Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, has for centuries been a hotbed of literary production through writing, printing and distribution. The city inspires authors, including a growing number of women, and celebrates literature. It disseminates literature through academies, organizations and libraries, independent initiatives, workshops, residences, training and exhibitions. Accordingly, Beirut was named “World Book Capital” by UNESCO in 2009. In the field of literature, about 90% of the cultural offer is from Beirut.
The city hosts the Arab Book Fair every year, attended by 170 publishers and 35,000 visitors from the Arabic-speaking world. The Beirut Francophone Book Fair - the largest French-speaking literary fair after those of Paris and Montreal - has also been held since 1992. The Lebanese Book Festival is another event held annually since 1980, organized by the Antélias Cultural Movement.
To improve the status of writers and support literary production, the Municipality subsidizes literary organizations. In addition, the Phénix prize rewards the best work written in French. The Municipality further financially supports and sponsors literary fairs and organizations such as Assabil. In addition to the municipal libraries which have opened in Beirut as a result of the financing of building work by the Municipality, there are also mobile “Kotobus” libraries in circulation.
As a Creative City of Literature, Beirut envisages:
- improving creation, production, distribution, dissemination, access and participation in cultural output, in particular for the benefit of disadvantaged or vulnerable groups and people.
- consolidating the collection of manuscripts, maps and ancient texts of the Bibliothèque Orientale (Oriental Library) and developing an Arabic typeface with its Latin equivalent for the city of Beirut;
- supporting literary projects focused on the arts and inviting cultural institutions to participate in creative cooperation programmes between writers and artists from other disciplines;
- organizing thematic congresses on the book professions through the consolidation of best practices from other creative cities;
- starting a translation project with translation students, professionals and amateurs in order to adapt the texts of the creative cities of literature into Arabic.
- fostering the mobility of authors in the creative cities space in order to promote writing residencies and co-productions;