Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Cities of Literature

There are eight new UNESCO Cities of Literature, with Bucheon, Durban, Lillehammer, Manchester, Milan, Québec City, Utrecht and Seattle the latest to be welcomed into the Creative Cities Network.

NottsLit takes a look at all twenty-eight UNESCO Cities of Literature:

Bucheon, South Korea (joined 2017)
There are more than 20 active literary societies and organizations in Bucheon, including the Bucheon Literary Society. Their literary festivals tend to be held in honour of their writers, such as the Suju Literary Festival commemorating Korea's pioneer of new poetry Byun Yeongro (whose pen name was Suju), Neighbors in Wonmi-dong Festival in honour of Yang Gui-ja, and the Pearl Buck Festival, in memory of the Nobel laureate who founded an orphanage for war orphans in Bucheon and wrote a novel about Korea. Known for its well-organized library network which comprises of 119 libraries, Bucheon is the only city in Korea with a book sharing system between public and university libraries. There is also a special library services for the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women and migrants. They also have a Braille library and a mobile library.   
Literary figures associated with the city include Byun Yeongro, Yang Gui-ja and Mok Il-shin.

Durban, South Africa (joined 2017)

Durban was the first city in South Africa - and the first on the African continent - to apply for UNESCO City of Literature status. They have ambitious plans for a Durban International Literary Festival, wanting a truly iconic book festival to harness the city’s many cultures, with Durban known as the ‘Kingdom of the Zulu’ and ‘Little India’. Their current festivals include Time of the Writer, Poetry Africa and Articulate Africa Book Fair. Poetry slams are particularly popular in Durban.

Literary figures associated with the city include the author Lynn Freed and the poet Mazisi Kunene.

Lillehammer, Norway (joined 2017)

Since 1995 Lillehammer has organised The Norwegian Festival of Literature, the largest literature festival in the Nordic region, offering more than 200 events and acquiring an increasingly international profile. The area has been home to two of Norway’s three winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (winner 1903) and Sigrid Undset (winner 1928). A ICORN International City of Refuge, Lillehammer has assumed a particular responsibility in the struggle for freedom of expression, by offering shelter for authors who are suffering persecution in their country of origin. Their Nansen Academy functions as a house of literature and a literature academy, holding a book week each year and hosting its own creative writing programme. Their streets offer walking tours through the Norwegian literary canon.

Literary figures associated with the city include Henrik Ibsen, Sigrid Undset, Knut Hamsun, Jon Fosse and Dag Solstad.
Milan, Italy (joined 2017)
Milan has always been a City of writers and readers. They have a network of libraries (more than 200, public and private) and bookstores (over 400), and they host several literary festivals. Milan is considered the capital of Italian publishing, with 500 publishers and thousands of professionals working in the field. Many Italian writers have gone to Milan for its lively literary scene, as Nobel Laureates Montale and Dario Fo did. In fact, writers have come to Milan from all over the world, examples being Byron and Hemingway.
Literary figures associated with the city include the author Alessandro Manzoni, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Giuseppe Parini and Silvio Pellico.

Utrecht, Netherlands (joined 2017)

The fourth largest city in the Netherlands, Utrecht hosts the country’s largest poetry festival. Literature is everywhere in the city with Utrecht University having a particularly important role to play. The University’s Bachelor’s programme in Literary Studies is the best in the Netherlands. Broese Boekverkopers is their largest bookstore, and Bijleveld with its beautiful wooden show windows, is perhaps the oldest. They also have the oldest collectively run political bookstore in the Netherlands, de Rooie.

Literary figures associated with the city include the children's author Dick Bruna.
Manchester, UK (joined 2017)
Manchester is home to two of the country’s most highly regarded writing schools – the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, headed by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing. The Manchester Literature Festival, known for its innovative approach, is one of the most popular literary events in the UK. Manchester built the UK’s first public lending library. The city has plans for a libraries festival and a new writers’ hub.

Literary figures associated with the city include Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Burgess.
Québec City, Canada (joined 2017)

The first French-speaking city to become a UNESCO City of Literature, it’s the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. Home to The Literary and Historical Society of Quebec - the first scholarly or learned society in Canada (founded 1824) - Québec City is has a rich literary life reflecting the French-speaking, English-speaking, and Indigenous people who live there. With over 200 authors, 100 organizations, publishers, and booksellers, there is a strong literary revival in Québec.

Literary figures associated with the city include Anne Hébert, Alfred Goldsworthy Bailey, Jacques Poulin and Gabrielle Roy.

Seattle, USA (joined 2017)
The Elliott Bay Book Company is the greatest book store in Seattle, a force in the independent bookselling world for 35 years. It sits above the Elliott Bay Café, the inspiration for the café in ‘Frasier’. Seattle is home to Starbucks but it’s their indie coffee houses, such as Bauhaus Books & Coffee, that regularly feature books and writers. Working writers head to Richard Hugo House, an urban writer’s retreat that offers many writing programs. Several British writers have made their homes in Seattle, such as Jonathan Raban and Michael Dibdin, and it is the home to Amazon. The Seattle Poetry Festival is their biennial poetry festival.
Literary figures associated with the city include Robert Dugoni and the two-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champ Buddy Wakefield.

Baghdad, Iraq (joined 2015)

Frankenstein in Baghdad - a modern, wartime version of Mary Shelley’s horror - won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the Arab world’s equivalent of the Booker Prize, but the city’s literature is under threat. In 2007 a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street, the centre of Baghdad’s historic literary district, home of booksellers, printers, and the Shabandar café (a venue where Iraqi writers and intellectuals have been gathering for centuries). Once witness to the first literary document, the area of Ancient Babylon now sees ISIS militants destroying statues of poets. One modern poet, Mohammed Sadek, aims to create a community for Iraqi writers - similar to the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa – and hopes to keep Baghdad's literature connected with the world.

Literary figures associated with the city include Saadi Yousef, Fadhil Al Azzawi and Salah Al-Hamdani.

Barcelona, Spain (joined 2015)

A publishing powerhouse in two languages – Barcelona is the largest centre of publishing in the Spanish language and the capital of the Catalan language – the city has a rich literary heritage in both. For the celebration of Catalonia's patron day Saint Jordi, Catalans exchange books and roses with their loved ones. This takes place on April 23rd, the same day as UNESCO's World Book and Copyright Day.

Literary figures associated with the city include Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Eduardo Mendoza and Juan Goytisolo.

Dublin, Ireland (joined 2010)

With its astonishing literary heritage and contemporary writing scene Dublin is a natural city of literature. The city hosts many festivals such as Dublin Book Festival, Poetry Now, Dublin Writers’ Festival, Bloomsweek and Children’s Book Festival. Attractions include Dublin Writers Museum which features the lives and works of Dublin’s literary celebrities over the last 300 years. The city also hosts the world’s richest literary prize for a single work - the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Literary figures associated with the city include George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and James Joyce.

Dunedin, New Zealand (joined 2014)

Dunedin’s sprawling landscape has inspired poets and writers since the 19th century. Home to many significant libraries - including New Zealand’s first free public library (est. 1908) - and book collections Dunedin also has an impressive publishing heritage. In 2012 the Centre for the Book opened, a centre of excellence on book history and print culture that investigates new platforms and models of book publication and distribution. The city hosts annual festivals that include the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival, and the Children’s Storylines Festival.

Literary figures associated with the city include Thomas Bracken and Janet Frame.

Edinburgh, Scotland (joined 2004)

With its impressive literary heritage and some of the world’s most exciting contemporary writers, Edinburgh was the first designated UNESCO City of Literature. Home to literary events such as Edinburgh International Book Festival, unique book shops and cafes, the city has produced some of the world’s best loved books and characters including Jekyll and Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, Treasure Island and Trainspotting.

Literary figures associated with the city include Ian Rankin, Robert Louis Stevenson and Irvine Welsh.

Granada, Spain (joined 2014)

Granada has a long history of being home to renowned poets, writers and intellectuals. This tradition has made the city a reference in terms of literary production and the management of activities related to the art of speech. Granada’s public and private institutions, publishing houses and solid network of bookshops provide spaces and synergies for a vibrant programme of literature-related activities. Hundreds of literary events are held in the city every year.

Literary figures associated with the city include Federico García Lorca and Washington Irving.

Heidelberg, Germany (joined 2014)

With a literary history that spans from the Middle Ages to the present, Heidelberg has long been a place for writers. Visitors to the city include Mark Twain, Charles Bukowski and JK Rowling. Its 50 publishing companies form an important part of the city’s literary industry and many of them add to Heidelberg reputation as a centre for translation. The Heidelberg Literature Festival contributes to a city that loves its young readers. Books play an everyday role in school life with reading programmes topping the curriculum in primary and secondary schools.

Literary figures associated with the city include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Clemens Brentano, Bettina von Arnim, Friedrich Hölderlin and Thomas Meinecke.

Iowa City, United States (joined 2008)

With its unique set of influential literary institutions, which explore new ways to teach and support writers, Iowa City is a place for writers; a haven, a destination, a proving ground, and a nursery. The Iowa Writers' Workshop's creative writing program claims among its graduates winners of virtually every major literary award.

Literary figures associated with the city include Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Flannery O’Connor, Rita Dove, Robert Hass and John Irving.

Kraków, Poland (joined 2013)

With arguably the highest density of poets in the world it’s no surprise that Kraków’s poetry soirées and salons – including Poetry Night, initiated in 2011 – are hugely popular. In 2000 the city became the place of the famous Meetings of the Poets of the East and the West. It hosts the most important literary festivals in Poland: the Milosz Festival and the Conrad Festival, and is the seat of the Book Institute, which promotes Polish literature and supports national literary programmes.

Literary figures associated with the city include Wislawa Szymborska, Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski and Stanislaw Wyspianski.

Ljubljana, Slovenia (joined 2015)

Ljubljana was UNESCO’s World Book Capital in 2010. Slovenians celebrate a cultural day as a national holiday and Ljubljana hosts a book festival called Holiday of Books. A language and reading culture have played a crucial role in the Slovenian history as they helped the Slovenians to preserve their own language and identity. Much assistance is given to students in written expression and many projects and free-time activities have been established for children and young people.

Literary figures associated with the city include Primož Trubar, Janez Vajkard Valvasor and France Prešeren.

Lviv, Ukraine (joined 2015)

Literature written in Lviv has contributed greatly to Austrian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, and Polish literature for which Lviv’s contribution is particularly profound. Translation work took place between these cultures and, in the 19th century, many publishing houses, newspapers and magazines were established. Every day a book market takes place around the monument to Ivan Fеdorovych, a 16th century typographer. Lviv is the birthplace of both the sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem, most famous for his novel Solaris, and the author Leopold von Sacher-Massoch writer of Venus In Furs a book that inspired the term Masochism. Every September Lviv holds a large International Literary Festival (Litfest). 

Literary figures associated with the city include Zbigniew Herbert, Joseph Roth and Adam Zagajewski.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (joined 2008)

Melbourne boasts more bookshops than any other Australian city, has a vibrant community of writers, novelists, playwrights and poets, a large number of reading groups – including the Ivanhoe Reading Circle (1920s onwards) - and the city is home to an array of literary organisations, including Australian Poetry, Express Media, the Emerging Writers’ Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival, the Small Press Network, Wheeler Centre and Writers Victoria.

Literary figures associated with the city include Peter Carey, Marcus Clarke and Helen Garner.

Montevideo, Uruguay (joined 2015)

The National Library of Uruguay was designed by Luis Crespi in the neoclassical style and occupies an area of 4,000 square metres with a current collection of roughly 900,000 volumes. The capital city has a long and rich literary tradition. In 1900 the city was known as the Athens of the Rio de la Plata on account of its remarkable group of writers: Carlos Vaz Ferreira, Julio Herrera y Reissig, Delmira Agustini and Felisberto Hernández.

Literary figures associated with the city include Juan Carlos Onetti, Delmira Agustini and José Enrique Rodó.

Norwich, England (joined 2012)

The first English City of Literature boasts many literary firsts. Julian of Norwich penned the first book written by a woman in English in 1395. The first poem in blank verse was written by Henry Howard in the 16th century. The first English provincial library  (in 1608) and newspaper (in 1701) followed, and Norwich was the first to implement the Public Library Act of 1850. The UK’s first Creative Writing MA (1970) was established at the University of East Anglia, from which Ian McEwan was the first graduate. Today, Writers’ Centre Norwich provides a hub for excellence in literature from around the world, providing professional development for writers through workshops, courses, networking and competitions. As for books, The Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library has been the most visited public library in the UK, and the Cathedral library is home to more than 20,000 books dating back to 1474.

Literary figures associated with the city include WG Sebald, Sir Thomas Browne and Anna Sewell.
Nottingham, England (joined 2015)
A city of rebels and writers, Nottingham has an impressive literary heritage and a fast growing contemporary writing scene, with local digital and visual media innovatively embracing the written word. Many projects and festivals have sprung from the grass roots and the people’s passion for literature and social justice. Links to many of Nottingham’s groups and activities are listed to the right (scroll up). As well as having many literary legends, Nottingham's non-fiction writers have also had an astonishing influence on the world, helping to form the theory of evolution, protestant Christianity, a UN Resolution and part of the American constitution.  
Literary figures associated with the city include D.H. Lawrence, Lord Byron and Alan Sillitoe.

Óbidos, Portugal (joined 2015)

The project Óbidos Literary Town is a collaborative initiative involving a bookstore, a creative writing company, the town hall and a municipal enterprise of cultural management. This project consists of the promotion of the culture of writing and reading through the organisation of festivals, presentations, meetings, representations, projections, concerts, reading and writing sessions. Óbidos’s International Literature Festival (Folio) is a prominent event and the city even has a unique literary hotel The Literary Man Óbidos Hotel.

Prague, Czech Republic (joined 2014)

Prague has about 200 libraries - the largest of which is The Municipal Library of Prague – including a Central Library of 41 branches and 3 mobile libraries (bibliobuses), a huge institution that manages a collection of 2.35 million volumes, loans more than 7 million books annually and hosts around 5000 programmes and events each year. Prague has many independent libraries and street libraries across a city that hosts about 130 bookshops, around 60 second-hand bookshops, and approximately 20 literary cafes. Their International Book Fair and Literary Festival Book World Prague runs about 400 exhibitions and attracts around 40 000 visitors.

Literary figures associated with the city include Franz Kafka, Max Bod and Rainer Maria Rilke.

Reykjavík, Iceland (joined 2011)

The first non-English speaking city to join the Cities of Literature Network, Reykjavík is obsessed by books - Iceland’s most popular Christmas gift. One in ten Icelanders will publish a book and over half of its population participate in cultural events. Biannually the city hosts the Reykjavik International Literature Festival and the Children’s Literature Festival.  Literature is celebrated with the Week of the Book in April and there are numerous literature walks hosted by the City Library.

Literary figures associated with the city include Halldór Laxness, Arnaldur Indridason, Thor Vilhjálmsson and Einar Már Gudmundsson.

Tartu, Estonia (joined 2015)

Estonia’s second city - widely considered the intellectual capital - is home to the Estonian Literary Museum which holds held a two-day conference on literature and folklore each December. The museum publishes an annual almanac which includes articles, primary source texts and research. The two biggest libraries, the University of Tartu Library and Tartu Public Library offer rich collections, reading and working space as well as exhibitions and literary events. The Tartu branch of Estonian Writers’ Union is a thriving association for authors, critics and translators residing in Tartu and South Estonia.

Literary figures associated with the city include Ene Mihkelson, Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, Jaan Kaplinski and Andrus Kivirähk.

Ulyanovsk, Russia (joined 2015)

12 Simbirsk literary Apostles (Ulyanovsk used to be Simbirsk) is a project devoted to the most significant writers of the region. It’s helped promote the best examples of Russian and world literature, increased reading activity and the desire to read. A tour, based around Simbirsk/Ulyanovsk’s literary heritage, attracted attention to the reading of classical literature in the region. During the year, every month in all municipalities of the Ulyanovsk region, as well as its cultural and educational institutions, held a cycle of cultural and educational events dedicated to the promotion of creativity of certain literary person.

Literary figures associated with the city include Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov, Nikolay Mikhailovich Karamzin and Nikolay Mikhailovich Yazykov.


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