The meeting of, and the connections between, people, ideas and cultures through space and time
The protection of the climate, the environment and of communities: readers are responsible for their environment and the well-being of their physical and mental surroundings
Freedom, responsibility and solidarity: the pandemic has changed human relationships and social dynamics
In 2023, the capital is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Pest, Buda, and Óbuda. On the occasion of the anniversary, Budapest will become the capital of books, Book Capital, paying tribute to the rich bookish past and colourful, exciting present of Budapest and Hungary. The programme year is developed, coordinated and managed by the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library.
It is among the high priorities of the Book Capital to make the culture of books available and loveable to everyone through its programmes that popularize reading. Besides, it aims to become an independent event series in the cultural life of the capital that connects people of different roots, views, and identities through its book-related programmes.
The other major objective of the series is to make books more visible in public spaces, as well as in spaces of institutions and community events, because books are not only sources of experience but visual inspiration, too. The three big programme packages of the Book Capital are the Book Island, Book Night and Day, and Grand Novel Budapest.
Books set us free, inspire innovative thoughts, encourage good deeds. We trust that, due to the value-saving and value-creating initiations, Book Capital will remain a part of Budapest after 2023 as well.
The Island of Books is the flagship event of Book Capital – a symbol of both the fact that our city will host small “islands” of book events this year, and the fact that the Crystal Theatre on Margaret Island will be the most important venue of our programmes on the last two weekends of May.
These events will be attended by printers, typographers, bookbinders, illustrators, book restorers, librarians, publishing professionals, antiquarian booksellers, as well as representatives of the major cultural institutions of the capital. Museums, archives, libraries, theatres, research institutions, universities, civil society organizations, influencers who promote reading, societies, creative communities have also joined the series of events. We also place emphasis on presenting adaptations and events of other fields of arts that use books as a source of inspiration and raw material.
Budapest citizens can choose from hundreds of events: theatre performances and concerts, all-day short film screenings, audience forums, readings, panel discussions, walks, craft activities, exhibitions, quizzes, game shows, unusual book events, family and children’s programmes, and discount book fairs. There will be experience-based book events for those who are just getting closer to reading: we will have events on robotics, activities using elements of escape rooms and role-playing games, outdoor or indoor detective games, and unusual craft activities.
Budapest is traditionally a city of books and book festivals. This is also why it is important that the Book Capital joins internationally acknowledged festivals with decades of tradition such as the Festive Book Week, the International Book Festival, and the Margó Festival of Literature. The night and evening programmes are represented by the Night of Literature.
Book Capital will be present at these flagship book events with its own stand, having interactive elements, offering games, discounts, and diverse programmes aimed at all generations. Besides respecting traditions, it is equally important to the Book Capital to show, through the programmes of Book Night and Day, how our relationship to books is changing, how reading habits are changing, and what the future of books might be in the coming decades.
Well-known writers, poets, musicians, littérateurs, researchers, influencers of various generations will share their thoughts on their book experiences in panel discussions. With the cooperation of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, a flash mob will take place again this year, aiming to call attention to the love of reading and the role of books as “bridges” connecting individuals, families, communities, language communities, cultures, past and present through space and time.
Grand Novel Budapest, a book consisting of 23 chapters, will be published in November 2023 as a result of community art. Together with civil participants and writers, we are creating a unique artwork for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Budapest.
23 popular contemporary writers have been invited to write the volume of Grand Novel Budapest. Based on real data of local history, each of them is writing the story of a district in a way that their plot, through connections of characters and time, will intertwine and become a 23-chapter experimental narrative. The writers, Imre Bartók, András Cserna-Szabó, György Dragomán, Mátyás Dunajcsik, Renátó Fehér, Krisztián Grecsó, János Háy, Orsolya Karafiáth, István Kemény, Zsófi Kemény, Noémi Kiss, Dénes Krusovszky, Réka Mán-Várhegyi, Gabriella Nagy, Gábor Németh, Márton Simon, Anna T. Szabó, Noémi Szécsi, Edina Szvoren, Andrea Tompa, Krisztina Tóth, Miklós Vámos and Péter Závada, are working on the birth of Grand Novel Budapest under István Tasnádi’s dramaturgical guidance.
However, the one-and-a-half-year programme is going beyond the scope of the volume. Its aim is to collect, tell, and display the last 150 years of Budapest through stories and legends of the districts, involving the residents of the city, and using literature as a medium. The publication of the book is preceded by multi-art events that popularize reading, while the chapters of the book and the best stories received during the research will come to life in 2024 in the form of other art adaptations.