Buenos Aires is the 11th city to be designated World Book Capital, after Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogotá (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009) and Ljubljana (2010). The city was chosen by a panel comprising representatives of the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation (IBF), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and UNESCO.
The World Book Capital title rewards applications that demonstrate the promotion and fostering of reading. Of Buenos Aires’ application, the panel commended “the consolidated strategy underpinning the programme, as well as the quality and variety of its candidature file”. It beat rival South American cities Caracas and La Habana to take the accolade, as well as Lagos and Tehran, among others. (Yerevan in Armenia has since been named World Book Capital 2012.)
The official website for World Book Capital 2011 states that it has three main aims: to promote reading, to promote books and to promoteArgentina ’s literary heritage. Projects for the year include the creation of a multi-lingual public library and an undertaking to turn one hundred “universal classics” into audiobooks. Among other activities there will also be a week entitled “Buenos Aires, city of bookshops”, involving bookshops across the city.
Styling BA “the city of books and bookshops,” – there are more than 400 bookshops (one for every 6,000 citizens) — the Argentine Ministry of Culture has implemented a range of literacy campaigns in recent years, including “No hay Ciudad sin poesía” (“There is no City without poetry”), “A mí, regalame un libro” (“Give me a book as a gift”), and “El día del lector, 24 Agosto” (“The day of the reader, 24 August”). Meanwhile theBuenos Aires Book Fairs (one international, and one aimed at children and teenagers) have gone from strength to strength. The Buenos Aires International Book Fair is the largest Spanish-speaking fair in the world, and one of the most important cultural and editorial events in Latin America. More than 1,200,000 readers visit it every year.
Not surprisingly perhaps, Buenos Aires is considered a literary jewel of Latin America’s crown. It is home to celebrated writers Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and Manuel Puig, and since 2003 the country’s economic recovery has coincided with a literary renaissance through new authors such as Marina Marisch, Santiago Llach, Fabián Casas and Washington Cucurto.