City of Literature: Ljubljana
Ljubljana became the sixteenth UNESCO City of Literature in December 2015, on the same day as Ulyanovsk (Russia), Baghdad (Iraq), Tartu (Estonia), L’viv (Ukraine), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Barcelona (Spain), Nottingham (UK), Óbidos (Portugal) and Montevideo (Uruguay) joined the Creative Cities Network.
These all join the eleven existing UNESCO Cities of Literature – Edinburgh (UK), Melbourne (Australia), Iowa City (USA), Dublin (Ireland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Norwich (UK), Krakow (Poland), Dunedin (New Zealand), Prague (Czech Republic), Heidelberg (Germany) and Granada (Spain) – to bring the total amount of Cities of Literature in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network to twenty.
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana is home to a population of 283,000 and to a culture of music and arts. The city hosts over 10,000 cultural events, from prestigious musical, theatre and art events to alternative and avant-garde events, notably including 14 international festivals.
The largest city in Slovenia, Ljubljana is known for its university culture, its green spaces, particularly Tivoli Park and many museums, including the National Museum of Slovenia, displaying historic exhibitions, and the Museum of Modern Art, home to 20th-century Slovene paintings and sculptures.
10 Things to Know about Ljubljana
1. Literary Ljubljana in Numbers
Ljubljana is home to 14 theatres, 35 public libraries, 142 specialised libraries, and 2,628,810 books in the National and University Library of Slovenia. 284 associations, institutions and organisations promoting literature have their seat in Ljubljana, including the Slovenian Book Agency, the Slovene Publishers Society and the Slovenian Association of Literary Translators.
2. 504,000 Residents Can’t Be Wrong…
Over a quarter of Ljubljana’s population are members of the city’s public library network. Ljubljana City Library has over 81,000 members, giving it the biggest membership of all the libraries in Slovenia. On average, every inhabitant visits the City Library 5 times per year.
Ljubljana’s largest collection of books, the National and University Library of Slovenia, was designed by architect Joze Plecnik and holds a collection of works by some of the most important Slovenian poets and writers.
3. A Literary City Since 1112
Ljubljana was first mentioned in writing in April 1112 and since then it has become the centre of administrative and cultural life of Slovenia. Primoz Trubar wrote the first Slovene language printed book in Ljubljana in the 16th century. The Slovenska Matica (’Slovene Society’) is the oldest still-operating publishing house in Ljubljana, having celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2014. Likewise, the city’s newspaper history dates back over 200 years, when the first Ljubljana paper, Ljubljanske Novice, was published in 1797.
4. Living Literature Festival
Like Edinburgh, Ljubljana prides itself on its festivals. Over 10,000 cultural events take place in the city every year, among which there are 10 international festivals. The Living Literature Festival has taken place annually since 1994, and remains a free festival centred on popularising literature and music.
The Slovenian Book Fair takes place in Ljubljana every autumn and on Midsummer’s Eve (23 June), a bonfire is built on Roznik Hill close to where Slovenian author Ivan Cankar lived on the outskirts of Ljubljana. The bonfire is then lit by the winner of the Kresnik Award, Slovenia’s most prominent award for novelists.
5. Linhart in Ljubljana
18th century playwright, author and historian Anton Tomaz Linhart lived and worked in Ljubljana, penning the first comedy and indeed the first play ever written in Slovene, Slovenia’s national tongue. He also helped to set up what became the National and University Library of Slovenia.
6. Preseren: Ljubljana’s poet
19th century poet France Preseren (1800 – 1849) wrote the first epic poem in Slovene, elevating the country’s literature to the level of its European peers. As with Robert Burns and William Wordsworth in Britain and Goethe in Germany, Preseren was a key figure in the Romantic literary movement in Slovenia. On 8 February the anniversary of Preseren’s death is marked by a Slovenian cultural holiday, and on 3 December the anniversary of Preseren’s birthday is also feted with a Culture Celebration Day, when all the cultural institutions offer free admission. Next to Plecnik’s Triple Bridge in central Ljubljana stands a monument dedicated to Preseren.
7. Slovene Modernism
Slovene modernist poet and resident of Ljubljana Srecko Kosovel (1904 – 1926) articulated the country’s struggle with identity during the early 20th century. Drawing on Impressionist, Modernist and Constructivist techniques in his poetry, Kosovel also founded and edited Slovene’s most avant-garde literary magazines and is likened to Federico García Lorca in Granada for his influence on his country’s literary output.
8. Ljubljana’s Literary Resistance
During World War II, the city was the centre of an illegal literary resistance movement which saw graphic houses printing propaganda but also publishing literary works at this time of great unrest and distress.
Ljubljana has been a member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) since 2011.
9. World Book Capital
Ljubljana was named the 10th UNESCO World Book Capital in 2010 for one year.
During that year books and reading were the central theme of events and media attention across Slovenia. In that same year, the city gained a new house of literature named after Primoz Trubar where special events dedicated to the book, literature and journalism take place every day of the year.
By becoming part of the Creative Cities Network, Ljubljana has now been assigned a permanent City of Literature designation by UNESCO.
10. Published in Ljubljana
In 2014, 5,300 books were published in Slovenia. Of these, 1,315 were fiction titles and 66% of these came from Ljubljana. This makes Slovenia one of the most prolific nations in terms of the number of published books per capita.
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