Sixth edition of Mediterranean Literature Festival to focus on Arab Spring

Leading writers from nine countries and top Maltese musicians will read at the sixth annual Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival on September 8-10 at the Garden of Rest in Floriana.

This year’s edition will focus on ‘The Arab Spring: Dignity and Freedom’ and will present an exciting array of literary genres and languages, unique voices, photographs and a short documentary on the revolution in Alexandria.

All evenings will feature live, mostly original jazz music, by Effie Azzopardi and his band In Beat and a trio formed by Jes Psaila, Alan Portelli and Luke Briffa. There will also be food, drink and specialised books for sale. The readings, which are meant for a mature audience, start at 20:00, and entrance to all events is free.

The poems and short stories will be read mainly in Maltese and English, but also in the native languages of the various writers.

The writers reading on Thursday are the London-based Maltese poet John Aquilina, who published his first collection, Leħnek il-Libsa Tiegħi in 2009; the Egyptian poet from Alexandria Abdelrehim Youssef, who will also be showing pictures of the Egyptian revolution in Alexandria in which he was very much involved; the well-known Colombian Paris-based poet Myriam Montoya, who writes in Spanish, and the Arabic language poet and novelist Tarek Eltayeb, who lives in Vienna, and was brought up in Egypt by a Sudanese father and Egyptian mother.

Live music on Thursday will be provided by the recently set up jazz trio called CUSP, with Jes Psaila on guitar, Luke Briffa on drums and Alan Portelli on bass.

Another important item in the programme on Thursday is the projection of photographs taken during the revolution in Alexandria, Egypt, by Egyptian photographers, and a short documentary by the young female director Hend Bakr –Out of Focus.

These will be introduced by the Alexandrian writer Abdelrehim Youssef. Hend Bakr says that she chose this title for two reasons: firstly, because the film is based on monitoring the revolution through the eyes of two photographers, Mohamed El-Hadidi and Abdalla Dawstashy; and secondly because of the nature of what the cameras monitor, that is incidents which are clear but not complete, reflecting the many questions about the future, and the present. 

Friday’s readings will be by the short story writer Mona El Shemy, who comes from Southern Egypt; the French poet and novelist Stéphane Chaumet, whose first novel that deals with the Algerian War of Independence has been very favourably reviewed by the French press, including L’Humanité and Le Monde; and the major Greek Cypriot poet and novelist Niki Marangou.

The leading Tunisian poet Awlad Ahmed will also read on Friday. He was imprisoned in his country's jails for short periods because of his writings and his cultural activities which were directed at exposing fundamentalism and the one-state-party before the Tunisian revolution. He is the author of a well-known poem about Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man who set himself and the Arab world on fire in December 2010 and died because of the injuries he suffered.

The last writer readng on Friday is poet Albert Marshall, who has recently published a Maltese-English bilingual collection called Jumping Puddles and is this year’s special Maltese guest writer. Effie Azzopardi and his band will be playing standard and original jazz tunes.

Robin Yassin-Kassab and The Road from Damascus

The writers reading on Saturday, September 10 are Simone Galea, author of the recently published collection of poetry, Xi Drabi Mqar Persuna; the Cairo-based Yasser Abdellatif, who has recently been in Canada writing poetry and prose; Syrian poet Rasha Omran, who lives in Damascus; Oxford University lecturer, translator and writer Mohamed-Salah Omri; and Robin Yassin-Kassab, author of the acclaimed novel The Road from Damascus, who will also be interviewed by Dr. Albert Gatt

On Saturday all writers from the other nights on stage to read one short piece, and Effie Azzopardi and his band will introduce the evening with their music and bring it to a close with a small concert.

On the three nights, there will be food and drinks for sale served by the volunteers of the socially committed Third World Group.

A book stand will be selling books by Maltese and foreign authors, and special publications about the Arab revolutions.

The Festival coincides with the sixth annual Malta LAF Literary Translation Workshop, led by Alexandra Büchler, director of Literature Across Frontiers, during which the participating writers will translate each other's works.

This annual international literary festival, the only one held in Malta, is being organised by Inizjamed and Literature Across Frontiers with the support of the Culture Programme of the EU, Din l-Art Ħelwa, The British Council, the European Commission Representation in Malta, and Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, and the French Embassy in Malta.

More information about the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, Inizjamed and Literature Across Frontiers is available at www.inizjamed.org.

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