One CITY. One BOOK.

27 Nov

I am finally catching up with the “One CITY. One BOOK” initiative of the City of Vienna, among others, which is in its 11th year. (I’m a bit slow about these things!)

The way it works is that the mayor of Vienna together with a team of people from echo medienhaus select a book they feel is relevant to the people of Vienna. 100,000 extra copies of this book are printed and then distributed for free at all kinds of different venues. I picked mine up this morning at the bank across the street from me.

This year’s book is “A Hand Full of Stars” by Rafik Schami, a Syrian (how is that for timely?) author of considerable renown in the German-speaking world. He has lived in Germany for over 40 years, received an overwhelming number of prizes for his books, and still wakes up every morning (he said in an interview) wishing he could walk through the streets of Damascus, his hometown.

As I walked home this morning with my bright, new copy in my hand adages about money and the value of things were running through my head. “You get what you pay for” was one. Hardly relevant here, it seems. I have paid nothing and received a book that promises to be a very good read. The next one was “People don’t value what they get for free.” This one is only appropriate–as far as I can see–in the sense that I first heard it in reference to psychoanalysis, the founder of which was Viennese. 😉

The next saying that went through my head was “Put your money where your mouth is.” This, finally, seemed to fit. The City of Vienna wants people to read–perhaps also wants total strangers to reach out to one another and ask “What did you think of the book?”–and is willing to support the initiative knowing that when people read the same books they suddenly share a language.

Perhaps the name of the initiative should be: One BOOK. One CITY.

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