Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival 2008
The festival director, ADRIAN GRIMA, discusses with CHRISTOS CHRISOPOULOS
September evenings are hot and humid in Valletta, and this makes it's majestic scenery even more breathtaking. On the 11th, 12th and 13th of September a number of writers (poets and novelists) from as far as Iceland, Slovenia, and Morocco were reading alongside several Maltese colleagues of theirs, standing on the fortress of Birgu overlooking the walls of Valletta. We managed to catch our breath and read as we had planned.
I went 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 able to give some of it back, during the 3 nights of the festival.
The festival hosted the poets
whose work you can read in the corresponding English pages of poeticanet.
I asked my friend Adrian Grima to send a few words about the Festival. Here is what he had to say.
'The Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival is about contemporary literature and how writers today are articulating their own experiences and those of the 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 also about intercultural dialogue. 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.'
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. And 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.
At the same time, one of our aims is to promote Maltese literature and Maltese writers both in Malta and abroad. And we feel that one way of doing this is to see ourselves both as Maltese and Mediterranean writers. 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. 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. It is our policy to actively 'recruit' and invite young writers But we also 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 enriches the formula but also conditions our choice of writers because 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.
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 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 and renewing itself.