UNESCO Cities of Literature

UNESCO Cities of Literature work together to build strong global partnerships: encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links. Each City is dedicated to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level, engaging citizens in a dynamic culture of words.

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Edinburgh City of Literature

Edinburgh was designated the first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004, and the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust was formed with the aim to use creativity to promote an enlightened approach to literature in Edinburgh and across the globe. With its rich legacy of literature spanning centuries, its geniuses of the Enlightenment and its contemporary stable of beloved writers, Edinburgh is a wizard city of literature.

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Melbourne, City of Literature

Melbourne, Australia, was appointed as the second UNESCO City of Literature in August 2008. Melbourne has the biggest publishing network in Australia, and four literary festivals: Melbourne Writers’ Festival, the Overload Poetry Festival, the Alfred Deakin Innovation Lectures and the Emerging Writers’ Festival. More people borrow books from libraries in Melbourne than anywhere else in Australia, and is also home to excellent literary hub The Wheeler Centre.

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Iowa, City of Literature

Iowa, designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008, produced the world’s first Master of Fine Arts degree program in Creative Writing with Iowa Writer’s Workshop, setting the bar for Creative Writing teaching globally. It has produced over 25 Pulitzer Prize-winning authors since 1955.

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Dublin, City of Literature

Dublin was designated a UNESCO City of Literature on 20th of July, 2010.  Dublin is of course most closely associated with James Joyce, but is also home to Nobel Prize for Literature laureates George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Dublin has the world’s richest literary prize for a single work – the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

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Reykjavik, City of Literature

Reykjavik was designated a UNESCO City of Literature on 2 August 2011. Iceland might be the only country in the world with its own word for the pre-Christmas publishing rush, the ‘Jolabokaflod.’ The festival that springs up around it is phenomenal, with writers becoming book assistants, readings taking place all over town, and the public flocking to events. Reykjavik cherishes its medieval literature, the Sagas of the Icelanders and the Poetic Edda, and Reykjavik is a centre for excellence in translation, manuscript preservation and linguistic study.

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Norwich, City of Literature

In May 2012, Norwich, became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Writers from Norwich have changed the world. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense treatise influenced the course of the American Revolution, while Julian of Norwich wrote the first book in English by a woman in 1395. Norwich is the UK’s first City of Refuge for threatened writers and was a founding member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). With 5 percent of the UK’s publishing sector and the new International Centre for Writing, it remains a hub for literary excellence.

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Krakow, City of Literature

Krakow was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2013.  Krakow is the cradle of Polish language and literature, and is a city of Polish Nobel Prize-winners in literature. It contains some of the most beautiful and valuable scriptoriums and libraries in the world, and is home to two major literary festivals and a thriving book market.

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Dunedin, City of Literature

Dunedin became the eighth City of Literature in December 2014 on the same day as Prague, Heidelberg and Granada. Dunedin is the ancestral home of the Kāi people whose legends and stories have been woven over centuries by the oral histories and traditions. It is also the home of the Centre for the Book, a unique centre of excellence in book history, print culture, and investigations into new platforms and models of publishing.

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Heidelberg, City of Literature

Also designated with Dunedin, Prague and Granada, Heidelberg became a City of Literature in 2014. It is home to Germany’s oldest university, the Institute of Translation and Interpretation, the Manesse Codex, a beautifully illustrated collection of medieval German poetry, as well as fifty publishers and the Centre of Creative Industries to help establish more.

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Granada, City of Literature

Granada became a new City of Literature in December 2014 on the same day as Dunedin, Prague and Heidelberg. It has been a centre for literature for centuries and home to one of the greatest poems in stone, the Alhambra as well as the forthcoming El Centro Federico García Lorca. Over 10,000 people attend the annual Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada poetry festival and Granada is is a partner with the HAY Festival.

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Prague, City of Literature

Prague took its place as a City of Literature with Dunedin, Heidelberg and Granada. Since the fall of Communism the city has exploded with creativity and literature. Empty buildings across Prague have become a grassroots base for new ventures and collectives, there are around 200 libraries in the city and it has one of the highest concentrations of bookshops in Europe. Writers including Franz Kafka, Max Bod and Jaroslav Hašek have called it home and its airport is named after writer and statesman Václav Havel.

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