2017 Fall – Europe in Bits & Bytes

WESS Newsletter

Fall 2017, Vol. 41, No. 1

Column Editor: Kathleen Smith


WESS and SEES merger: This is ESS
Now that WESS has merged with SEES, the scope of this column should change in future newsletters to reflect the broader community and its wider interests. If you have suggestions or comments about future directions of this column, please feel free to contact us.
The GNARP-CIFNAL program New Directions for Libraries, Scholars, and Partnerships: An International Symposium will take place during this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, since the Guest of Honor at Frankfurt is France. WESS members are well-represented in presentations and posters.
Languages and Cultures Beyond Borders
The European Roma Institute for Arts and Cultures (ERIAC) launched in Berlin to “to showcase and promote the largely invisible artistic and cultural existence of Europe’s estimated 12 million Roma people” who have lived in Europe for over 600 years.
Ladino, the “pan-Mediterranean language that crosses geographic, linguistic, and cultural boundaries” and is the language spoken by Sephardic Jews, is considered endangered, but there is hope in the form of increased academic and cultural interest.
The Annual Bibliography of the Modern Language Association has been a pivotal force for foreign-language study in the United States; for a look at its origins and development since its inception in 1922, this timeline throws a spotlight on the figures behind this influential resource.


Words without Borders, the Online Magazine for International Literature, devoted their August 2017 issue The New French to writing by immigrants to France from Algeria, Iran, Rwanda, Morocco, and India. Also in August, CNEWS Matin published a list of 10 notable books in French for the 2017 literary season, chosen from 581 novels and works by both French and foreign authors.
Book sellers along the Seine in Paris are coping with the threats to their business offered by the ease of shopping via the Internet, increasing terrorism in public spaces, and decreasing interest in French cultural traditions. An additional danger is posed by the heavy rains that damaged the Louve and also the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where 143 medieval manuscripts were affected.


Feberico Sboarina, the newly-elected mayor of Verona, has been heavily criticized by national and international publishers’ associations for his plan to remove books that promote the equality of same-sex families and partnerships from schools and libraries.


As the Catalan bid for independence continues to make 2017 an eventful election year, a Catalan film was chosen to represent Spain in the category of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. The film is called Summer 1993 in English, Verano 1993 in Spanish, and Estiu 1993 in Catalan, and was directed by Carla Simon.


The contestant from Portugal took first place in the annual Eurovision song contest–the first time since 1964 that Portugal has been the victor. Winning the contest means that the 2018 Eurovision ceremony will be held in Portugal.


In Germany, the 500th anniversary of the movement known as the Reformation, which is considered to have begun with Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg (an event for which there is no reliable historical evidence) is being celebrated with numerous events. Martin Luther is also known for his influence in shaping modern German orthography, so it is perhaps appropriate that the German language is being officially updated with over 5,000 new words, many of them loan words such as “emoji” or “Brexit,” and with a new letter, the capital ß or Eszett.


Vienna is ranked one of the world’s most livable cities, according to the Global Livability Report.


83% of the Swiss population reads at least 1 book each year, with only 15% reading an ebook. These numbers are better than Germany (79%), Austria (73%), and France (73%), but Sweden’s population holds the record at 90%.


In this brief survey of books that are regularly read by students in a number of countries, such as To Kill a Mockingbird in the United States, the Finnish novel is Seitsemän veljestä (1870) by Aleksis Kivi, a story of seven feisty brothers. Its popularity is explained through its connection to Finnish culture: “It’s considered the national novel of Finland…it’s about Finnish stubbornness.”


The Netherlands is a fertile market for ebooks and digital publications, with numerous companies offering ebooks, audiobooks, and now unlimited textbooks. The Netherlands are also active advocates for making scientific research freely available, although there have been issues with the Dutch publisher Elsevier that led to German universities effectively boycotting them.

United Kingdom

The upcoming Brexit is causing a great deal of uncertainty in Western Europe, particularly as it will affect scholarly and research collaborations. The United Kingdom has made clear its desire to maintain, and even improve, scientific collaboration with EU member nations; however, the concrete steps towards this goal remain unclear. Adding to the difficulty is the apparent reluctance of some European academics to shift to English for publication and teaching.

Please submit notifications and/or reviews for inclusion in the upcoming issue of Europe in Bits & Bytes, as well as any comments, to Kathleen Smith.
NOTE: links are those in effect at the time of publication and are not systematically updated.