Update: Aarhus has just trumped CPH with its LiteratureXchange (FB; Jyllandsposten | Litteratursiden), an avowedly international festival running from 14-24 June 2018 with an overflødighedshorn of 150 events, some even in foreign languages (sic), NorthLit (a Nordic Arabic subfestival), representatives from all four verdenshjørner; meanwhile KBH Læser has announced a shift in focus to a children’s festival, sheesh…apropos book festivals in general, see Bookfestival-opoly and other bookish games (article | Ullapoolism)…
Most of my posts seem to be about events these days, and this one is a rewrite of an old messy post on the festival, updated for 2018. When I first started this blog my focus was primarily the formidling angle, ie how events are presented on the web and how they are amplified (think pictorial broadcasting), shared and archived (or not). Of particular note in this regard is the rise of Instagram and the A3 newspaper.
As I started exploring CPH as place this became an additional focus, and now I’m increasingly exercised by how many festivals feel invisibly labelled “Danish only”, aimed at an audience I’m certainly not a member of, and to be making limited to no efforts to appeal to a more diverse, or, dare I say it, intercultural, audience.
For a public library led event, Kbh Læser is disturbingly highbrow – you’d be hard pressed to find many bestsellers here, and if you aren’t au fait with critical theory you may well be more than a tad turned off. Themes tend to the abstract; 2018 has the somewhat opaque catch-all theme of Manifest (Manifesto; think Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto).
Unusually for these days, there is no English version of the website, although the newspaper (64pp; too much already; selected articles in news) has a couple of English features. Elsewhere, the enthusiastic Ark Books (“For the Danes we’d like to provide the world’s literature, and introduce Danish literature to those who can’t read Danish”) offers its Manifesto Month (2017: Growth Month).
With my name on it, if in a four-way clash with the Beast from the East, were Georges Perec & OuLiPo at Storrs Antikvariat (a new secondhand bookshop in NV), Den Røde Sofa med Mette Dalsgaard (literary translator from Russian) and Flanørens Europa with Fabian Saul (as seen at Flâneur in Copenhagen nearly three years ago) and Mette Kit Jensen (in Kunsten.nu on the city), on what a drift through the streets of Europe can teach us about modern identity. (See also Fabian’s piece in the A3 rag entitled Notes for a pamphlet: walking the Assistens Cemetery of Copenhagen: the city as cemetery and Goethe Institute-supported project Traces of Resistance, now in the UK.)
Also with an international flavour we have a Flytningemanifest (and in English), Beirut læser and København læser syrisk litteratur (“Syrian literature as a part of literary Denmark”, hurra). We also have an art writing piece by Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese political cartoonist currently in CPH under the ICORN programme.
More of note:
- in place related corner, several articles on bookish things in areas of the city: Frederiksberg, Vesterbro (unpick: “Istedgade…emmer af diversitet og mangfoldighed”) and Østerbro (just Poesiens Hus then), plus profiles of the new Litteraturhuset at Nybrogade 28 (seemingly beset by delay and various teething issues), Arbejdermuseet and KBH Tegner (comics and related)
- a Litterært Manifest-kort, a map with 12 places; why-oh-why not online, not least when the project has received support from at least three worthy institutions? (this isn’t the first time, either)
- Læseforeningen guided community reading events in Kulturtårnet, Ørestad Bibliotek and the tower of Vor Frue Kirke
- a Europa.Manifest, the output of visits to CPH central library during the autumn of 2017 by European and Danish philosophers, now available as a book
- a Mikrofest from 24 small publishers, party and anthology in one (all in all an encouraging amount of wordplay around mani/fest; fest means party på dansk), with an online portal to come later in 2018
- ENIGMA, the suitable enigmatic newish museum/not for post and telegraphy type things, has MANIFEST NOW, a virtual exhibition and installation at the main library, consisting of cut-ups from 15 manifestos displayed at random and/or put back together
- and finally, Kbh Læser: the blog
#kbhlæser in previous years:
- 2017: with the theme of Vækst (Growth), including an event and article on deprived housing estates (even more topical in 2018), plus Folehaven som vækstorganismer (storytelling in/from the estate in Valby) and profiles of emerging literary places (Møllegade | Blågårdsgade | Amagerbrogade)
- 2016: with the theme of Mænd (Men), largely skipped, but with a report from librarianship students, plus a #litteraturenssteder series on Instagram over the summer
- 2015: with the theme of Kærlighed (Love), and not least a “declaration of love” to the city’s literary places, taking in some unusual venues such as a football club and a public bathhouse; also featured speed literature, bookshelf dating and bedtime stories in Nørrebro, and of most note:
- Golden Days’ morning lectures at Atheneum (now closed, lectures also no more), pulling in the crowds and streamed, featured Knud Romer doing a turn on German Romanticism
- Kierkegaard as doomed lover made two appearances courtesy of Kierkegaard coach Pia Søltoft, author of Kierkegaard og kærlighedens skikkelser; one at Den Sorte Diamant with philosophy rethinker Mads Vestergaard
Event website critique (2015): usual fish in a barrel stuff. With 159 events from 77 organisers, and 58 venues, you need several ways of finding your way around the programme, but as ever there was no way in via theme or audience. A map/app would have been nice, although there was a list of what’s on at each venue. No search…and while the design is contemporary enough, you are diverted to Copenhagen Libraries’ rather creaky site for full details, where when it’s gone, it’s gone.
In archive terms, there is one page on the festival’s history plus brief summaries of the festivals in 2014 (the body in literature) and 2012 (Copenhagen). 2018 update: now replaced by photo selections on the about page (2015-17 only), although the 2017 programme is still advertised.