20 years of Passa Porta!

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In 2024 we are going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the international house of literature Passa Porta with a range of activities. The first big celebration is an evening with the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, Abdulrazak Gurnah, in collaboration with the Muntschouwburg. The Tanzanian author was first a guest at Passa Porta in 2005, when he was still relatively unknown. His return to Brussels is therefore illustrative of the literary house’s actions and its ambition to welcome and showcase both undiscovered talent and established names.

The early days

In 2004 the literary organizations Het beschrijf and Entrez Lire joined forces. On 2 March 2004, the symbolic first stone was laid on Rue Dansaertstraat, and in the first week of October an international house of literature opened its doors in the heart of Brussels, with seven days of activities and under the approving gaze of guests of honour Hugo Claus and Jean-Philippe Toussaint.

Passa Porta soon became the ideal multilingual meeting place, a place where readers could meet their literary idols, where authors and translators from home and abroad could find a workplace, and where new talent was given a stage.

Over the past twenty years, the house of literature has welcomed more than 2,000 authors from all over the world, including Margaret Atwood, Gao Xingjian, David Grossman, Herta Müller, Orhan Pamuk, Javier Marías, Amin Maalouf, Olga Tokarczuk and Annie Ernaux, among others.

What about 2024?

The anniversary year will have a festive touch. Until November, in addition to the usual programme, we will be organizing new activities every month to celebrate our anniversary. We will look back at the rich history and impressive list of writers we have welcomed to Brussels over the past two decades.

And we will also look ahead, to how we can continue to accommodate the endless flow of stories from Brussels and the world, opening the doors of our home and the gates of literature.

20 years of Passa Porta in 20 moments

  1. 2004 - Opening of the international house of literature in Rue Dansaertstraat in Brussels, on the initiative of two literary organizations: the Dutch-speaking Het beschrijf and the French-speaking Entrez Lire. Hugo Claus and Jean-Philippe Toussaint are the guests of honour. The multilingual bookshop Don Quichote also opens its doors. In 2005 the shop is renamed Passa Porta Bookshop.
  2. 2004 - First foreign writers-in-residence. From 2007, Passa Porta also offers Belgian authors residencies abroad.
  3. 2006 - First Noble Prize Passa Porta for Jorge Luis Borges. The next authors to receive this posthumous public award are Franz Kafka (2008), Hugo Claus (2009), Louis Paul Boon (2012), Pier Paolo Pasolini (2016), Marguerite Yourcenar (2017) and Virginia Woolf (2019).
  4. 2007 - First edition of the biennial PASSA PORTA FESTIVAL, the successor to Het Groot Beschrijf. Honorary guests at this and subsequent editions include Orhan Pamuk, Fatou Diome, Ian McEwan, Jeroen Brouwers, Olga Tokarczuk, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, A.S. Byatt, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Connie Palmen, Mohsin Hamid, Vladimir Sorokin and Annie Ernaux.
  5. 2009 - The European Constitution in Verses, written and translated by more than forty European poets, initiated by the Brussels Poetry Collective and remixed by David Van Reybrouck and Peter Vermeersch.
  6. 2009 - ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network): Brussels joins the network of refugee cities through Passa Porta and for the first time hosts a persecuted writer for two years.
  7. 2011 - PETRA: Colloquium of the European platform for literary translators, including Michael Cunningham, Dubravka Ugresić and Alberto Manguel.
  8. 2011 - Brussels in Shorts, first international competition for graphic short stories.
  9. 2012 - First Long Night of the Short Story.
  10. 2014 - 10 years of Passa Porta including Bernardo Carvalho, Pieter De Buysser, Charly Delwart, Fouad Laroui, Chantal Maillard, Patrick McGuinness and Tommy Wieringa.
  11. 2016 - The literary organizations Het Beschrijf and Entrez Lire become one team and change their names to Passa Porta NL and Passa Porta FR.
  12. 2016 - First Debutantenbal.
  13. 2017 - Start of CELA (Connecting Emerging Literary Artists), a long-term European talent development project with Passa Porta as one of the international partners.
  14. 2019 - Completion of the Vers Brussel project, which brings poetry to the city through collaborations between twelve poets and as many visual artists. (See versbrussel.be)
  15. 2019 - Seneffe en août, a summer residency for authors and translators around French-speaking Belgian literature, organized for the first time by Passa Porta FR.
  16. 2019 - First Dead Ladies Show, a series initiated by Gaea Schoeters.
  17. 2021 - Start of the Brussels City of Stories urban project.
  18. 2023 - Passa Porta also becomes a co-writing space for writers and an incubator for narrative audio-makers.
  19. 2024 - Passa Porta adds a grant for literary translators and podcast-makers to the already existing Jacques De Decker Grant for young literary creators across language borders.
  20. 2024 - Passa Porta celebrates its 20th anniversary.