“Books are among the most extraordinary objects that exist, and this day is dedicated to them. A book, whatever its format, is an essential means of education and an essential source of knowledge.It is with books that we learn to read; it is through them that we keep informed, entertained, and can understand the world. A book is also an extraordinary tool for discovering worlds and characters that would otherwise be difficult to encounter – and even more difficult to understand.By establishing a dialogue between spaces and times, books provide us with intimate access to otherness, and promote mutual respect and understanding between people and cultures.However, for books to reach their full potential, it is essential that they reflect the extraordinary linguistic variety of the world.”

“Each language brings with it a particular worldview, a particular perspective on things and life, a particular way of thinking and feeling. In explaining his decision to write in the Kikuyu language, the great Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o said that the choice of a language and the purpose for which it is used are fundamental to a people’s definition of themselves in relation to their natural environment and social context, and also in relation to the entire universe. […] We are committed to protecting both the accessibility of literature and its linguistic diversity. This commitment is all the more necessary today, in light of the risk of homogenization due to digital technology.” This is the essential content of the message with which Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, outlined the anniversary and content of World Book Day 2023, which is celebrated, as every year, on the international day of April 23.

Established by a resolution adopted at the XXVIII session of the organization’s General Conference, held between October 25 and November 16, 1995, World Book Day is established as an anniversary on the United Nations civil calendar in recognition of the fact that “historically, books have been the most powerful factor in the dissemination of knowledge and also the most effective means of preserving it;” that “all initiatives to promote their dissemination not only contribute greatly to enlightening all who have access to them, but also to developing a broader collective awareness of cultural traditions around the world, and to inspiring behavior based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue;” that, consequently, the very establishment of an international day dedicated to the book is not only necessary to bring attention back to the historical and current importance of the book as a privileged means of recording and disseminating culture and knowledge, but is also urgent to solicit the commitment of all actors, social and cultural, about the importance of the dissemination of education and knowledge, and the promotion, in general, of language and culture.

Of particular significance, therefore, is the theme chosen for Book Day 2023, dedicated to indigenous languages, which not only, briefly said, represent a cultural heritage, an extraordinary reservoir of linguistic, literary and cultural resources, but often constitute a cultural heritage at risk. It is the United Nations itself that reminds us that “of the nearly seven thousand existing languages – many of which are rapidly disappearing – most are spoken by indigenous peoples who together constitute the bulk of the world’s cultural diversity.” The issue of indigenous cultures is, in fact, one of identity, culture, and knowledge: on the one hand, “it is estimated that there are more than 370 million indigenous people scattered in seventy countries.”

“Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics distinct from those of the dominant societies in the context in which they live. Spread throughout the world, they are the descendants of those who inhabited a particular territory at the time when people of different cultures or origins arrived. The newcomers would later become dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or through other means.” On the other hand, “considering the diversity of indigenous peoples, an official definition of indigenous has never been adopted by the United Nations,” even while recognizing certain common characteristics, such as self-identification as indigenous peoples; historical continuity with pre-colonial societies; adoption of specific and distinct socioeconomic and political systems; adoption of specific and distinct languages and cultures, beliefs and cultural practices; and the desire to preserve, as a people, their native contexts and systems.

As every year, there will be various initiatives which, also in Italy, will celebrate the important anniversary, with events and appointments both of an educational nature, involving schools of all levels, and specifically for the citizens, involving the wider public. Among these, on April 26, in Agerola (Naples), on the initiative of Alter – Cultural Association for Local Development, and the Municipality of Agerola, an appointment that will take place for the entire day, with schools and associations in the area, and which will see, in the afternoon, the presentation of three books, different in profile and content, but capable of crossing the different thematic crossovers of the day: Making Peace, Building Society. Basic Orientations for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding, by Gianmarco Pisa (Multimage); The History of the Camorra by Isaia Sales (Rubbettino); (translator’s note: the Camorra is an Italian criminal organization and society;) and The Monarch edited by Massimiliano Amato and Luciana Libero (PF publisher). An opportunity, among others, for reflection and dialogue.