Passa Porta opened its doors in October 2004. It is intended to be a high-profile centre that is a home to all literatures and where a new dynamic is forged. Its permanent partners are the literary organisations Het beschrijf and Entrez Lire. Passa Porta also collaborates with publishers, foreign cultural institutions and numerous cultural organisations in Brussels. Together with all these partners, Passa Porta organises the biennial Passa Porta Festival. This distinctly international literature festival in the centre of Brussels is attended by thousands of literature fans.
Passa Porta's work is markedly public-oriented. It is meant to be an open house for readers or ‘literature users' and to promote a richer literary experience. Passa Porta welcomes between 100 and 150 guest authors annually. They are interviewed, take part in discussions with one another, give readings from their work, present their latest books and talk with their readers. Another of Passa Porta's trump cards is its outstanding literary bookshop which offers a multilingual assortment of books.
It is of great importance to Passa Porta that it reaches a linguistically diverse audience. And it is succeeding wonderfully in doing so. Indications are that Passa Porta attracts a varied audience whose members speak many languages. The relaxed, linguistically neutral place that Passa Porta represents makes it possible to cope more easily with linguistic barriers, even in such an avowedly language-bound ‘discipline' as literature.
Writers and translators
Because Passa Porta is intended to be a dynamic, living centre of and for literature, it does not just offer programmes for the public, but is also developing a considerable number of behind the scenes activities for writers and translators. Passa Porta therefore also presents itself as a workplace for the creators of literature.
Passa Porta has a flat where foreign writers can come and stay for a working visit of several weeks. Workshops and masterclasses are also offered to novice writers. A genuine translation collective puts the art of literary translation firmly on the agenda. Passa Porta is also the home of the Brussels Poetry Collective which, appropriately for Brussels, composes poetry in various languages. There is also the Club van Brussel, a think-tank which, just like the famous Club of Rome, tackles important social themes. And last but not least, it is part of ICORN, the International Cities of Refuge Network, an organisation which offers shelter to persecuted writers.
Passa Porta and Shahrazad
The name of the literature centre makes it clear that that it is a warm, open and inviting place. It also expresses a clear international orientation. Passa Porta: passport, a gateway to the world.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Passa Porta participates in the Shahrazad project. After all, it is Shahrazad's mission to introduce new stories from all over the world into Europe. It is a literary project with strong humanitarian leanings and that is something for which Passa Porta is perfectly cut out.