26 August 2008

Melbourne is UNESCO City of Literature

Well, I’ll be damned! Last week – on 20 August 2008 – Melbourne (Australia) was declared UNESCO City of Literature.

The happy news was reported in an article, Melbourne hooks the books by Jason Steger, in Australian newspaper The Age, flaunting Melbourne’s rightful place as the second UNESCO City of Literature – the first being Edinburgh (Scotland) in 2004. [UNESCO’s website hasn’t been updated with the information on Melbourne yet.]

According to The Age, “The timing could hardly have been better had it appeared in the final chapters of a best-selling thriller. Three days before the opening of the Melbourne Writers Festival, UNESCO has named Melbourne as its second City of Literature.”

The newspaper went on to state that, “[Victoria’s] Arts Minister Lynne Kosky said the decision was confirmation of the value of a lot of people who have been working in the literature industry – writers and publishers and those who support writing and publishing.”

Furthermore, reported The Age, “Ms Kosky said there were not many places internationally, and nowhere in Australia, that had a comparable space for literature and ideas. Melbourne’s status as a City of Literature would have cultural and economic benefits for Melbourne and Victoria.”

Couldn’t India’s New Delhi or Kolkata or Chennai qualify just as easily as Melbourne or Edinburgh? What qualifies a city as a UNESCO City of Literature anyway?

According to UNESCO (as indicated on its website),

“The following list of criteria and characteristics serves as a guide for cities interested in joining the network as a City of Literature:
• Quality, quantity and diversity of editorial initiatives and publishing houses;
• Quality and quantity of educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature in primary and secondary schools as well as universities;
• Urban environment in which literature, drama and/or poetry play an integral role;
• Experience in hosting literary events and festivals aiming at promoting domestic and foreign literature;
• Libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centres dedicated to the preservation, promotion and dissemination of domestic and foreign literature;
• Active effort by the publishing sector to translate literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature;
• Active involvement of media, including new media, in promoting literature and strengthening the market for literary products.”

Read The Age article on Melbourne, the second UNESCO City of Literature here.

Visit the UNESCO Culture Literature page here.

[Citation: Melbourne hooks the books by Jason Steger, The Age; UNESCO City of Literature webpage.]

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