Meet the Cities of Literature
Located in the south-west of France, Angoulême is a city steeped in literary tradition dating back to the time of Adhémar de Chabannes in the 11th century. Throughout the 16th century, Angoulême became a prominent papermaking hub and its key position as a city of literature was strengthened during the Renaissance thanks to the patronage of the Valois family. In response to a struggling of the publishing industry in the early 1970s, Angoulême organized the first International Comic Strip Festival with the aim of promoting growth within the sector. Since then, the comic book publishing has experienced strong growth in France and this world-renowned event now plays a vital part in the city’s economy with an estimated direct economic benefit of nearly US$ 40 million from the Festival alone.
Baghdad is home to several theatres and museums, a national library, a national library for children and more than thirty other spaces for lectures, conferences, conventions and symposia.The 10th century Iraqi poet Abu Al Tayeb Al Mutanabbi is widely recognised as one of the greater Arabic poets of all time and Jamil Sidqi al-Zahawi (1863–1936), Ma’ruf bin Abdul Ghani al Rusafi (1875–1945) and Muhammad Mahdi Al-Jawahiri (1899–1997) are the three wise men of Iraqi modern poetry.
Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, has for centuries been a hotbed of literary production through writing, printing and distribution. The city inspires authors, including a growing number of women, and celebrates literature. It disseminates literature through academies, organizations and libraries, independent initiatives, workshops, residences, training and exhibitions. Accordingly, Beirut was named “World Book Capital” by UNESCO in 2009. In the field of literature, about 90% of the cultural offer is from Beirut.
South Korea's second largest city, Bucheon is an aspiring city of culture, located between Seoul and Incheon with a population of 870,000. Its literary tradition is strongly tied to the likes of Byun Yeongro and Chong Chi-yong, forerunners of Korea’s new poetry movement, active during the first half of the 20th century.
Dublin was designated a UNESCO City of Literature on 20th of July, 2010. Dublin is of course most closely associated with James Joyce, but is also home to Nobel Prize for Literature laureates George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Dublin has the world’s richest literary prize for a single work – the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Dunedin became the eighth City of Literature in December 2014 on the same day as Prague, Heidelberg and Granada. Dunedin is the ancestral home of the Kāi people whose legends and stories have been woven over centuries by the oral histories and traditions. It is also the home of the Centre for the Book, a unique centre of excellence in book history, print culture, and investigations into new platforms and models of publishing.
The first African city to join the network, South Africa's port city sits on the east coast of South Africa, with a population of over 3,442,400. It is the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal, and is known as the gateway to Africa due to it being a major Port City. Over the years it has been home to a number of writers, such as Luthuli, the first African Nobel winner, Alan Paton, Bessie Head, Gandhi, Mandela and the Dhlomo’s.
Edinburgh is the world’s first City of Literature. Around 4 million people visit Edinburgh every year, many of them for the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August – ‘the largest public celebration of the written word in the world’ – but many to explore the literary city and all it has to offer the book lover.
Exeter is a city in Devonshire, with a population of 130,000. Once a centre of world trade in the 1700s, the city is now considered an emerging creative tech and literary hub. As well as having a rich heritage linked with some of the country’s most famous writers, including Agatha Christie, Ted Hughes, Daphne du Maurier and Charles Causley, its 1,000-year-old Cathedral houses The Exeter Book, a 10th century anthology described as 'the foundation volume of English Literature'. Thanks to the city’s dedication to literacy promotion, small presses continue to thrive in the area, despite the market downturn in other regions, and now the local creative industry contributes over $US 17million gross value added to the City, as well as providing 2,750 jobs.
Granada, City of Literature
Granada became a new City of Literature in December 2014. It has been a centre for literature for centuries and home to one of the greatest poems in stone, the Alhambra as well as the forthcoming El Centro Federico García Lorca. Over 10,000 people attend the annual Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada poetry festival and Granada is is a partner with the HAY Festival.
Heidelberg, City of Literature
Also designated with Dunedin, Prague and Granada, Heidelberg became a City of Literature in 2014. It is home to Germany’s oldest university, the Institute of Translation and Interpretation, the Manesse Codex, a beautifully illustrated collection of medieval German poetry, as well as fifty publishers and the Centre of Creative Industries to help establish more.
Located by the River Pajakkajoki in the eastern part of Finland, Kuhmo is a picturesque city with a culture embedded in nature. At a time when the world is changing as a result of climate change and increased industrialisation, Kuhmo is pioneering renewable energy techniques and solutions while cultivating its folk traditions. Since the 19th century, the city has played an essential role in the birth of Kalevala and in the development of Karelianism in Finland, both of which significantly influenced the arts at the turn of the 20th century. Due to its position as a gateway to Viena, many people, including the creator of the Kalevala, Elias Lönnrot, travelled through the city, spreading oral poetry, Finnish folklore and mythology. Today, the National Epic Kalevala is now cherished by the nation, and Kuhmo, as its birthplace, a renowned literary attraction.
Krakow was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2013. Krakow is the cradle of Polish language and literature, and is a city of Polish Nobel Prize-winners in literature. It contains some of the most beautiful and valuable scriptoriums and libraries in the world, and is home to two major literary festivals and a thriving book market.
Found in the Punjab province in Pakistan, Lahore is often referred to as the ‘city of colleges’ due to the vast variety and number of higher educational institutions in the city. Today, there are more than 80 publishing houses, around 300 bookstores and more than 20 public libraries, in addition to colleges/universities and Social Clubs libraries in Lahore. Heavily influenced by the Delhi Sultanate Empire in the 13th century, Lahore became renowned for its poetry and attracted many scholars from Baghdad and Iran. Throughout the 16th century, education and poetry flourished, much of which still survives today.
The city of Leeuwarden, located in the north of the Netherlands in the province of West Friesland, is home to over 123,000 residents. As well as being a creative region with a rich maritime history, today Leeuwarden remains economically significant, representing 25% of Frisian employment. Despite adopting Dutch as its official language in the 1400’s, Leeuwarden is the only province in the Netherlands which continues to practice its traditional language, Frisian. For many years Frisian literature was limited and lacked accreditation due to the fact that as it was a predominantly verbal form of communication, however, in the 1600’s Gysbert Japicx’s poetry and writing supported a revival of the written language. Modern Leeuwarden continues to support its literary culture and is now hub for publishing infrastructure, including production and distribution, as well as literary translation for minority languages.
Lillehammer is the seat of Oppland Country in Norway, with a population of 27,000. It quickly became a hub for painters and writers in the 19th century – among them Nobel laureates in Literature, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Sigrid Undset. It was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017.
Capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana has a lively literary life, full of Festivals and activities. Home to a population of 283,000 and to a culture of music and arts. The city hosts over 10,000 cultural events, from prestigious musical, theatre and art events to alternative and avant-garde events, notably including 14 international festivals. The largest city in Slovenia, Ljubljana is known for its university culture, its green spaces, particularly Tivoli Park and many museums.
Heart and capital of the historical region of Galicia, full of literarynuances, it is today one of the most important cultural centres in Ukraine, with a strong network of Public Libraries and Universities. Home of some great writers, such as Stanislaw Lem, it has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.
Its innovations include pioneering free public libraries, the launch of the cooperative movement, and the recent discovery of graphene. With a population of 540,000, Manchester is a diverse city, with 91 ethnic groups and an estimated 200 languages spoken.
The only australian representative in the Cities of Literature Network, Melbourne is one of the biggest ones in it. It is the home for writers, independent publishers and bookstores iand was the second City of Literature designated by UNESCO, in 2008, as well as the first Creative City in Australia.The State Library of Victoria is home to a large rare books collection, including authors Shakespeare to Charles Darwin to Patrick White.
One of Europe's most stylish city, and also home of many publishing houses, some of them with a historical importance, Milan was designated a City of Literature by UNESCO in 2017.
As Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo is home to 1,319,000 people, nearly half of the country’s population. Its natural industrial port and historic business district combine with its rich cultural life – as its streets are brought to life with music, theatre, and art – to a create a unique City of Literature in South America. Writers such as José Enrique Rodó, Carlos Vaz Ferreira and Felisberto Hernández rose to fame leading to the work of Juan Carlos Onetti, Antonio Larreta or Eduardo Galeano. It was designated City of Literature by UNESCO in 2015.
Founded 2,500 years ago in the region at the confluence of the Yellow River and Yangtze River, Nanjing served as China's capital for six dynasties for over 500 years. It boasts an ancient literary tradition that includes China's first literary academy and the world's largest reference work, the Imperial Encyclopaedia. Over 10,000 literary works have been written in or on Nanjing, including the Chinese classic “Dream of the Red Chamber” and Nobel laureate Pearl Buck's masterpiece “The Good Earth”.
In May 2012, Norwich, became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Writers from Norwich have changed the world. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense treatise influenced the course of the American Revolution, while Julian of Norwich wrote the first book in English by a woman in 1395. Norwich is the UK’s first City of Refuge for threatened writers and was a founding member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). With 5 percent of the UK’s publishing sector and the new International Centre for Writing, it remains a hub for literary excellence.
Located in Nottinghamshire, Nottingham is well known for the famous hero, Robin Hood, and national literary heroes Lord Byron and DH Lawrence. The city boasts a diverse literary community with wide-ranging literary organisations including DH Lawrence Heritage, Nottingham Writers’ Studio and Nottingham Playhouse and literary festival, Nottingham Festival of Words. It was designated a City of Literature by UNESCO in 2015.
This small vlllage not far from Lisbon is one of the most magical places for people who love books, as it is only inhabited by bookshops of every kind. It hosts FOLIO, one of the most important literary festivals in Portugal. It was designated City of Literature by UNESCO in 2015.
As a major port city on the northwest coast of the Black Sea, Odessa is the third largest city of Ukraine and the industrial, cultural and resort centre of the region. With a population of 1,013,800 people, the city has a rich literary history that is linked to a number of famous writers and poets, including Mark Twain. In 2019, 2,522 people worked in Odessa’s cultural sector, which helped the city attract around 1.5 million tourists, bringing both economic and social benefits to the region.
Prague, City of Literature
Since the fall of Communism the city has exploded with creativity and literature. Empty buildings across Prague have become a grassroots base for new ventures and collectives, there are around 200 libraries in the city and it has one of the highest concentrations of bookshops in Europe. Writers including Franz Kafka, Max Bod and Jaroslav Hašek have called it home and its airport is named after writer and statesman Václav Havel.
The oldest French-speaking city in North America, with a population of 532,000. As Québec’s second largest city, and its capital, it is known worldwide for its rich history, breathtaking scenery, and cultural life. Since 1985 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its literature reflecting its Francophone, Anglophone and Aboriginal Heritage.
Reykjavik, City of Literature
Reykjavik was designated a UNESCO City of Literature on 2 August 2011. Iceland might be the only country in the world with its own word for the pre-Christmas publishing rush, the ‘Jolabokaflod.’ The festival that springs up around it is phenomenal, with writers becoming book assistants, readings taking place all over town, and the public flocking to events. Reykjavik cherishes its medieval literature, the Sagas of the Icelanders and the Poetic Edda, and Reykjavik is a centre for excellence in translation, manuscript preservation and linguistic study.
Situated on the western seaboard of the United States of America, in the state of Washington, Seattle is one of America’s most populous cities with over 650,000 people, rising to 3.5 million when you sweep in the wider region. It is a city of both high tech and evergreen aspects. It is fringed by sea, mountains and forests, and has thousands of acres of parkland, rightfully earning the name “Emerald City”. It is known around the world for its thriving tech industry. Microsoft and Amazon.com have made Seattle their home, to name just two.
With a population of 2,345,522 inhabitants, Slemani, located in eastern Iraq, has been the home of Kurdish culture for over 200 years. Literature has always played an active role in the cultural and economic development of Slemani, and the city’s traditionally peaceful existence enabled Sorani Kurdish to become a literary language. Slemani’s streets are named for poets, busts of writers line the city’s oldest park and its citizens recite classical poems from memory. Literature, and literary creation, holds sway over the city, yet Slemani is more than a hub for writers. Known as the regional translation center and home to seven major publishing houses, the city sustains translators, editors, and publishers, and annually publishes more books than other cities of the region. With the view to upholding the city’s literacy heritage, the Slemani Governorate allocates an annual budget of over US$ 2 million to cultural programmes, and the Directorate of Culture and Intellectualism employs over 2,000 full- and part-time employees across 39 branch offices.
The city of Tartu is the second is the largest city of Estonia, with a population of 97,000. It is viewed as the pioneer of Estonian culture, encouraging constant collaboration between its citizens and visitors. It is the home of some literary organisations, such as the Estonian Literary Society, which, after running for over 100 years, serves as Estonia’s oldest literary society. The society has and continues to collect and put research into literature, as well as organising poetry readings, seminars, conferences and other literary events. The city was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2015.
Ulyanovsk is a city of over half a million people on the banks of the Volga River to the east of Moscow. Birthplace of Lenin, but also of the great writer Ivan Goncharov born in 1812. In 2012 Ulyanovsk unveiled the Goncharov Museum, housed in the three-storey building where Goncharov grew up, to tell the story of Goncharov’s life and works. The Oblomov Festival is an annual celebration of the novel’s central – and eponymous – antihero. The festival attracts around 5000 people each year and glories under the motto ‘Get Off The Sofa!’ – a reference to Oblomov as the self-styled ‘Prince of Laziness’
Utrecht sits nestled in the centre of the Netherlands, and throughout history has traditionally been a meeting place for Dutch and international visitors. With its origins dating back to Roman times, it is one of the Netherlands oldest cities. Its rich heritage is counter-balanced by its youthful population, with 70% of its 340,000 inhabitants being under the age of 45. It was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017.
In 2016, Wrocław, the fourth largest city in Poland, with around 1 million residents, had the honour of being named UNESCO World Book Capital. Today, the city is home to 60 bookshops and around 30 publishers, which annually implement over 300 literary projects. The municipal government is also heavily invested in Wrocław’s literary culture and by 2017, the city’s expenditure on culture had grown to US$ 39.5 million. Since 2014, 11 new cultural institutions have been established, including the Wrocław Literature House dedicated to literary activities.