April 26, 2019

Bucharest opens Arcul de Triumf to visitors for World Book Night


Arcul de Triumf: open all hours. (Sorint, via Creative Commons; licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 RO)

Thousands of residents in Bucharest, Romania, were this week given the rare chance to see inside the city’s Arcul de Triumf for the country’s Open Books Night—part of this year’s World Book Night celebrations on April 23rd.

The landmark, which is located in Bucharest’s Herăstrău Park, and based on Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, has an intriguing history. A wooden version was hastily built in 1878 after Romania gained independence from the Ottoman Empire, forming the centerpiece for the ensuing celebrations. A new version was then built on the same site in 1922, and then redesigned to its current form in 1936 by architect Petre Antonescu. To this day, it is the focal point for Romania’s national celebrations and military parades, held annually on December 1st.

This week, however, as Luiza Ilie at Reuters reports, it was the scene of an unprecedented children’s treasure hunt—with free books for the winners. She spoke to Dan Vidrascu, general manager of Litera, the Romanian publisher who have organised Open Books Night for the past seven years, who says:

“An economy, a country can only grow if it has an educated public … anywhere I look people become smarter with good teachers and books.”

Romania has among the lowest adult learning rates in Europe (according to 2016 Eurostat data), and a survey of the country undertaken in 2018 revealed that 69% of Romanians had not read a book in the last year (as reported by Corina Chirileasa for Romania Insider). However, schemes like Open Books Night suggest a hopeful future for the country. As Vidrascu details:

“If we envisage a country with something better to say and a different trajectory, then I think the number one objective should be making the young generation better prepared.”

Schemes like Litera’s, along with events such as the recent Romanian Cultural Institute showcase of Romanian authors in London, suggests a country ready to shake off the negative stats and heartily embrace that new trajectory.

You can find out more about upcoming Romanian cultural events in London here; and in New York here.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.