Tag Archives: Ukraine

Love, War and Public Libraries for World Book Night

World Book Night 201623 April, as well as being Shakespeare’s (Smyth’s, Cervantes’, Neames’ and Hartnell’s) anniversary, is of course World Book Night.

Westminster libraries joined in the fun, with free copies of several of the WBN titles being given out at six libraries.

Paddington Library‘s World Book Night event tied in nicely with the Shakespearean theme, as author Barrie Stacey‘s background is the theatre. Barrie gave a humorous account of his life in the theatre world, including the many famous people he met and got to know over more than fifty years. He also talked about his latest book Love in the Afternoon, which is an entertaining and original novel about love, a failed marriage followed by a late flowering of romance.

The audience were really taken by Barrie’s interesting and varied real life and were delighted to buy signed copies of his novel having met the author, as well as receiving free copies of Elizabeth Buchan’s novel I can’t begin to tell you, set in Denmark  during the second World War.

In wartime: stories from Ukraine, by Tim JudahThe situation in Ukraine is one which is really not well known in the west, which is why Tim Judah’s talk on his book In Wartime at Victoria Library was so enlightening. It was great to get the information direct from someone who was actually on the ground as the civil strife developed and his insider knowledge really came through.

The talk was punctuated by images taken from the ground and Tim offered some excellent insights into what life is like for people in Ukraine. The talk led into quite a lively political discussion and it was great to have so many people with such a clear interest in the current strife participating. We felt especially privileged to have Tim with us for World Book Night when we realised his next appointment was in Kiev!

Tim Judah tweet 23 April 2016

There was one last World Book Night gift to come… We were delighted to receive free copies of Bailey’s Prize winning author Ali Smith’s Public Library and other stories, along with a letter passing on her thanks for the “brilliant work of librarians across the UK”. Thanks for your support, Ali! You can find a copy of Public Library in every library – borrow or reserve a copy now.

Public Library and other stories, by Ali Smith

[Laurence and Nick]

1914 And All That: Who remembers what and why?

History is about facts while remembrance is about selecting and arranging these facts. As commemorations of the centenary of the beginning of World War I proceed, one is struck by how many current issues can be traced to the outcome of the Great War.

The Serbs, by Tim JudahAs part of the Author Event Series at St John’s Wood Library, journalist and author of The Serbs Tim Judah, who covers the Balkans for The Economist, presented on Thursday 20 March a talk entitled ‘1914 And All That: Who remembers what and why? Bosnia, Ukraine and Gallipoli’. With illustrations and photographs, both historical and recent, Mr Judah shared stories with us about places that opposing sides have tried to “own” to commemorate their own causes.

An example from Bosnia Herzegovina:
At the street corner in Sarajevo from which Gavrilo Princip (terrorist for some, freedom fighter for others) shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, in 1914, was Moritz Schiller’s delicatessen. Since it was time for lunch, he might have bought a sandwich before changing the history of the world. The shopfront had signs written in the Western alphabet but also in Arabic script and Hebrew letters reflecting the then multicultural population of Sarajevo.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess SophieIn 1917 a monument commemorating the assassinated archduke and his wife was erected across the street from Schiller’s. Then, in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the creation of Yugoslavia, it was demolished.

In 1930 however a plaque was put up commemorating Princip, but many, including Winston Churchill, denounced it for lauding what they considered a terrorist act. In 1941 the plaque was prised off by the invading Nazis and their local collaborators, just in time for it to be presented to Hitler for his 52nd birthday.

After the war the building which once housed Schiller’s became the Museum of Young Bosnia, the organisation that wanted to rid Bosnia of the Austro-Hungarians. Tito’s communist regime also decided that Princip was a good example, not only of a freedom fighter against an occupying imperial force but also a hero to the workers’ cause, so he was much championed . However, during and since the 1992-95 civil war in Bosnia, when Serbs, Muslims and Croats fought against each other, Princip has not been everyone’s hero. The museum was closed during the siege of Sarajevo but has now reopened as one dedicated to the Habsburg period in Bosnia.

This year the city will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the assassination and the beginning of World War I, along with the 30th anniversary of the Winter Olympics which were held there in 1984. It is especially happy to host the Sarajevo Grand Prix, an international cycling race in cooperation with the Tour de France, whose 1914 race began on the same day as the Sarajevo events. See ‘Sarajevo 2014’.