Banned Books Week Goes to Sweden!

Banned Books Week has found a new home: Sweden! The Swedish celebration of the right to read takes place on October 9–15, 2023. Banned Books Week Sweden will highlight literature that is or has been banned in different parts the world.

The week is coordinated by Swedish PEN in partnership with the Dawit Isaak-library in Malmö and is done in proud collaboration with libraries, bookshops, schools, and organizations from all over the country. Banned Books Week Sweden has the commitment of more than 200 participating organizations, with additional requests to join coming in every hour.

Even if the situation in Sweden differs from the surge in book bans that has occurred in the United States, Sweden is experiencing an escalating level of hate speech and threats directed at those who write, and the public discourse is becoming more polarized. This week, DIK — the union for people who work within culture, communications, and the creative sector — released a report stating that 28% of librarians have experienced pressure during the last two years from members of the public or politicians to influence what books are available in the library or what activities are carried out[1] .

But the raison d’être for Banned Books Week Sweden is also found in international connectedness. If books are being banned in other parts of the world, it affects us all. When information is restricted, people are left with a more dangerous and polarized world where antidemocratic forces can gain ground.

And as the charter of PEN states: “Literature knows no frontiers.” International solidarity and collaboration have been a core value of PEN’s work for more than 100 years. With Banned Books Week Sweden, we are proud to find new methods to celebrate this legacy in a way that encourages more people to get involved in discussing and working against the threats against freedom of expression. For the Dawit Isaak Library – which collect and make available banned and censured books to the public all year round – this campaign raises awareness of banned books and the library’s mission.

Please check out the hashtag #bannedbooksweeksverige to find out more about what is happening in classrooms, book shops and libraries this week.

Hanna Nordell, Managing Director PEN Sweden

Emelie Ive, Manager of the Dawit Isaak Library