Kuala Lumpur Opens its World Book Capital Year

In News by Porter Anderson

In a moving message from Malaysia as it launches its World Book Capital year under the restrictions of the pandemic, the city’s mayor quotes not only the Quran but also ‘Winnie the Pooh.’

Dato’ Nor Hisham bin Ahmad Dhalan, the mayor of Kuala Lumpur, opens the Kuala Lumpur 2020 UNESCO World Book Capital program on World Book and Copyright Day. Image: KLWBC2020

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Remind Us Always To Be Patient’
Following Wednesday’s (April 22) conclusion of the UNESCO World Book Capital year designated for the UAE emirate Sharjah, Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur today (April 23) has opened its year in the role.

Traditionally, the handoff from one world city to the next is accomplished in physical ceremonies, something of course prevented this year by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

And so the digital closing presentation made by Sharjah is today followed by a video opening presentation from Kuala Lumpur, and with Malaysia’s compliments to Sharjah for having done “tremendously well in the past year.”

The theme for Kuala Lumpur’s year (following Sharjah’s “Open Books, Open Minds” theme , is “KL Baca: Caring Through Reading.” Baca is a Malay verb, to read. And having had to cancel both its live opening ceremonies and many scheduled events of the first months of its year, the city is working to make the best of a difficult situation.

Ian Denison

In a taped message from UNESCO’s coordinator for the program, Ian Denison, he says, “Books have a unique ability to both entertain and to teach. Page by page, books light the way for us to roam, unbound by time or borders. In other words, books give us freedom. We pay homage today to all professionals associated with books.”

Dato’ Nor Hisham bin Ahmad Dhalan, the mayor of Kuala Lumpur, has issued the opening statement, with thanks to the  International Publishers Association and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, which made their recommendations for the city to UNESCO. 

It is in a time like this,” Nor Hirsham says, “that we need authors, poets, illustrators, publishers and content producers to embrace the challenge.”

From the opening presentation for the Kuala Lumpur UNESCO World Book Capital program. Image: KLWBC2020

‘Spread Your Wings, Tell Us the Truth’

Here is the statement issued today by the major on the opening of the 2020 Kuala Lumpur World Book Capital program.

A city that reads is a city that cares. Reading empowers our soul and makes us better human beings. When all levels of society are given the opportunity to read, they will be more informed, more cultured and more caring. No one should be left behind. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

We ignored the rainbow. This should have been an age of wisdom, when all men would live in peace. We should have been saints, we should have unlocked the mysteries of God’s love and human endeavor. 

Those are words extracted from “Twilight of Conscience,” a translated poem, originally written by Malaysia’s National Laureate, Datuk Seri A. Samad Said. 

Join me and the people of Kuala Lumpur in unlocking “the mysteries of God’s love and human endeavor” through reading and participating in more than 400 activities we have lined up in our World Book Capital program. 

We are currently facing a global pandemic that has seen thousands of casualties. The spread of COVID-19 across the world has forced us to socially distance ourselves, prohibiting us to perform our daily activities. 

Wherever you are, I sincerely hope that you are safe and well. Let’s together, though apart, we shield ourselves against the pandemic that is changing the way we live our life today. 

Our World Book Capital program too, will be adjusted accordingly. Until it is safe for us to go out, activities will be organized virtually and will be posted on our social media platforms. 

Image: From the opening presentation for the Kuala Lumpur UNESCO World Book Capital program on World Book and Copyright Day

During these difficult times, I would like to quote the holy verses of the Quran, from surah Al ‘Asr, Chapter 103, that reads: By time, indeed, mankind is in loss, except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. 

It is in a time like this that we need authors, poets, illustrators, publishers and content producers to embrace the challenge. Wow us in your own superior creative ways. Spread your wings and continue to remind us to always be good and do good things to others. Tell us the truth. Remind us to always be patient. Assure us that there is light at the end of the tunnel, where we will shine as winners – winners who come out stronger than ever before. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Kuala Lumpur World Book Capital 2020 Secretariat team, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, members of the steering and working committees, our sponsors, partners, industry players, book lovers and everyone else who will be going on a journey with us for the next 12 months. 

To all of you out there, follow us, as we embark on this journey with activities that gather some of our best and brightest minds. Get to know our authors, read our books, and experience our culture. 

I leave you with these enchanting words of Winnie the Pooh: 

Some people care too much. I think it’s called love. 

With love, from the city of Kuala Lumpur, World Book Capital 2020. 

Terima kasih

Here’s the video opening of the year produced by the Kuala Lumpur program:

More from Publishing Perspectives on the UNESCO World Book Capital program is here, and more on the coronavirus outbreak is here.

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.