The first book about Odessa was written by the French merchant Charles (Karl) Sicard. In 1808, he began publishing his book "Letters sur Odessa" in the Parisian magazine "Bibliotheque Britannique," an inspiring description of a young city that emerged in a desolate steppe and in a short time became the most flourishing commercial city in Europe. The book Letters about Odessa was published in 1818.
Odessa was the home of the first public library in Ukraine. According to the request of Count M. S. Vorontsov, in September 1829 Emperor Nicholas I issued a decree on the formation of a city public library in Odessa—the second in the Russian Empire (after St. Petersburg). By 1830, its collection total 5,000 books. Odessa is now home to 54 public libraries, including 26 specialized libraries.
Modern Jewish literature was also born in Odessa. Mendele Meucher Sforim made the Yiddish spoken language literary, as he was the first to start writing novels and stories in Yiddish. His pupil and friend Sholom Aleichem became one of the best writers of the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The special world of Odessa traders and speculators is described with humor and love in the stories and novels by Sholom Aleichem.
It was in Odessa in the early twentieth century that one of the most famous literary schools was born—the "southwestern" or "Odessa" school. Isaac Babel, Ilya Ilf, Yevgeny Petrov, Valentin Kataev, Eduard Bagritsky and others created a special Odessa world, bright and colorful, imbued with irony and love of life. The "Odessa language" includes the words and turns of phrase from many of the people who built the city. In it you can find Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, German, Greek, and Italian words.
In 1977, the Literary Museum was established in Odessa. It opened in 1984 and is housed in the building of the Palace of Princes Gagarin, where the Literary and Artistic Society operated in the early twentieth century. In 24 halls of the museum more than 400 writers and poets, who visited Odessa or were born here, are celebrated. The museum contain over 80,000 exhibits—unique books, manuscripts, photographs, etc.
The International Literary Festival has been held in Odessa for six years. The purpose of the festival is to emphasize the cultural influence of Odessa, the multicultural nature of this city and to strengthen the ties between Odessa and other cultural metropolises of Europe and the world. Authors from Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, France, Canada, the USA, Mexico and India perform at the festival. The festival takes place in two languages: texts by foreign authors are read in the original language and in Ukrainian translation. Discussions are accompanied by simultaneous or consecutive translation.
International Korniychuk Festival of Children's Literature was founded in 2013 and is the only festival in Ukraine dedicated to children's literature and creativity. The main goals and objectives of the festival are the development of children's literature; development of children's literary and artistic creativity; identification of talented authors and assistance in their promotion; popularization of literature and children's reading; and education of artistic and aesthetic taste.
The festival program involves readers - children and adults, writers, publishers, artists, editors, librarians, teachers, book bloggers, critics and journalists, educational and cultural institutions.
For 24 years now the International Book Festival "Green Wave" has been held in Odessa. It is one of the most popular exhibitions of the southern region and Ukraine in general. For four days representatives of the book world come to Odessa, connections between participants of the book process—publishers, booksellers and readers are established. In 2020, 96 festival events took place in an offline program, while the online festival program was broadcast across social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Four additional UNESCO Cities of Literature—Norwich (Great Britain), Melbourne (Australia), Edinburgh (Scotland), and Lviv (Ukraine)—participated in the program "Literature Unites: Conversations about Literature and Society."