Culture & Art

Budapest could be the World Book Capital in 2023

On the 150th anniversary of the unification of Pest and Buda, Budapest may host a year-long series of programs.

Every year since 2001, UNESCO has selected a city (via a competition) that serves as the “World Book Capital” for a full year. 

The last two European book capitals were Wroclaw (2016) and Athens (2018). The current book capital for 2020 is Kuala Lumpur, which will be followed by Tbilisi (2021). 

Budapest will apply for the title of World Book Capital in 2023, a goal that has both cultural and tourism significance. The mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, hopes that the event will support both the book industry and tourism here. 

The Imre Kertész Nobel Prize for Literature raised the awareness of Hungary to an international level 18 years ago. Budapest now will apply for the title of World Book Capital, said the deputy mayor in charge of humanities, Erzsébet Gy. Németh.

The deputy mayor said that most of the programs are planned to be free of charge, including free book and reading promotion programs, because the capital’s leadership aims to eradicate cultural poverty. The application is being prepared by a professional panel, and negotiations already began during the quarantine last spring when the libraries in the capital were closed.

UNESCO expects potential book capitals to have long-term benefits for the participating partners and society as a whole through its planned programs. Book capitals should have as many municipal, regional, national and international partners as possible committed to its program and should also collaborate with regional, national, and international organizations representing writers, publishers, booksellers, libraries, along with other partners who represent the business of books as well as scientific and literary life.

“The Hungarian UNESCO commissions are fully in favor of the Budapest tender,” László Z. Karvalics, Chairman of the Communication and Information Commission of the Hungarian National Commission for UNESCO, said.

The 2023 application — including a presentation of the program and a list of contributors and partners — is due in the summer of 2021. UNESCO will decide on the “World Book Capital 2023” in September 2021.

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