Kraków is the seventh city in the world to obtain this exclusive title – after Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin, Reykjavik and Norwich. It has held the title since 2013 and is the second non-Anglophone City of Literature in the world. During the panel City and culture, Robert Piaskowski, Deputy Programme Director of the Kraków Festival Office remarked that, in Kraków “we appreciate all the arts, but we realized that literature is the most important of them. In Kraków people talk about their city as a space for literature which is why applied for the title of UNESCO City of Literature”. More than one hundred and fifty writers, including Herta Müller, Orhan Pamuk, Mario Vargas Llosa, Eduardo Mendoza, Amos Oz and Zadie Smith have expressed support for Kraków’s efforts. An undoubted advantage for the city is its ties with two Polish Nobel Prize winners in Literature - Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz.
The Polish Book Institute operates in Kraków and is the most important public institution promoting Poland's literature in the world. It also houses Poland’s largest national Book Fair and regular colleges in translation. The city founds travelling scholarships for young writers, and literary prizes are also awarded (the latest is the Wisława Szymborska Prize, set up under the poet’s will). Finally, numerous publishing houses have offices in Kraków, including the well-respected Wydawnictwo Literackie, Znak, a5, Ha!art and Karakter. Kraków is also, adds Piaskowski, “home to the ICORN network, which offers asylum to writers defending human rights, who are not free to live and create in their own countries because of persecution. It is the brainchild of the writer, Salman Rushdie, author of ‘The Satanic Verses’”. At present there are five writers who cannot work safely in their own countries living in Kraków.
Kraków is both an historical and present-day academic and intellectual centre in Europe. It is a city which was and is home to many artists: Tadeusz Kantor, Stanisław Lem, Sławomir Mrozek, Andrzej Wajda and Adam Zagajewski. Two Nobel Prize winners - Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska - lived in Kraków. With the title of UNESCO City of Literature, Kraków is gaining prestige and importance in the world, as well as new possibilities for creative development related to literature.