, Victor Samuilov and Boyko Lambovsky, Fakel express, Sofia
Tomasz Kizny (author & editor), Wielki Terror w ZSRR w latach 1937-1938 (The Great Terror in the USSR 1937-1938) – A photograph album with comments by Tomasz Kizny and essays by Nicolas Werth, Arsenij Roginski, Christian Caujolle, and Anne Applebaum, translation from English by Janusz Ruszkowski, from Russian by Jerzy Czech, and from French by Magdalena Kaminska-Maurugeon, Czarne, Wołowiec
György Konrád, Hangulatjelentés. Válogatott esszék, 1978 – 2011 (Essays), Hungarian – Serbian translation by Arpad Vicko, Arhipelag, Belgrade
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Du miel aux cendres, French – Polish translation by Bogdan Baran, Aletheia, Warsaw
Branislaw Malinowski, Crime and Custom in Savage Society, English – Albanian translation by Arsim Canolli, Cuneus, Prishtina
Göran Rosenberg, Ett kort uppehåll pa vagen fran Auschwitz (A Short Stop on the Road to Auschwitz), Swedish – Polish translation by Mariusz Kalinowski, Czarne, Wołowiec
Dieter Schenk, Krakauer Burg. Die Machtzentrale des Generalgouverneurs Hans Frank 1939-1945, German – Polish translation by Paweł Zarychta, Wysoki zamek, Cracow
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, English – Macedonian translation by Aco Peroski, Ili-Ili, SkopjeVirginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary, English – Macedonian translation by Margarita Nenovska, Nampress, Skopje
Virginia Woolf, Orlando, English – Bulgarian translation by Iglika Vassileva, Colibri, Sofia
Erik Jan Zürcher, Turkey: A Modern History, English – Albanian translation by Kujtim Ymeri, Dituria, Tirana
Arche monthly, Minsk – translators’ honoraria 2012 –2013
Transitions Online www.tol.org – Book Review Section
BOOKS PUBLISHED WITH CEEBP SUPPORT since June 2012
Walter Benjamin, Moskauer Tagebuch (with a preface by Gershom Scholem and annotations by Gary Smith), German – Polish translation by Bogdan Baran: Dziennik moskiewski, Aletheia, Warsaw 2012
Ivan T. Berend, Europe Since 1980, English – Serbian translation by Aleksandra Dragosavljević: Evropa posle 1980, Arhipelag / Službeni glasnik, Belgrade 2012
Isaiah Berlin, The Power of Ideas, English – Romanian translation by Dana Ligia Ilin: Puterea ideilorHumanitas, Bucharest 2012
Boris Buden, Zone des Übergangs. Vom Ende des Postkommunismus, German – Romanian translation by Maria-Magdalena Anghelescu: Zonă de trecere. Despre sfărşitul postcommunismului, Tact, Cluj-Napoca 2012
E.M. Cioran, La Chute dans le temps & De l’inconvénient d’être né, French – Bulgarian translation by Krassimir Petrov: Propadane v’v vremeto & Za neudobstvoto da si roden, Fakel Express, Sofia 2012
Ivan Čolović, Balkan – teror kulture, translated from Serbian into Macedonian by Ljupka Hristova-Bashevska: Balkanot – teror na kulturata, Slovo, Skopje 2012
Ivan Čolović, Etno, Price o muzici sveta na internetu (The Story of World Music on the Internet), Serbian – Polish translation by Magdalena Petryńska: Etno. Opowieści o muzyce świata w Internecie, Borderland, Sejny 2012
Jean Echenoz, Des éclairs, French – Slovenian translation by Anuša Trunkelj: Pobliski, Sanje, Ljubljana 2012
Boris Eikhenbaum, Anthology of essays, Russian – Czech translation by Hana Kosáková: Jak je udělán Gogolův plášť, Triáda, Prague 2012
Amos Elon, The Pity of It All. A History of Jews in Germany 1743 – 1933, English– Polish translation by Magdalena Tulli: Bez wzajemności. Żydzi-Niemcy 1743 – 1933 (Without Reciprocity. Jews – Germans 1743 – 1933), Nisza, Warsaw 2012
Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, English – Polish translation by Joanna Gilewicz: Życie codzienne pod rządami Stalina. Rosja radziecka latach trydziestych XX wieku, Jagiellonian University Press, Cracow 2012
Timothy Garton Ash, The File. A Personal History, English – Bulgarian translation by Marin Zagorchev:Dosieto. Edna lichna istoria, Fama, Sofia 2012
Yair Lapid, Memories After My Death, Hebrew – Hungarian translation by Miriam Popper: Síron túli emlékeim. Tomi Lapid története, Múlt és Jövő, Budapest 2012
Claudio Magris, Danubio, Italian – Bulgarian translation by Vanyo Ivanov Popov: Dunav, Avangard, Sofia 2012
Hisham Matar, Anatomy of a Disappearance, English – Polish translation by Ewa Penksyk-Kluczkowska: Anatomia zniknięcia, Smak Słowa, Sopot 2012
Czesław Miłosz, Abecadło, Polish – Lithuanian translation by Vytautas Dekšnys: Abėcėlė, Aidai, Vilnius 2012
Franz Neumann, Behemoth, The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, 1933 – 1944, English – Croatian translation by Damjan Lalović: Behemot. Struktura i praksa nacionalsocijalizma 1933-1944, Disput, Zagreb 2012
Joseph Nye, The Future of Power, English – Serbian translation by Alen Bešić and Igor Cvijanović: Budoćnost moći, Arhipelag, Belgrade 2012
Taras Prokhasko, NeprOsti (The UnSimple), Ukrainian – Czech translation by Jekaterina Gazukina and Alexandra Stelibská: Jinací, Pavel Mervart, Červený Kostelec 2012
Marcel Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve, suivi de Nouveaux Mélanges, French-Bulgarian translation by Yulian Zhiliev: Protiv Sainte-Beuve i drugi eseta, Ergo, Sofia 2012
Petro Rykhlo, Shibbolet: Essays on Jewish-German Poetry of Bukovina, Ukrainian – Polish translation by Anna Chłopik and Paweł Jarosz: Szibbolet. Poszukiwania tożsamości żydowskiej w niemieckojęzycznej poezji Bukowiny, Austeria, Cracow 2012
Eginald Schlattner, Rote Handschuhe, German – Hungarian translation by Zsuzsa Fodor: Vörös kesztyü, Koinónia, Cluj-Napoca 2012
For a list of all books published with CEEBP support see under BOOKS
- Allianz Cultural Foundation, Munich
- Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur
- Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, The Netherlands