A literary taste of the Mediterranean settles in Floriana

Top writers and musicians from seven countries will perform at this year’s fifth edition of the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival on Thursday 9, Friday 10 and Saturday 11 September, at the Garden of Rest in Floriana.

During all evenings there will be live jazz or alternative music, a free glass of wine and food for sale.

Short films from the Zebra Poetry Film Festival, in English or with English subtitles, will be shown on Thursday and Friday and presented by Boris Nitzsche. Readings are meant for a mature audience and start at 20:00. Entrance to all events is free.

The poems and prose will be read mainly in Maltese and English, but also in the native languages of the participants. The writers reading on Thursday are popular Maltese novelist Ġużè Stagno; Sicilian poet, singer, musician and actor Biagio Guerrera (Sicily, Italy); and Valter Hugo Mãe, the Portuguese poet and novelist born in Angola who has published seven books of poetry and three novels and is included in Best European Fiction 2010. Friday’s readings will be by the Maltese poet Nadia Mifsud who lives in Lyon; Egyptian poet, novelist, journalist and photographer Youssef Rakha; leading Catalan writer Miquel Desclot; and the well-known Maltese poet Victor Fenech.

The writers reading on Saturday are award-winning Gozitan novelist and short story writer Pierre J. Mejlak; Lebanese Francophone poet and novelist Hyam Yared, who confesses that “I write in French with all the influences of Arabic in which I was born,” and the well-known Welsh novelist Niall Griffiths, who will also be interviewed by Dr Albert Gatt. According to The Times of London, any fan of Trainspotting will find Grits, the first of six novels published by Griffiths, “persuasive, alarming and addictive,” making the Scottish council estates of Irvine Welsh “seem like Toytown when compared with Griffiths’ Aberystwyth.”

The 19th century Garden of Rest in Floriana, where the festival will be held, has been restored by Din l-Art Ħelwa. This former Protestant cemetery was for the use of the British military, civil officials, members of the commercial community, and their families, but one of the most illustrious burials was not that of a British citizen but of Mikiel Anton Vassalli (1764-1829), the father of the Maltese language, who died in absolute poverty in 1829. What may be Vassalli’s own copy of the Lexicon, the dictionary of Maltese he published in Rome in 1796 containing the famous preface ‘Alla nazione maltese’, is on display in the hall of the Garden.

On the three nights, a free glass of wine will be offered to all those present and there will be food for sale. A book stand will be selling books by Maltese and foreign authors. Live music on Thursday and Saturday will be played by Effie Azzopardi's jazz band and on Friday by members of Plato’s Dream Machine, with their traditional folk, punk-influenced numbers, melancholic ballads and drone-chants.

Inizjamed and LAF are also offering two two-hour workshops (held in English) about writing for children by leading Catalan writer Miquel Desclot. The workshop is open to a limited number of writers and non-writers interested in exploring children’s literature. Interested persons are to write to [email protected] The two workshops, which are free of charge, will be held in Valletta on Tuesday, 7 September at 17:30 and on Thursday, 9 September at 10:00.

The Festival coincides with the fifth 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. Previous workshops have hosted writers from Algeria, Croatia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Palestine, Portugal, Slovenia, and Turkey, who translated their Maltese colleagues’ writing into their languages and whose work was in turn translated into Maltese. The first edition of this festival was held at St James Cavalier in September 2006, and all other editions were held in Birgu. This year’s festival and literary translation workshop are the biggest to date in terms of participating writers and events being organised.

This annual international literary festival, the only one to be 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, Institut Ramon Llull, The British Council, Literaturwerkstatt Berlin, and Delicata Wines.

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