This year Lahore has been dubbed a City Of Literature.
What does it mean to be a City of Literature? How do you become a City of Literature?
City of Literature is a venture initiated by UNESCO in 2004, where Nanjing and Baghdad figure; Stratford on Avon, Oxford and Cambridge do not. Edinburgh was the first city identified under this scheme. Manchester, Melbourne, Prague, Durban and Milan find spots on the list.
So, how do they judge which city is the right pick?
These are the features they look for quality, quantity, and diversity of publishing in the city; educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels; how important the role of literature, drama, and poetry are in the city. They also check out how many literary events and festivals promoting domestic and foreign literature are hosted in the city.
Manchester has the library. Edinburgh hosts the International Book Festival and has its own poet laureate. Melbourne has more than 300 bookshops. There are seven Asian cities in the list including Nanjing and, now, Lahore.
“When, years later I myself became a writer and was asked, ‘Are you a Haitian writer, a Caribbean writer or a Francophone writer?’I would always answer that I took the nationality of my reader, which means that when a Japanese reader reads my books, I immediately became a Japanese writer,” said Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferriere in his novel I Am a Japanese Writer (2008), which was originally written in French and then translated to English.
These words were used by Teju Cole, the first Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard, to illustrate how translations bond readers and authors. Translated works transcend the barriers of language and ethos as long as they touch the human heart. By touching deep emotions they create bonds and links to mankind. He talks of how lives are lost over refugee crisis and borders and says “literature can save a life”.
Brought up between US and Nigeria, Cole developed broad world views. Cole’s forte are novels and essays, including the much acclaimed Open City (2011) which was named ‘Best Book’ in more than twenty end-of-the year lists, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist , Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Kirkus Reviews. It was also named a New York Times Notable Book — one of the ten top novels of the year by both Time and National Public Radio (USA).