By ERIC SOLSTEN
Arlette Conzemius, Luxembourg's ambassador to Washington, met with Dr. Billington March 1 in the European Reading Room to present the Library with 100 books from her country.
Ambassador Conzemius and Dr. Billington also viewed a display in the European Reading Room of maps and books that show Luxembourg's history and the development of a literature in Luxembourgish, the country's national language.
Luxembourg was founded in 963 and its language had its origins in the migrations of Germanic tribes during the third and fourth centuries A.D. into the areas now occupied by modern Luxembourg. Despite this venerable past, the language spoken by the people of Luxembourg rarely appeared in written form. Instead, Luxembourgers used German and French for written communication.
This began to change in the middle of the 19th century, when Edmond de la Fontaine (1823-91), writing under the pen name Dicks, began using Luxembourgish for plays, lyric poetry, satire and popular song. Two other writers of the period, Michel Rodange (1827-76), and Michel Lentz (1820-93), also wrote poetry and song in Luxembourgish. Rodange's most important work, De Renert, is an epic satire of Luxembourg's life and people in the 1870s. One of Lentz's poems eventually became the Luxembourg national anthem, "Ons Hemecht." The three writers' songs and poems are known and loved by all Luxembourgers and they are regarded as the founders of Luxembourgish literature.
The last few decades have seen the emergence of a new generation of writers using Luxembourgish. They work in a variety of forms: drama, novels, nonfiction, detective stories and poetry. The display in the European Reading Room has examples of this literary upsurge: novels by Georges Hausemer and Josy Braun; a collection of essays for Roger Mandersheid, one of Luxembourg's most prolific writers; and four plays, one of which, Fresch Bestued (Newly Wed) by Ernst Binder, was made into a film recently shown at the Kennedy Center. Also on display are works by Dicks and Rodange and a dictionary of Luxembourgish, published in installments between 1950 and 1975.
The growing importance of written Luxembourgish was formalized by a vote in the parliament of Luxembourg in 1984 that designated it the country's national language. The parliament also stipulated that although legislation will continue to be in French, all other administrative or judicial acts could be written in Luxembourgish, French or German. This trilingualism in administrative matters is reflected in daily life in Luxembourg, where individuals are free to use the language of their choice. The new status that the national language enjoys in Luxembourg is not unique to this country. Elsewhere in Europe, previously neglected or suppressed languages are also experiencing a renaissance as regions within countries seek to reestablish roots with the past.
The display, "Language and History: Luxembourg Books in the Library of Congress," will remain on view in the European Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building until late June.
Mr. Solsten is a reference librarian in the European Division.