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Luxembourg Books in the Library of Congress

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Literature

Dicks [Edmond de la Fontaine] (1823-91) not only was the first writer of Luxembourgish drama but also contributed to the development of lyric poetry, satire, popular song, and chanson in Luxembourgish. He read law at the University of Liège and spent a year in Heidelberg pursuing Germanic studies. His satirical poem of 1848, "D’Vulleparlament am Grengewald" [The Birds' Parliament in the Grengewald], depicted the members of the Luxembourg Estates as birds. Dicks’ light-hearted Komeidisteck [Comedy] was the first example of German singspiel or French vaudeville or operetta in Luxembourgish. Dicks set the lyrics to melodies he had composed himself--all of which are still widely popular in Luxembourg.

Dicks’ success stemmed from his interest in folklore and tradition. He collected rural proverbs and adages that both enriched his stage dialogues and provided him with material for publication in 1857. His other publications include an 1877 book of children’s rhymes and an 1883 ethnographic work, Luxemburger Sitten und Gebräuche [Luxembourg Manners and Customs]. His own ambitions as a people’s poet are best illustrated by the poem "De Volleksdichter" [The Folk Poet].

Michel Rodange (1827-76) is best known as the author of the epic poem "De Renert," a very successful adaptation of the traditional Flemish/Low German fox epic to a Luxembourg setting. A schoolteacher who traveled widely in Luxembourg, Rodange was an astute observer of regional and sub-regional dialects from the Ardennes to the Moselle Valley. The use of these dialects in the poem allows for a lively rendering of Renert the fox and his companions. The fox himself epitomizes local forms of mendacity, hypocrisy, and deception. The poem deftly sketches the political and social turmoil of Luxembourg in the 1870s. The poem remains not only the most popular but also the best literary portrait of Luxembourg’s life and people.

Michel Lentz (1820-93) rounds off the trio of Luxembourg’s most influential nineteenth-century writers. He is the most traditional of the three, writing formal, festive, and nationalistic poetry and songs. He aimed at creating a body of poems and songs for all occasions, in the tradition of a poet laureate. His most famous song is "Feierwon" [Fire-wagon], a proud patriotic piece about the inauguration of the first railway line in 1859. In 1864 he wrote the solemn poem "Ons Hemecht" [Our Home], that later became the Luxembourg national anthem.

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, non-fiction, detective stories, and poetry. This display shows three novels: Georges Hausemer’s Iwwer Waasser [Above Water], Georges Kieffer's Schierbelen [Shards], and Josy Braun's Porto fir d'Affekoten, [Port Wine for the Lawyers], a mystery.

One of Luxembourg's most productive writers is Roger Manderscheid, who began his career in the early 1960s as a dramatist and essayist writing in German. In 1989 and 1991 he published two autobiographical novels in Luxembourgish. Manderscheid's success has been such that in 1994 a group of writers participated in a tribute to him edited by Robert Gollo Steffen, Aschlofen ënnert engem roude stärenhimmel as méi wéi geféierlech: E Buch fir de Roger Manderscheid [Falling Asleep Under a Red Starry Sky Is More Than Dangerous: A Compilation for Roger Manderscheid].

Luxembourgish literature has always been most popular in its spoken form: music theater and epic poems in the nineteenth century; village theater, serious drama, and films in this century. Ernst Binder's Frësch Bestued [Newly Wed] was so popular as a play that it was subsequently made into the movie Hochzeitsnuecht [Wedding Night], recently shown at the American Film Institute’s European Film Festival at the Kennedy Center. Other notable examples of contemporary drama in Luxembourgish are Guy Rewenig's Eisefrësser [Iron Eater], Pol Greisch's De Laangen Tour [The Long Bus Route], and Jean-Paul Maes' Manila Du Mäin Hiirzegt Kand [Manila, You My Darling Child].

Children’s books in Luxembourgish are also extremely popular. The display includes a reader containing excerpts from Luxembourg’s literary classics in several languages. In 1998 this book was given to every sixth-grader in Luxembourg as a graduation present. Also in the display is Zabbazillo, a collection of humorous rhymes by novelist Guy Rewenig.

The books in this exhibition are gifts of the Ministry of Culture of Luxembourg, except where noted. Thanks to the Ministry of Culture of Luxembourg; the Bibliothèque Nationale; the Institut Grand-Ducal: Section de Linguistique, d'Ethnologie et d'Onomastique; the Maison de la Littérature; Jul Christophory, for his help; and Her Excellency, Arlette Conzemius, the Ambassador of Luxembourg to the United States.

This exhibition was compiled by Carlo Krieger, Embassy of Luxembourg, and Eric Solsten, European Division, Library of Congress.

European Division, Library of Congress, 1999.

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  September 21, 2010
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