Lljubljana: City of Literature

National and University Library
© Ljubljana City of Literature

Ljubljana is a city of illustrators, of libraries, of translators, of festivals, of writers... - a City of Literature! Damjan Zorc from Ljubljana City of Literature office knows what more there is to discover in the capital of Slowenia and talked about international relationships, best practices and Bremens application in this interview with Annika Depping.

What makes Ljubljana a City of Literature and since when does it have the title?

Ljubljana was a World Book Capital in 2010 and getting the UNESCO City of Literature designation was a logical next step. Ljubljana was designated as UNESCO City of Literature in 2015.

Ljubljana is a city of festivals. We have one of the oldest jazz festivals in Europe, an international film festival, a storytelling festival, and an international literature festival that brings the biggest literature celebrities to Ljubljana.

Portrait Damjan Zorc
© Lana Špiler

More about the UNESCO City of Literature Ljubljana

Ljubljana school of psychoanalysis, also known as the Ljubljana Lacanian School is a popular name for a school of thought that developed around the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It gained international reputation for its original bringing together of psychoanalysis and philosophy, with many groundbreaking contributions to both fields, as well as to political thinking, thinking of art and analysis of popular culture. Among philosopher’s representative of the school are also Slavoj Žižek, Mladen Dolar and Alenka Zupančič.

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia; the whole country has 2 million people. Even though it’s a small language market, we have many great translators that translate from the original languages. Each year, around 30 percent of published books in Slovenia are translated.

Ljubljana is also a city of the architect Jože Plečnik. One of his most notable works is The National and University Library, and his works were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Ljubljana is a city of illustrators. There’s a lot of illustrators working in Ljubljana, many of them work with renown foreign publishers. Each December, there is also a fair for illustrations in Ljubljana organized by the specialized centre for illustration. Around 4,000 titles are published in Slovenia every year, 900 of which are children’s books. Such numbers place Slovenia among the world’s leaders in the number of books published per capita! Books embellished with images by Slovenian illustrators have been published in countries and languages around the globe, including Argentina, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Austria, China, and more.

“Ljubljana was a World Book Capital in 2010 and getting the UNESCO City of Literature designation was a logical next step.“

Town Hall Ljubljana
© Ljubljana City of Literature
© Ljubljana City of Literature
Fabula Literature Festival
© Matej Pušnik
Literary Breakfast
© Jošt Franko

Which international relations emerged for Ljubljana after joining the Creative Cities Network? Which specific international projects could be initiated as a result?

Ljubljana (and me personally) is a deputy representative for the network of the literature cities (the main representative currently being John from Iowa City to be succeeded by Hannah from Nottingham from the beginning of next year). This means we’re providing support for the representative (coordinator) of the network, and also making sure that collaboration and communication between the cities is running smoothly.

One of the important projects that we started soon after we started managing our office is Ljubljana International Literary Residency – Writer in The Park, for authors from other UNESCO Cities of Literature. Each year, we provide residency for two authors chosen among more than 100 applicants, with the number of applications rising each year. We’re now looking to expand our residency programme, with Angoulême as our partner city we are going to start a comics residency in 2024.

The value of being in the creative cities network is manifold. As we’re a great network of many cities around the world, we share best practices that we can adopt and adapt in our own cities. Sometimes, most of the Cities of Literature join for a celebration of an important date – like the International Poetry Day which was started in Granada and then followed by many cities in a celebration of poetry. Whenever a City of Literature organizes an international project, they can rely on partner cities to suggest appropriate participants, fostering the mobility of authors within the network.

For the past four years, Ljubljana has also been in a project called Story Valley with Nottingham, Leeuwarden and Edinburgh to explore and discover heritage through storytelling. Students from each of the four cities joined their hands to delve deep in our past, our languages, and reimagined it in a very creative way, through songs, plays, interviews. The outcome was a fantastic display of creativity. And a great example of collaboration between sister Cities of Literature.

In 2022, Ljubljana was also a guest of honour at the Granada Book Fair, hosting our authors throughout the week, thus giving them a voice and a chance to present their work in one of the largest book fairs in Spain.

“With every exchange, every project that we do together, we have a chance to show what a great network of cities we are, so rich in history, rich in stories, with great authors and with a diverse range of languages.“

In your opinion, what are the benefits of such a cultural exchange?

With every exchange, every project that we do together, we have a chance to show what a great network of cities we are, so rich in history, rich in stories, with great authors and with a diverse range of languages. We like to say that we want to make the world smaller, meaning bringing together diverse cultures, showing that with literature, freedom of expression and providing safe space for our creative voices, we can bring meaning, and, above all, hope to the world.

The whole range of cities in the network means many possibilities and ideas we can tap into and try them in our own cities – thus taking steps to better our cities and ourselves with it.

Swiss House Ljubljana Residency
© Jaka Babnik
Ljubljana at Granada Book Fair
© Ljubljana City of Literature

Do you know the city of Bremen? What do you associate with Bremen?

All the Cities of Literature read the application of Bremen to become a city of literature, so we know a little about it. And using the information from the application in this interview would be cheating. But the first thing that comes to mind are of course brothers Grimm.

Did not have a chance to explore the city and its cultural aspects, which I’m really looking forward to experiencing. I have no doubt the city is dedicated fully to furthering its cultural potential and investing its resources to solidify its status as a true city of literature.

And since it’s official, congratulations on becoming a UNESCO City of Literature and joining a great literary family. No doubt you deserve it.

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Lausch mal wieder!

In der Bremer Innenstadt wurden gerade zehn neue LauschOrte eröffnet: Zehn Autor*innen haben in diesem Projekt literarisch über bekannte Orte geschrieben, begleitet von Musik bekannter Musiker*innen. Lausch mal rein!