From Suad Amiry
I am amazed at the bond and friendship created between all of us in such a short time. In addition to the genius in the organization of the poets and writers workshops and festival it must’ve been the spirits of the Temples and the shared dip in the Mediterranean that did it.
With love to all of you, Suad
(4 Sept 2012)
From Costanza Ferrini:
I think that the formula used during the Festival that allows us writers to present our work to each other coupled with a distinct public moment gives to the group a kind of intimity that is strenghtened every time one of us goes on the stage.
When one of us was reading it wasn’t the challenge of an individual, but a collective one. All the others were close, and we encou
raged each other. Every reading, in this way was supported by all and concerned us all, not only those who translated the poems and short stories and read them but all of us.
Given that we enjoy or suffer inside because of what is being told about our lives on stage, or when we eat together mixes our memories of moments that we live together, that we have shared. The writing is a very deep part of our own life and to share it with others persons is to share one of our most precious possessions. To translate each other means to surrended this part of ourselves to somebody else that conveys it in another language. This is a process that sometimes we cannot control. So this increases our faith in the other members of the group.
These formulas are transformed, enriched by the fantastic people that you all are and the wonderful group that we are together! I’m still thinking about what I’ve listened to during these wonderful days, and I’ld like to keep in contact with you, trying to improve my English, so that I can appreciate better what I read, so that I can comunicate better my thoughts (sometimes I doubt whether they are clear) and slowly I’m reading again, calmly, what you’ve written. It was fantastic to be with you. I feel me very lucky to have met you all, and shared such beautiful and even funny moments!
Costanza Ferrini 4 Sept 2012
From Maria Grech Ganado
I always enjoy the festival, but this year I enjoyed it even more than usual. Perhaps the full moon had something to do with it but the whole atmosphere was one of conviviality, genuine communication and simultaneous relaxation.
The three days each had a different characteristic which to someone like me who attends every evening, offered something new and varied and I think there was a genuine bond between the participants which became more marked as the festival progressed.
Keith Borg was very good as presenter and the idea of having the meal as Saturday lunch rather than after the festival was excellent.
As I’ve remarked on Facebook, although I was not a participant, I still managed to make new friends and those I didn’t have occasion to meet personally ‘gave’ enough of themselves onstage to establish a relationship.
As usual I was tempted sufficiently to buy books I look forward to reading. Prosit to all who were involved.
Author Selma Dabbagh reports from the Malta Mediterranean Festival of Literature 2012
In our group of poets and writers, I am in the minority as a monolingualist of the globally dominant tongue. Feelings and thoughts are expressed on stage in and out of English, Maltese, Arabic, Slovenian, Catalan, Italian, Spanish, Italian and Greek. The other participants have been intensely translating each other for days before I arrive and I come in new to read from my novel to a large sun-healthy crowd of multilingual strangers. ‘It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place,’ says the Shelley quote carved above a doorway as you enter into the graveyard venue where the Festival takes place. Adrian Grima the organizer tells me of Protestant visionaries who were excommunicated from their society and buried there. Many British dead here too, with their countys (Hampshire, Berkshire) of origin marked on their tombstones.
I can only describe the venue as spectacular: a sloping path, a spread of grass and then a tumble down to a creek of dark blue, light reflected water with yachts, a hill rising on the other side, a sky streaked orange and pink by the fall of day. What would one need to do now to be buried in such a place? Settle and gain nationality? Convert? To what? Protestantism? Catholicism? Would one need to have gained wealth as well? Or fame? Would one need to bribe? Bequeath an endowment to the entrance hall with the loos in it? A tall order to fall in love with death.
As with the best of Festivals, I come away loved up with the company of others, intrigued by a place I had no knowledge of and most of all, inspired.
Kummenti dwar il-Festival – Comments about the Festival – 2008
Il-workshop ta’ traduzzjoni organizzat minn LAF/Inizjamed kien esperjenza ġdida u unika għalija. Ħdimna qatigħ flimkien bħala grupp, bir-riżultat li fl-aħħar ta’ ġimgħa ta’ ħidma traduttiva intensiva, irnexxielna naqilbu poeżiji sħaħ għall-Malti, l-Ingliż, il-Portugiż, it-Taljan, l-Għarbi u l-Franċiż – fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom xogħlijiet li jilħqu l-ogħla qċaċet tal-kitba ta’ versi f’dak li jirrigwarda metrika, stil, xbihat, tematika, ritmi u strutturi. Iżda l-workshop fisser għalija ħafna aktar minn sempliċi ġimħa ta’ ħidma traduttorja intensiva: kelli l-opportunità li għal ġimgħa sħiħa nirrelata ma’ poeti u kittieba professjonali daqskieku kienu l-familja tiegħi stess: qsamna flimkien mhux biss ix-xogħlijiet tagħna, iżda wkoll ħafna esperjenzi ibsin, sbieħ, ewforiċi, kattivi, waħdiena, esperjenzi ta’ kulturi u modi ta’ għixien oħra li għaddejna minnhom f’ħajjitna u li jinsabu hemmhekk, bħal lava tbaqbaq taħt il-wiċċ fraġli tal-kelmiet li jiffurmaw il-poeżija. Nixtieq biss li l-workshop seta’ dam ġimgħatejn, tlieta, minflok ġimgħa biss. Iżda l-ħajja trid tkompli, u l-poeżija trid tkompli tinkiteb! (16.9.10)
The translation workshop brought together by LAF/Inizjamed was for me a novel and unique experience altogether. As a group of writers, we worked hard, in such a way that after an entire week of intensive translating, we have managed to translate entire poems into Maltese, English, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic and French. Many of these poems span the highest echelons of creative writing, in terms of style, prosody, structure, rhythm, imagery and thematics. This workshop, however, meant even more to me than a mere week of hard work: this was a unique opportunity to relate to professional writers and poems as I relate to my own family: together, we’ve not only shared our work, but all of those many, tough, euphoric, cruel, unique, wondrous experiences, cultures and ways of life we’ve been through. These experiences are constantly there, like pockets of smouldering lava beneath the fragile surface of the words that shape our writing. I only wish the workshop lasted longer, perhaps another week, or two. But then, real life also has to be lived, and poetry written! (16.9.10)
I came to Malta with a personal history of participating in an number of festivals and residencies, but also of organizing a festival in Athens, so I was by no means new to this world. Nevertheless, what Adrian Grima, Alexandra Buchler and their associates have created is quite unique. The combination of a writer’s residency, a translation workshop and a literature festival, creates a fascinating experience of dialectical extremes:private-public, seclusion-outwardness, contemplation-performance, offering-receiving, For us writers, these are opportunities for growth, knowledge, and advancement. I hope we were abe to give some of it back, during the 3 nights of the festival.
Il-Festival kien fużjoni sabiħa ta’ ħsejjes u ta’ pajsaġġi familjari u le, strambi u mhux, imma interessanti dejjem. Rajtu effettiv ħafna l-użu tal-mużika. Uħud mill-interpretazzjonijiet kienu mimlijin emozzjoni, u din l-emozzjoni bdiet tasal għandna fl-udjenza, minkejja li mhux dejjem stajt nifhem il-lingwa.
Prosit lil Inizjamed tal-organizzazzjoni tat-tlett ijiem, u lil kull min ħa sehem biex ikun festival ieħor oriġinali u ta’ nifs frisk. Nistenna li jmiss!
Annalise Falzon (2008)
It was very, very inspiring. How important it is that ‘we’ as activists work also at this artistic level… it brings so much life, so much inspiration, it’s so delightfully human…
Kummenti dwar il-Festival – Comments about the Festival – 2007
Dan il-festival huwa inkontru interessanti ta’ kittieba minn inħawi differenti tal-Mediterran: kittieba mill-periferija Ewropea jiltaqgħu ma’ oħrajn mit-tarf ta’ fuq tal-Afrika, mit-Turkija u l-Lvant Nofsani. Testi politiċi, oħrajn filosofiċi, u oħrajn ta’ xeħta intellettwali jitħalltu flimkien biex jagħtu tiżwiqa kkulurita daqs l-ilwien ‘tipiċi’ Mediterranji. Il-festival joffri titwila lejn il-Mediterran, lejn il-Mediterran tal-lum li mhux bilfors huwa dak li jidher bid-dgħajjes koħol jgħumu fil-wiċċ u lanqas m’hu bilfors dak tax-xemx titbissem hienja.
Il-festival li kulħadd se jibda jistenna minn sena għal sena.
The festival that everyone will begin to anticipate, year in year out.
The second edition of the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival was a dynamic, multilingual occasion, with poets, novelists and musicians blending their talents over two wonderful evenings. Held in the historic and atmospheric surroundings of Couvre Porte in Birgu, successive audiences were treated to new writing from authors drawn from all over the Mediterranean. What was especially pleasing was that Maltese writers performed so well and held their own against international competition.
The festival, I believe, was a great success. Certainly the large audiences prove there is an appetite for such an ambitious artistic festival in Malta.
The Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival was what all literary festivals can aspire to be: a generous, multicolour display of fragments which together make up one of many possible kaleidoscopes, offered not in the claustrophobia of a closed cylinder but blown out into the open air for all to see. The exhibit of literary calibre from multiple corners of the Mediterranean and beyond is only half the story, yet at the same time an invitation to experience the other half – intrinsically tied within the aesthetic orchestration of language in Arabic, Catalan, English, Italian, Maltese and Turkish was the personal, philosophical and necessarily political expression out to shift and nail the audience, and then let them free again to continue their reflection on all they heard.
Traduzione e Mediterraneo, piccola e straordinaria Torre di Babele, sono strettamente legati, reciprocamente necessari. L’esercizio della traduzione è vitale per la circolazione delle idee, e se questo esercizio è unito allo scambio tra traduttore e autore e alla diffusione di opere nuove, fresche, si può forse sperare ancora nell’irruzione di qualcosa di violentemente vero nella vita di questo piccolo ma infinito bacino, che è poco più di un grosso lago bollente.
Listening to the polyphony of Mediterranean languages mingled with the rhythms of the Zizza Ensemble and surrounded by the majestic bastions of Birgu’s Couvre Porte under a starlit sky, is a veritable experience in relaxation and stress abatement.
The Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival is one of its kind. It’s such a lively atmosphere in which poetry, prose and music come together. Different voices become one for a moment in all its integrity and then disperse again like the colors of the earth the next moment.
It was such a unique experience that I don’t think I can ever forget it.
From Edinburgh to the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival
This is the fourth summer that I’ve spent in Edinburgh. Hopping from one theatre to the next; from the Traverse to the Assembly to the Pleasance, from the Jazz Bar to the book tent in Charlotte Square, still immersed in the last theatrical performance and yet thinking of the next one starting in ten minutes. This is Edinburgh, the city of festivals, the Unesco City of Literature.
Edinburgh Book Festival
This year I was lucky enough to get tickets for Hanif Kureishi and Chuck Palhaniuk, Michael Morpurgo and Terry Pratchett but no, not for Salman Rushdie. A pity! As for plays, I’ve seen some of the best new writing performances by Enda Walsh (last year’s superb The Wallworth Farce and this year’s The New Electric Ballroom) and Zinnie Harris (Fall). The magnificant stage version of On the Waterfront directed by Steven Berkoff, the harsh and appalling fragments of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, and how can I ever forget the wonderful Jidariyya by Mahmoud Darwish, adapted for the stage by the Palestinian National Theatre Company.
From the Jazz Festival to the Fringe, the Edinburgh Festival to the Book Festival, I felt like a yo-yo day in day out, completely dead by the late evening. This is the summer I wait for year after a year.
Our small rock is still not renowned for its festivals, though it has begun to feature at the bottom of the Eurovision Song Contest ranks with depressing regularity – oh yes, please by all means, we are really good at this – but festivals are a different story. The long lost Jazz Festival, no longer being taken care of by Charles City Gatt, has lost all it’s jazz and all its vim too. It was once a good Jazz Festival. It was a tradition, an eagerly awaited date, but not anymore. At least, it’s no longer the Jazz Festival I remember. And we still haven’t fostered any other tradition with regard to festivals. I remember Vers for instance, the one-off International Poetry Festival organised by the Arts Council, and the one-off International Short Story Festival, organised by Il-Kunsill tal-Malti … What a pity!
Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival
Having one-off festivals is like opening a Chateau Neuf Du Pape and taking just a sip, only to let it stand on the sideboard to lose its taste and vigour, to be looked at and remembered for that one sip which felt like poetry, a shameful waste when you can enjoy a full glass and yet another glass and yet another bottle for the year to come, perhaps even two. Will we ever be able to refer to Malta as the tiny island of festivals? How I wish I could yo-yo myself from the poetry festival to the short story festival to the book festival to the jazz festival … (oops we have the beer festival! I almost forgot!) Oh Clare please give us a break! I know you are reading this and saying these exact words, I’ve been moaning about the same things over and over again for quite some time now. Right you are.
But hold it! This time I won’t get carried away by my pessimism. For indeed, this is the first time in my life that there is something I am waiting for: the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, organised for the third time running, a true literature festival which seems to have taken root in our arid soil. The first time, it was held at St James Cavalier, with authors like Jordi Punti (whom I met in Frankfurt for the literary festival earlier this year), Aki Salmela, Roman Simic and the late Valda Melgave. Last year we invited Biel Mesquida, Samira Negrouche, Valerio Cruciani and Ipek Seyalioglu.
Like last year, this year’s edition of this unique literature festival will be held at Couvre Porte in Birgu. The invited poets and short story writers are Chris Chryssopoulos (Greece), Hassan el Ouazzani (Morocco), Polona Glavan (Slovenia), Paola Turroni (Italy), Suzan Sahori (Palestine) and Adalsteinn Asberg Sigurdson (Iceland). The Maltese writers taking part are Claudia Gauci, Simone Inguanez, Caldon Mercieca and Karl Schembri. And accompanying the authors in their readings on Saturday night there will be the Maltese Funk Band Zizza Ensemble. So jot it down in your diary: Thursday 11th, Friday 12th and Saturday 13th September, 2008. The readings start at 8.00pm and entrance to all events is free. Each evening will feature three different writers.
This Festival is organized by the voluntary cultural organisation Inizjamed and Literature Across Frontiers in collaboration with the Birgu Local Council and with support from the Malta Tourism Authority, the National Book Centre of Greece, the Icelandic Literature Fund, the FIVE project for intercultural dialogue and Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust. It coincides with a one-week residential literary translation workshop held in Malta in which the writers will translate each other’s works. Alexandra Büchler, professional translator and director of Literature Across Frontiers, will be in charge of the workshop.
And now something about the writers:
Christos Chryssopoulos (1968) is a novelist, essayist and translator. He is among the most prolific young prose writers on the Greek literary scene and has been featured in many anthologies of contemporary Greek fiction. Claudia Gauci’s (1976) poetry has been published in F’Kull Belt hemm Kantuniera (Inizjamed, 2003), Ktieb għall-Ħruq (Inizjamed, 2005) and The Drunken Boat (USA). In 2005 she read her poetry in Naples. In her writings, which are part journalistic, part literary, the Palestinian writer and activist Suzan Sahori from Bethlehem documents the everyday lives of the people living under Israeli Occupation. She chooses to focus on the misery of common people rather than on the politics and history that have brought about that misery.
Polona Glavan’s (1974) debut novel Noč v Evropi, (A Night in Europe) describes one of her many journeys, an Inter-Rail trip through Europe. By contrast, in her second book, a collection of stories titled Gverilci, she entered the ranks of socially engaged writers, taking leave of minimalism and tackling a kind of writing that is both socially critical and warmly humorous. Simone Inguanez (1971) has published two collections of poetry, ftit mara ftit tifla (Klabb Kotba Maltin, 2005) and fire, water, earth and i, and has read her work in Lodève, Naples, the USA, Riga (Latvia), Budapest and Lecce. Caldon Mercieca (1976) is co-founder of awl, a small independent publishing house specialising in contemporary Maltese poetry, with which he has released two poetry publications, Mogħlint (2002) and Majorkini (2003). He is currently finishing a cycle of writings based on etchings by symbolist Belgian artist Felicien Rops.
Also performing on Friday is writer and singer songwriter Adalsteinn Asberg Sigurdson (1955), who was born and brought up in Húsavík, north Iceland. Since 1977 he has published 12 books of poetry and translated poetry, one novel and 10 children´s books. Apart from the books he has produced many recordings of his lyrics and songs. Sigurdsson lives in Reykjavík as a full-time writer, songwriter and publisher of music and literature.
Hassan El Ouazzani (1970) is one of Morocco’s most important young poets. He belongs to the generation of poets who has effected a postmodern paradigm shift in the poetry scene in Morocco. Of him German poet Tobias Burghardt has written: “The poet, whose presence was noted at the Medellin Poetry Festival in Colombia, uses paradox to create a coherent poetic system.” Karl Schembri (1978) has written a collection of short stories, Taħt il-Kappa tax-Xemx (2002) and a novel, Il-Manifest tal-Killer (2006), which will be presented as a theatre production in October. His first poems appeared in the anthology, Frekwenzi ta’ Spirti fis-Sakra.
Another performer on Saturday will be Paola Turroni (1971), who was born in Monza, Italy, where she studied the classics until she started to roam, to change lives and cities, for study and for the fun of it, until she settled in Luino on the Lago Maggiore. She holds cinema, communication and theatre workshops. She has collaborated, amongst others with Rai Radiodue and has published books of poetry and short stories.
Don’t tell me it’s not worth waiting for! Don’t tell me that the prospect of so much new writing and literature, so many new voices is not mouth-watering. It is for me. Even after an overdose of it in Edinburgh. For more information about this Literature Festival and the LAF International Literary Translation Workshop visit http://www.inizjamed.org.
Literature, Malta and the Mediterranean
Full version – MaltaMedia journalist Glen Calleja interviews Adrian Grima
What is the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival about?
It’s about contemporary literature and how writers today are articulating their own experiences and those of people around them. It’s about how writers, especially in the Mediterranean, are grappling with a literary language that continually needs invention and re-invention, that continually faces failures and successes in trying to communicate, or rather share, life’s experiences.
This festival is about intercultural dialogue – after all, Inizjamed was chosen as one of the Maltese ambassadors of intercultural dialogue for 2008.
It’s about meeting and being together in the Mediterranean, listening to one another, inspiring and being inspired, shocking others and being shocked by others, articulating the stories that don’t get told in an increasingly superficial and cliche-driven mainstream media.
Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival is about saying the unsaid and trying to say the “unsayable.”
What makes it Mediterranean?
What makes it Mediterranean is the location, an ancient maritime port in a splendid, reinvigorated city in a thriving island nation in the centre of this Basin. To us, what makes it Mediterranean is the stories of many of the writers who are invited to take part in it, their own personal story and the stories they tell. But also our idea of the Mediterranean not only as a mosaic, or polyphony, as Thierry Fabre calls it, but also as a devenir, a project or work in progress, a success that has the potential to become a failure, a failure that has the potential to become a success: a meeting point of different stories and experiences of the world, a common ground for debate, for disagreement, for affinity, for tragedy in the depths of the blue seas, a common ground for solidarity.
It’s a Mediterranean Festival because it sees our region also as a microcosm of the world, with its richness and diversity, with its creativity and perseverance, with its openness and joie de vivre. It’s a Mediterranean festival because it’s a babel-like courtyard of languages from the region but also from beyond, a point of reference but also a point of arrival and a point of departure. Together with the new wave of poets and short story writers from Malta we’ve had writers from Algeria, Catalonia, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Palestine, Slovenia, and Turkey, but also Finland, Iceland, Latvia, and Wales.
That’s already quite a list. And before we’re finished with this edition, we’re already thinking of the next.
What is the aim/purpose of the festival: is it to promote Malta? is it to promote Maltese literature and writers? is it to promote literature among the Maltese?
Yes, the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival aims to promote Maltese literature and Maltese writers both in Malta and abroad. And we feel that one way of doing that is by seeing ourselves as writers of the Mediterranean, living in and often grappling with the Mediterranean.
We believe that promoting this regional dimension is one way of generating interest in our literature in a world in which everyone is doing their level best to draw attention to their works, to their writers. The authorities in Malta, as you know, are doing nothing of the sort: we are practically the only country in the EU without a policy for the promotion of our literature, the only country with no funds allocated specifically to the development and promotion of Maltese literature.
We are the only country in the EU with NO funds for translating foreign works of literature into Maltese and Maltese literature into other languages. More than one million two hundred thousand tourists visit Malta every year and we have almost nothing in terms of our literature translated into their languages to offer them. Not even in English! It’s a bad joke. Maltese writers are constantly being invited abroad and there are no funds for them to get their work translated.
We are doing our bit as writers and cultural activists: but we expect our government to do what every other government in the EU and beyond (as in Iceland for example, a country with a population smaller than ours) has been doing for a very long time. And we do not accept the excuse that funds are not available. Because if Inizjamed, with its limited resources of volunteers and a pitiful balance in its bank account, can organize these international projects year after year, then I don’t see why government cannot support all those involved in literature, the publishing industry and the creative industries to do so much more.
The festival’s participants are mostly young writers: is this a political statement?
Well, yes, I suppose it is. But the accent should be on “mostly,” because we’ve had very well-established Maltese and foreign writers taking part in this festival.
The Festival is intimately tied to the Malta LAF Literary Translation Workshop, with writers living together for a week and translating each other’s works. This somehow conditions (I wouldn’t say limits, because it’s not a negative limitation) our choice of writers: not all writers are available or ready to spend a week with other writers translating their work and discussing their own work with those who are translating it.
Most of those who do choose to make this experience find it extremely rewarding – and some Maltese writers have also started to do this abroad (Simone Inguanez was in Latvia for a translation workshop in July and I was in Algeria for the same purpose in March). The well-established writer from Iceland who is with us this year, Adalsteinn Ásberg Sigurdsson, talks about how important it is for writers to continue to translate the works of other writers in order to improve their own art. And if this is the advice of a writer of his calibre, standing and experience, then it’s definitely worth listening to.
I also see an inevitable connection between the Mediterranean and translation, because people, cultures and their languages can truly meet and understand each other, and the complexities of their experiences and worldviews, through translation, or the attempt to translate. Translation is the conscious attempt to enter into another world, being fully aware that no ultimately no word is translatable, no experience is transferable: translation is the process, the project, not the end result. And that’s a bit like the Mediterranean, isn’t it? in a constant state of articulating itself, or renewing itself.
11th September 2008