Elected officials, writers and artists kicked off, on Tuesday April 23, the events organized as part of the year “Strasbourg, world book capital”, a UNESCO label awarded for the first time to a French city . “From today and for a year, Strasbourg is celebrating books and promoting access to reading in all its forms,” through more than 1,000 events, declared the city’s mayor, Jeanne Barseghian, during the opening ceremony.

“This recognition is deeply anchored in the history of our city: at the crossroads of roads and ideas since the Middle Ages, cradle of the printed book, chosen by Gutenberg to develop his invention, the history of Strasbourg merges with that of book,” Barseghian added. She also paid tribute to Maryse Condé, a Guadeloupean author who died at the beginning of the month, a “magnificent storyteller” who was to be one of the godmothers of the event.

“The book, a precious ally” in times of war

“While war rumbles on our continent, while intolerance and fear colonize consciences, the book is a precious ally. To the writers, I say ‘we need you’,” concluded Ms. Barseghian. Many authors took the podium for readings, including the Portuguese Lidia Jorge, the Franco-Algerian Kamel Daoud and the Ukrainian Andreï Kourkov.

The ceremony is followed by meetings with writers, including Alberto Manguel, sponsor of the event, Boualem Sansal and Krikor Beledian, before other readings, including one in music, at Strasbourg Cathedral, to close the inaugural day. The festivities will continue all week with the inauguration on Wednesday of an exhibition dedicated to Julie Doucet, comic book author who received the grand prize at the Angoulême Festival in 2022, followed, on Thursday, by the Independent Booksellers’ Festival, and events in 150 locations over the weekend.

Among the highlights of the event: the illustration meetings, the audio book and podcast festival and the installation of an “academy of writers for human rights”, which will host workshops and round tables in the city. World book capitals have been designated each year since 2001 by UNESCO to promote books and reading. After Strasbourg, the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro will host the event in 2025.