Last week Jaume Ciurana, deputy mayor for culture for Barcelona, announced that Barcelona was making a bid for the 2014 City of Literature Title.
Barcelona has long been a city associated with literature. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Eduardo Mendoza Garriga, Juan Goytisolo and George Orwell have all been associated with Barcelona’s literary scene over the years. This is not a new phenomena, the oldest known book in Spain is a medieval cookery book written in Catalan.
UNESCO’s City of Literature program was launched in 2004 and is part of its Creative Cities Network whose aim is to promote cultural wealth. Previous cities to hold the title include Edinburgh, Norwich, Reykjavik, Dublin, Melbourne, Krakow and Iowa City.
The president of the Publishers Guild of Catalunya, Daniel Fernandez, has said: “There are many cities which are cities of the book, which have literature running through the core of their identity, and Barcelona has it. There are also several cities that are capitals of the publishing industry, but Barcelona has something special to it, being the capital publishing in both Catalan and Spanish. With the death of García Márquez so recent, we must remember that without Catalan publishers the Latin American boom would never have happened. So linking the identity of Barcelona as a city even more closely with the world of literature is a great idea .If in a few years time we have gone from being a ‘city of fairs and congresses’ to a ‘world capital of literature’, this is something that will make me proud. For our part we will do whatever it takes to make this happen.”
The Socialist candidate for mayor, Jaume Collboni, has expressed his interest in and support for the idea, adding that the proposal “had planted a very interesting seed.”
The application requires the submission of a formal letter from the mayor of the city, and a dossier of proposal, approved by the National Committee of the UNESCO and supported by professional associations linked to the publishing world.
At a time when all heads are turned towards economic issues, this award would act as a reminder that cultural issues still matter and that Barcelona has an enormous amount to offer and to be proud of culturally.