Grants for literature

Danish krone
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In the past couple of weeks, there has been an uproar within the ranks of and about the creators, exponents and critics of literature in Denmark. The reason? Why, money of course. Well, no I am sorry, I didn’t mean that. In all actuality it is about money, but since the government announced its 100 million DKK budget cuts in the arts, of which about 16 million DKK go to literature and author grants, it means that this particular pool of money is getting cut 75 % over the next four years. 75 percent!!
Now, I could go the very constructive way, and say that it makes sense that there should be some cuts in these areas, as all other areas are affected by The Financial Crisis and too must face difficult times up ahead. I could go as far as to say, yes, this should take the cut and deal with it. But somewhere between the lines there is that little mad person, that is not going to take it no more!!
I mean, 75%! Why not the whole lot? It is obvious that this administration does not prioritize the arts, nor see it as an investment in further development and cultivation of the arts. Why patronize a whole branch of society by giving out minor scraps, crumbs of the table of life sciences and pharmaceuticals?
Fortunately, being the creative and resourceful bunch that they are, they are mad as hell too (well, most of them, some just like to shit where they eat, but I’ll get to that). And so Dansk Forfatterforening (The Danish Writers Association) has set up an event that will say goodbye to this pool with a bang. More that 200 writers and translators will, in the course of two hours on Saturday, November 6th, between 13.00 and 15.00, read from their works on 25 stages at Copenhagen Main Library. MEGA Litt: The largest literature reading in Danish history. Aarhus (because, yes, they have legally changed their name, for strategic and marketing reasons, back to double A… sorry, sidetracked) will also host a slightly smaller event at the same time.

However, this whole mess has sparked of a new war. This time between some critics of the current distribution of said grants for literature and authors and the allocators who dish out these grants. The reason? Why, money of course. In the book section of Weekendavisen # 43, Leonora Christina Skov, literary critic and author, makes her contribution to the debate, and might I add, thank heavens! I do adore getting all sides of the story, and her piece has revealed a, not at all surprising, but bias relationship between the grants pool and recipients – and does so with a personal interest and stake in the matter. Her critique is based on the fact that the grant money should help broaden and better the field of literature, incite diversity and spur authors. And, might I be so bold to add in my own reading of some of her points, to give literature a leg up in the publics’ knowledge. The problem is that some of the more popular writers, are almost given a continuous grant, year out and year in, which goes against the Skov’s notion of giving grants as an aid, where it is most needed. And while I am almost all the way in agreement with her, this is also where I would like to clear my throat a couple of times. I do solemnly swear by giving literature of all flavors a boost, to help growth and to avoid stagnation in a genre or style. But I am also an advocate for rewarding good penmanship, and have sympathy for the fact that many times, the grants are well given. The main problem, I feel, is that there is so damn little money to go around. And with a reduction of 75 % (I will say it again 75% goddammit!!) there will be a slim to none chance that the pool will be giving money out to experimental literature. Some people are of the notion that literature is to serve a specific purpose, others that it should avoid being locked down and so on and so on.

The funny thing is that, in all of this debate about the money and the distribution and the people who benefit or not, there is something uncanny rearing its ugly head every once in a while. And it is called the little green angry monster. You know the one: he doesn’t really like himself, or is not really that confident, and yet, he persistently bashes people on the head with how inadequate they themselves are. Example: while the debate has very understandably awoken the legitimate question of why grants are given to whom and how much is enough, some tend to go a little overboard in playing the victimized party of an overlooked genre OR the beneficiary who really only applies for money because he CAN get it (!!!). There is a righteous and pious attitude that tries to downgrade other styles or institutions on a not very factual base that really is not becoming. I think it is possible to be very critical and mad as hell at the system, the people, the situation and still have a pretty strong argument without resorting to snide comments.

And while I feel that the grant pool should become subject to scrutiny and perhaps some structural changes if it is found to perform inadequately, I will still gladly give my support right now to the event on Saturday, with the hope that money for literature will not be seen as a handout to money-grubbing, sucking-on-the-state’s-tits-without-giving-anything-concrete-back recipients, but an investment in members of the nation who provide mobility, give voice to areas that need given a voice, and someone to be proud of.

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