Book World 2023 brings contemporary authors from Ukraine, Taiwan, Iran to Prague

The public and exhibitors from more than 30 countries come together around the concept of ‘Authors Without Borders.’

Ioana Caloianu

Written by Ioana Caloianu Published on 12.05.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 19.05.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

The leafy alleyways leading to the Prague Exhibition Grounds (Výstaviště) were abuzz with enthusiasm on the morning of May 11, the first day of the Book World Prague 2023. The four-day exhibition, which lasts until Sunday afternoon, appeared on track to break last year’s record of 55,000 visitors.

Despite prominent guests such as Doctor Who author Ben Aaronovitch, leading Ukrainian author and musician Serhij Zhadan, and Russian novelist-in-exile Vladimir Sorokin, this year’s edition of the festival, which is its 28th, does not have a guest of honor.

Instead, its theme of “Authors Without Borders” puts a spotlight on writers who transgress borders, be they social, on the basis of different levels of education or economic status; related to cultural differences, sexual identity, or gender; as well as political, which inspired writers to lend their voice to the voiceless.

The entrance of the Book World Prague 2023. Photo by Ioana Caloianu.
The entrance of the Book World Prague 2023. Photo by Ioana Caloianu.

The pandemic nearly put a final end to the book festival, says Radovan Auer, the director of Book World Prague. It also gave it an impetus for change, leading to the redesign of the Business Center into the Central and East European Book Market, a hub for agents, publishers, and other international book business professionals interested in the region. Auer said that the center, whose book market is one of this year’s premieres, was designed to become a showcase of Central and Eastern European literature.

Voices from countries with little to no freedom of speech

In its third year, the separate section Literature as the Voice of Freedom aims to give a platform to personalities from countries where freedom of speech is curtailed due to the non-democratic regimes in power. In 2021, the primary focus was on Belarusian authors, while last year it was on Ukraine owing to its current turmoil.

One of its guests this year is Irena Brežná, a Swiss writer and journalist of Slovak origin who authored a number of reports from the Chechen wars. "The idea of democracy, humanism, and freedom of speech has been part of the DNA of the Book World festival since its very beginning," says Auer.

After honoring Nobel Prize-winning Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich, who dedicated her award to Ukrainian authors, the Jiří Theiner Prize goes this year to Iranian women and writers who are currently fighting against the oppression led by the mullahs. The prize, traditionally part of Book World Prague, changed its status last year to reflect current events. "Both the repression of youth in Iran and the attack on Salman Rushdie remind us of what we must stand for," said Guillaume Basset, the World of Books' dramaturge.

The program of the 28th edition of the Book World Prague will also give voice to a number of personalities from countries where freedom of speech is not a common concept and the functioning of society is not based on democratic principles.

In recognition of the difficult situation of Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic, including a large number of children, the book fair had a stand dedicated to Ukrainian-language books, as well as a special program, which includes a concert by Ukrainian punk rock band Sobaki, whose proceeds will support the organization Chartija.

Stand at the
Stand at the Book World Prague 2023. Photo by Ioana Caloianu.

Additionally, in a time-honored fashion, the fair continues to present literary works from Taiwan. Ling Xingjie will present the poetic story The Boy from the Night Market, while another meeting with Taiwanese authors Liu Ka-shiang and Egoyan Zheng will explain the meaning of the phrase "to think like an island."

english-language events at book world


  • 5 p.m. You’re Gonna Love This Cell: Nobody cares about your art, but do you want to change that? Your mom says you’re NOT a writer, but do you want to change that? The CELA project is here for you. Czech and foreign female authors (and those translating their work) will present this international project and their texts on the theme of change.
  • 6 p.m. Personal Assistant to Terry Pratchett at Your Service: Nobody knew the author of Discworld better than Rob Wilkins. He spent thousands of hours with him, helped him come up with new stories, and cared for him through the bitter end. He wrote a great book about it which he will present to Czech readers.
  • 7 p.m. Slam poetry exhibition: A special slam poetry exhibition with local stars (Dr. Filipich, Pan Fenek, Ondra Hrabal, Thea and Tim Postovit) and guests from Spain (Olza Olzeta, the 2020 European Championship winner) and Ukraine (Pavlo Korobčuk, a multiple champion in the country). There will be only four texts in foreign languages with translations projected directly on the stage.


  • 2 p.m. Writing a Personal Story Within the National History: Jana Karšaiová and Goran Vojnović have mixed a personal story with the recent history of their nations in their novels. How do the two elements echo? How can the individual story reveal a collective history? How does history shape our individuality?
  • 5 p.m. The Saga of the Cossacks on the River Don Basin: In her fiercely topical novel Aleksandra, which was published in 2022, Dutch author Lisa Weeda takes us into the family saga of her ancestors – Don Cossacks and Russian peasants. The story is straddled between East and West, between existentialism and fable.
  • 6 p.m. Chat with Robert Fulghum: The writer Robert Fulghum, as we love him, is once again among his beloved Czech readers. The author of the popular book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten will present his latest book The Impossible Obvious.
  • 6 p.m. Is There Any European Literature? Do voices and themes travel freely in the Schengen area? This is what the European Prize for Literature aims to ensure. The debate and reading will bring together Ondřej Štindl, the author of the novel nominated for the Czech Republic this year, and two foreign nominees, Marit Kapla and Sabina Jakubowska.
  • BONUS TIP: 7:30 p.m. Zhadan & Sobaki Concert Zhadan & Sobaki is the most important cross-over between music and poetry of Ukraine, performing in a punk-rock way the poems and the texts of the acclaimed writer Serhij Zhadan. The concert supports Ukrainian people through ticket sales, which go to the volunteer battalion Chartija.

Find out more about the guests and program on the website of Book World Prague.

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