The 95th Festive Book Week has opened

Festive Book Week seems to have been invented to help book lovers stock up their private libraries, in any number of ways. The uninterrupted popularity of the Festive Book Week may not need explaining, but little is said about its creator, so in our latest selection you can read about Géza Supka and the birth of the Festive Book Week.

KF_8555.jpgThe idea for the Festive Book Week came from Géza Supka, who was born in Budapest in 1883 and was related to József Eötvös on his mother's side. He studied archaeology and art history in Graz, and then obtained a doctorate in literary history in Cluj-Napoca. From 1904 he worked in the Department of Coins and Medals of the Hungarian National Museum. His political involvement is also well known: between December 1918 and March 1919 he was the envoy of the Károlyi and then of the Berinkey government in Prague. After the events of 1919 he emigrated to Vienna. After returning home, he was unable to return to the museum and started working as a journalist. His intense journalistic activity characterises his entire oeuvre.

Between 1921 and 1949 he published in the newspapers Világ, Magyar Hírlap and Pester Lloyd. In 1926, he launched a literature and critical review journal, Literatura, with the undisguised aim of preserving Hungarian identity. His essay on the causes of the First World War, entitled "A nagy dráma" (The Great Drama), aroused serious opposition from his contemporaries, and a libel suit was brought against him as it was considered as defamation against the nation, and his book was only rehabilitated in 1934.

Hungarian books to Hungarian hands!

127768.jpgThe first initiative for a Festive Book Week in Hungary was taken in 1927, at the annual general meeting of the Hungarian Publishers and Booksellers Association, held in Miskolc, which had been in operation for 49 years. In his speech Supka pointed out:"On one day of the year [...] in every town and village of the country a book day should be organised to bring the writer and the publisher into direct contact with each other, so that on this day, once a year, book writing and book publishing should be presented on the streets...".

The Hungarian Festive Book Week was held for the first time in 1928 on a trial basis and in 1929 in a festive atmosphere. The festivities were attended by prominent figures of Hungarian literature and culture. Count Kunó von Klebelsberg, Minister of Religion and Public Education, opened the celebrations with a speech at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. There was a gala at the National Theatre and a series of lectures on Hungarian Radio. The presence of Zsigmond Móricz, Dezső Kosztolányi and Mihály Babits also highlighted the event.

These Book Days have undergone significant changes over the years, with the most significant modifications coming in 1935. The Festive Book Day Regulations were issued at that time and remained in force until 1949. From 1935 there was an official Festive Book Day list, but it still only included works by Hungarian authors. A major innovation was also the catalogues of publications on Festive Book Day. The Festive Book Week was not held for only one year, in 1957, because the The Hungarian Writers Union was dissolved after the events of 1956, and the Party punished the writers for their support of the revolution.

vfk_1979_0002.jpgIt is interesting to note that, contrary to popular belief, the first Festive Book Day was not held in Hungary, but in Finland - at that time the Russian Empire - in 1908. The second in chronological order was Spain, where the Spanish national book day was held on 7 October 1926. Supka's designated book festival, however, was most influenced by the festa del libro (which also means book festival) in Italy on 17 May 1927.
HIn Hungary, the 50th anniversary of the Festive Book Week was celebrated in 1979, and interestingly, the celebrations were held in its former traditional location,Blaha Lujza Square in Budapest. A special feature of that anniversary was that it included an exhibition of children's books.

Just as in 1927, books are still considered to be luxury items,but the popularity of the Festive Book Week continues unabated, with the 95th time of the event this year.


 translated by László Gönczi



Supka Géza és a könyvhét

Supka Géza


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