Text and the City: what is a city of literature?
Film and Discussion
Saturday 1 November, 12.15pm until 1.15pm, Lecture Theatre 2

When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; and when a man is tired of life he moves to Paris to write a book about it. But other cities are keen to emphasise their literary heritage: Edinburgh was delighted to be named the UNESCO City of Literature in 2004, even if Ian Rankin’s Gothic murders and Irvine Welsh’s tales of squalor are not great tourist adverts. In 2008 Melbourne became the second CoL – to the great disappointment of the other contenders, including several newcomers in emerging economies, keen to stake their particular claims on the literary map. Should we celebrate the richness and variety of different cities, or does ‘the city’ remain a blank space in which to explore universal concerns?

With a 15-minute film, Kolkata City of Literature, commissioned by the British Council, directed by Soumyak Kanti De Biswas and Tanaji Dasgupta, with commentary by Aparna Sen and music by Neel Dutt.

Professor Swapan Chakravorty
professor of English; joint director, School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University; author, Moveable Type: Book History in India II and Bangalir ingreji sahityacharcha (and many other publications in Bengali and English); contributing editor, The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton.
Gerry Feehily
Europe editor, Courrier International; author, Gunk
Julian Gough
novelist, former underground literary songster; author, Jude: Level 1, shortlisted, 2008 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award
Dr Tiffany Jenkins
writer and broadcaster; author, Keeping Their Marbles: how treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there

 Produced by
David Bowden associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

 Recommended readings
The case for Calcutta as the next city of literature

Calcutta, for instance, produced the first Asian Nobel laureate in Rabindranath Tagore. It was here that Thackeray was born and Dickens's second son buried.

Swapan Chakravorty, The Times, 25 October 2008

Brits abroad - still typing and stereotyping

The French are remarkably gracious about being stereotyped by legions of English expats - but why don't any of them write about Britain?

Gerry Feehily, Guardian Books Blog, 28 March 2008

Reading around Calcutta

The cancellation of its legendary book fair was a blow, but this most literary of cities still has plenty to excite readers.

Hirsh Sawhney, Guardian, 27 February 2008

A Letter from Berlin

I'm walking along Linienstrasse, a quiet residential street in the former East Berlin, on my way to work. It's a short walk, but it's taking a while, as I slow to check out the new graffiti. A Banksy! And sixteen new tags by Calyba, or Kalyba, a local graffiti artist so inept he can't spell his own name.

Julian Gough, Prospect, 2007

Edinburgh: UNESCO City of Literature

Use this literature hub to discover more about our projects, Edinburgh's literary landmarks, Scottish literature and search our events database to find out what's going on.

City of Literature Trust

Session partners