The Malta Independent 26 March 2019, Tuesday

Translation and the Malta Book Festival 2018

Tuesday, 6 November 2018, 16:17 Last update: about 6 months ago

The topic of translation will be at the heart of many events at this year's Malta Book Festival, where foreign guests as well as local authors who are engaged in translation will be attending the festival, sharing their expertise with the general public, students and fellow translators.

The Malta Book Festival celebrates the book culture and seeks to represent the book in its entirety - not just as any object of consumption but as something that involves the reader beyond the confines of the book. The festival has over the years expanded in scope both in terms of participation and as a cultural event now featuring a wealth of activities, including dramatisations of literary texts, discussions and conferences on literary themes and expert readings of passages from novels or poetry.


 "It is imperative that Maltese literature is translated into other languages. But, at the same time, in order for translations to grow, it is important to put in place structures to guarantee a better quality output; raise the bar as it were on Maltese literature." - Elizabeth Grech, translator

Strategically funding the export of Maltese literature abroad is one of the National Book Council's main efforts. Beyond the Maltese islands, the Council acts as an agent and broker for Maltese books and authors, promoting them to foreign publishers, with the aim of having them translated and published internationally. Maltese literature remains relatively unknown overseas and it is the National Book Council's goal to fill this gap and give quality Maltese literature wider international circulation. Some of the challenges that a minority literature may face are financial ones as publishers may not be willing to take on the task of publishing a translation of a book coming from a small market, hence the National Book Council acts also as an agent for authors and publishers at foreign book fairs, coordinates, facilitates and even subsidises translation and export projects.

"Internationally, the competition is fierce, because for every person buying rights there are a hundred who want to sell, but we are having relative success. We have a stand at London Book Fair at a very good location giving us great international exposure and we hold meetings with publishers, agents and public entities."  - Mark Camilleri, Chairman NBC

Through the Malta Book Festival, the National Book Council wants to make the public engage in translation discourse, familiarise with translators local and foreign, as well as broaden its reach for translation opportunities to local authors and educate on the issues that lie in translating Maltese literature for foreign markets. Maltese literature has been translated the most into English and Italian for reasons of cultural ties and geographic proximity among others, while it is rarer to see it published in other languages. When during a seminar on translating minority literature (held at the London Book Fair earlier this year) Maltese poets and novelists Immanuel Mifsud and Walid Nabhan were asked about the possibility of bypassing translation difficulties by writing directly in English, not Maltese, Mifsud said that the language in which he writes is the language in which he thinks, hears, dreams and sees, hence went beyond functionality or translatability. Nabhan, who writes mainly in Maltese and whose work is currently being translated into Arabic, made a case for the immediacy of the language, and for its innate ability to work through metaphor. According to him, "words are not innocent" and a good translator has to know "all the whereabouts" of each single word. If a metaphor is not translated correctly, he insists, the whole work might fall apart.

Walid Nabhan, as well as many other Maltese translators and writers involved in the translation discourse, will be at the Malta Book Festival this year. As local authors who also translate into Maltese or whose works are translated abroad, have often commented on the topic by examining the difficulties, and cultural and social complexities involved in translating works of literature written in minority languages, specifically Maltese. Award-winning writer Clare Azzopardi has made a name for herself successfully translating children's literature into Maltese. Many of her works have been translated in different languages and published in different countries.

"Glory, for the translator, is borrowed glory. There is no way around this. Translators are celebrated when they translate celebrated books." - Tim Parks

When it comes to foreign guests, the National Book Council is proud to host British novelist, essayist and translator Tim Parks. Parks will be leading a seminar on translation, engaging in a conversation on translation with translation studies and English students, and the general public on Friday, 9 November at 11am at Vassalli Hall, MCC. Prof. Clare Vassallo (University of Malta) will be engaging in a discussion on the role of the author, the translator and the reader in the translation process and students as well as the general public will be able to meet. Parks has translated works by Moravia, Calvino, Machiavelli and Leopardi, and runs a postgraduate course in translation at IULM University, Milan.

Other foreign guests of the Malta Book Festival, Philip Ò Ceallaigh and Nikola Petković, are novelists and essayists but also translators, and during their author events they will be discussing their writing and their translation exercises.

Translation is only one of the topics around which the well over 80 events that the Malta Book Festival 2018 will feature. With book launches and presentations, conferences, talks and fun activities for children, the festival is a yearly event that is sure not to be missed.

The Malta Book Festival will take place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta, starting from Wednesday, 7 November until Sunday, 11 November. The programme of events, already delivered in printed form to all households in Malta and

Gozo, can be downloaded from the NBC website For more details on the events visit the Malta Book Festival Facebook page. 

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