Beirut’s status as World Book Capital was officially hailed today in a ceremony held at the UNESCO building. President Sleiman spoke today praising UNESCO for their choice adding that this title is a challenge to improve literacy and encourage reading. The ceremony was attended by Speaker Berri and Prime Minister Siniora.
Beirut is the ninth city designated as World Book Capital, following Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Anterp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007) and Amsterdam (2008).
According to the selection committee, Beirut was selected “in the light of its focus on cultural diversity, dialogue and tolerance, and of its diverse and stimulating program.”
Lebanon boasts of having hundreds of publishing houses.
But Lebanon is also a country where the most sold books, in any book fair that Beirut hosts, are cook and horoscope books.
And Beirut is a city where the coffee shops, that once accommodated intellectuals from around the world, are being transformed into fashion outlets.
And where the environment, politics, economy, intellectualism, arts, etc, has reached a very low level by all standards.
A city where even selecting it as World Book Capital created petty squabbles among the officials regarding the funding (reported by BBC).
Where even the facebook group for this event has only 133 fans (when last checked).
And yes, despite all that, I will take part, plan and share responsibility in some of the activities to commemorate Beirut as World Book Capital.
Never despairing that transformations and imprints can always be made.
Beirut World Book Capital 2009 – Official Site
Beirut World Book Capital 2009 – Blog
Pierre Tristam’s article on UNESCO’s declaration