International Day of the Book & Spanish Language Day

UNESCO poster of the World Book & Copyright Day

UNESCO poster of the World Book & Copyright Day

On 23rd April, the Spanish Language Day is celebrated in commemoration of the death of one of the most important and influential novelist, poet and playwright, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, whose work is considered among the most important in the world’s literature.

Cervantes died in Madrid, on April 23rd 1616. That same day and year, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died in Córdoba, Spain. The death of these two eminent writers coincides with the date of William Shakespeare’s death. Ironically, both deaths did not occur on the same day ;-). The reason for this difference is that Britain was still using the Julian calendar, whereas Spain had already adopted the Gregorian calendar.

Still, in honour of this coincidence, in 1995 UNESCO established April 23rd as the International Day of the Book, so as to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.

April 23rd is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors:

  • Maurice Druon, French writer, born 23rd April 1918 in Paris, best known for a series of seven historical novels published in the 1950s under the title Les Rois Maudits (The Accursed Kings).
  • Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Icelandic writer, born 23rd April 1902, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955
  • Manuel Mejía Vallejo, Colombian writer, born 23rd April 1923 in Jericó, Antioquia, represents the Andean aspect of the contemporary Colombian narrative
  • Josep Pla, Spanish Catalan journalist and writer, died 23rd April 1981.

The idea for this celebration originated in Catalonia where on 23 April, Saint George’s Day, a rose is traditionally given as a gift for each book sold.

La Diada de Sant Jordi, also known as The Day of the Rose is a Catalan holiday celebrated on April 23rd similar to St. Valentine’s Day. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—”a rose for love and a book forever.” In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition.

Legend has it that Saint George, Patron Saint of Catalonia and international knight-errant, killed a dragon that held a beautiful Catalan princess captive. From the dragon’s blood sprouted a rosebush as a symbol of love and friendship, from which the hero plucked the prettiest rose for the princess. Hence the traditional Rose Festival celebrated in Barcelona since the Middle Ages to honour chivalry and love.

More info on the World Book and Copyright Day

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