Wednesday, April 29, 2009

daily star on beirut as world book capital

Beirut newspaper The Daily Star has a piece by Matthew Mosley on the rich programme of festivities celebrating the city's status as this year's World Book Capital, designated by UNESCO:

The city is about to go book-crazy. More than 200 events will take place here as part of Beirut's year as World Book Capital. This festival has been organized annually by UNESCO since 2001 to promote books and reading. The festivities officially began in Beirut on April 23, when culture minister Tammam Salam flew to Paris for the handover ceremony.

UNESCO selected the Lebanese capital to host the event after reviewing a proposal from the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Beirut. The Lebanese organizers have three hopes for the event.

One is that the book industry in Lebanon be bolstered, with a particular emphasis on youth literature. A panel of regional literary luminaries, including Alaa al-Aswani, Egyptian author of "The Yacoubian Building," will select the top 39 Beirut authors under 40 years of age. These will be promoted at festivals worldwide, including the UK's Hay Festival, where a series of events will be programmed around the Beirut 39 list...
read in full

Beirut is celebrating its World Book Capital position with typical elan, and publisher Saqi books for example has come up with some innovative ideas. Maybe it could transplant some of these to its other home base of London - eg temporarily transforming a number of coffee shops (and there are plenty of Arab-owned coffee shops in the Queensway area of London near the Saqi bookshop) to 'public libraries' where books can be sampled along with coffee and sweets.

Beirut's programme for World Book Capital has long been planned: this preview display was at the 2008 London Book Fair.

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