Poland’s southern city of Kraków has been honoured with the UNESCO City of Literature title after more than three years of efforts for the recognition of its buzzing literary art life
Images of Kraków's liteary events, photo: press release
The authorities of the city were presentd with a letter from Fracesco Bandarin, the UNESCO official and cultural affairs vice president of the organisation. Kraków is the first among Central and Eastern European cities and the second non-English speaking one (after Reykjavik), to be presented with the title. The mayor of Kraków, Majchrowski underscored that few cities really deserve this title and reminded of the significant events as well as centuries of traditions that take their home in this place. As early as 1508, the very first book to be printed in Polish came out in Kraków. It was composed by an anonymous author and entitled "Historyja umęczenia Pana naszego Jezusa Chrystusa" (The Story of the Suffering of Our Lord Jesus Christ). Majchrowski pointed to the extensive network of libraries that function within the city, as well as the many publishing offices that are installed there. The special UNESCO department for Translation and Intercultural Communication Research also finds its home at the Jagiellonian University. Thus, the title is seen by the mayor as a summary of Kraków’s creativity in the literary domain.
The initiative to present Kraków with this title was launched by its partner city, Edinbugh, which was in fact UNESCO’s first City of Literature. The official application was filed towards the end of 2011, with more than 150 writers supporting the cause. Some of the authors who signed their names in favor of awarding Kraków with the title included: Nobel prize laureates - Orhan Pamuk, Mario Vargas Llosa, Herta Mueller and Wisława Szymborska - as well as Amos Oz, Alberto Manguel, Eduardo Mendoza, David Grossman, Peter Esterhazy, and Zadie Smith.
Majchrowski announced that the authorities intend to give the space of a former salt magzine by the Na Zjeździe street to the Book Institute, with the perspective of creating a Forum of Literature there in the future. The realisation of this project is yet to be discussed is collaboration with the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Many writers and poets call Kraków their home. The Nobel Literary Prize laureates Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz were both connected to Kraków, as well as the late playwright Sławomir Mrożek. For the past 17 years, the city has been hosting the Targi Książki book fair.
Meetings of Poets of the East and West were once held right at the base of the Wawel - a fortified architectural complex with the Royal Castle and the Wawel cathedral, erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop. Since 2009, two huge liteary festivals also take place in Kraków, the Miłosz Festival and the Conrad Festival.
Kraków, photo: press release
The efforts to obtain the title have been made since 2010, and they were coordinated by the Kraków Festival Bureau. The title is not merely prestigious in its character, it also offers a chance to benefit from EU funds. The +Creative Europe+ programme is to be launched starting in 2014, with a programme devoted to the mutual influence and exchange between different genres of art.
Kraków is also home to a few significant award ceremonies. The Transatlantyk prize, granted by the Book Institute for promoting Polish literature abroad is awarded there, and the city will soon also host ceremonies of the Wisława Szymborska prize. In 2011, Kraków joined the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), becoming part of a movemet to help literaries who cannot live and create freely in their home countries due to political repression. As part of ICORN, Kraków has hosted Maria Amelie, a writer of Russian nationality, who was deported from Norway after publishing a book about her experiences as an illegal immigrant, as well as Kareem Amer, an Egyptian blogger sentenced to prison after criticising Hosni Mubarak’s government.
Kraków is the seventh UNESCO City of Literarture. Other cities to receive this title are: Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin, Reykjavik and Norwich. Cities which have applied for the name are Prague, Naples, Heidelberg and Lublana.
Editor: Paulina Schlosser,
Source: PAP, 24.10.2013