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Happy World Book Day!

Today, 23 April, is World Book Day – and a certain sense of anticipation hangs in the air.

April 23rd has been associated with books since at least 1923, when booksellers in Catalonia, Spain, began a tradition of giving away a rose with each book sold to honour Cervantes, who died on the day in 1616. (Shakespeare did, too – and Nabokov was born on this day.) The day was accorded official status by UNESCO in 1995.

(It’s actually not quite that neat, because England was still using the good old Julian calendar when Shakespeare died, whereas Spain was on the newfangled Gregorian one – so they both died on 23 April, 1616, but ten days apart.)

Nearly every library in South Africa is doing something to celebrate today, so check with your local and go have some fun! Meanwhile, Cape Town’s bigger institutions have gotten in on the act: the Centre for the Book has a talk by Maxine Case at 1pm – and the University of Cape Town has pulled out all the stops, having “booked” Nobel-prize winner Amartya Sen for the occasion. He begins his lecure at precisely the same time that I unveil BOOK SA’s alpha version to the world. Tough choice, folks! (I should perhaps remind everyone that my talk comes with free Signal Hill Winery wine…)

Then there’s SA Tourism and SAA, who have brought Forrest Whitaker to South Africa (he’s due to visit Robben Island today). Whitaker’s Oscar-winning performance as Idi Amin in the screen adaptation of Giles Foden‘s novel, The Last King of Scotland, can hardly be forgotten. (Note: the author himself will come to SA for the FLF in May.)

This year’s World Book Day theme is “Reading is the Key” Go ahead – start unlocking: get stuck into a new book today!

World Book Day links