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All you need to know about the Malta Book Festival 2020

With just over a week to go before the start of this year’s edition of the Malta Book Festival 2020, we’ve made some notes…

First up, the details

The programme, which was put together by the National Book Council (NBC) and participating publishers, contains over 60 activities and is spread over five days.

Activities include book launches, presentations, meetings with authors, working groups and discussions, as well as a myriad of events and activities, especially curated for children.

All of the events will be streamed via the National Book Council website and Facebook page.

any special guests?

Without a doubt. The special international guest of this year’s edition is Sir Salman Rushdie. He is the author of many classical novels, including The Satanic Verses, Moor’s Last Sigh and Midnight’s Children, for which he won the prestigious Booker Prize.

In the first of two events in which he will be participating, the Booker Prize winner will be joining Alfred Sant, on the 11 November, in a conversation touching on the achievements, influences and current preoccupations of the two writers, as Sant himself is the recipient of the 2019 National Book Prize Lifetime Achievement Award! The conversation will be led by Prof Clare Vassallo.

On 12 November, Rushdie will be directly engaging with readers in the form of a digital Q&A, moderated by Prof James Corby.

What about the thematic discussions?

That’s right. The National Book Council is also organising a number of thematic discussions, featuring local and international authors, publishers and translators.

‘Beyond Borders’, which will be streamed on 12 November at 8pm, reflects on literary translation as a vital means to connect individuals at a time when movement across the globe have become restricted, and brings together Eran Katz, Katryna Storace, Walid Nabhan, Chris Grupetta and Kristina Quintano.

Katz is the best-selling Israeli author of Secrets of a Super Memory and Jerome Becomes a Genius, Storace is the co-founder of Praspar Press, a recently established micro-publisher of contemporary Maltese literature in English and English translation, Nabhan is an author and Arabic translator, Gruppetta is a Maltese publisher and Quintano is a translator and publisher of Maltese works into Norwegian.

Coinciding with the recent publication of the highly politicised cult-classic Il-Manifest Tal-Killer, author Karl Schembri will by joined by authors Nadia Mifsud and Wayne Flask, as well as EDE Books founder Zvezdan Reljic for ‘Words of Protest’. The exchange will be moderated by Adrian Grima and will revolve around the various forms of literary expressions of protest in Malta, taking place on 14 November.

The final discussion will be regarding the influence of various forms of literary publicity and criticism, ranging from traditional forms, end-of-year best book lists, book prizes, GoodReads and BookTube, and will be moderated by writer and journalist Teodor Reljic. It will also feature Jen Calleja, translator from German of Marion Poschmann’s The Pine Islands (Profile Books, 2019) and shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019; Prof Ivan Callus, lecturer of literary criticism and theory at University of Malta department of English, and Robert Pisani from the review blog The Bobsphere.

What about students?

The Council has also risen to the online challenge with children and adolescents in mind. Theatrical shows based on adaptations of Terramaxka Prize-winning works will be streaming directly to school classrooms across the islands.

Antonella Axisa is leading a troup of actors in the production of two performances, aimed at different age groups and based on 2020 Terramaxka Prize-winning works, which will be announced on 10 November at 7pm, during the Opening night and awards ceremony.

The comic duo Danusan will also be producing a series of episodes on prize-winning books from the last five years, featuring improvisations and the participation of the public. The English show on the secrets of a super memory, on 13 November at 9:30am, will also feature Eran Karz.

What’s more, in the coming days, every student registered for the Festival, will be receiving a €5 voucher, which can be redeemed from the online store of booksellers and publishers participating in the Festival. Students and their parents or guardians, will be receiving the voucher, as well as all the necessary instructions on how to redeem it by email.

The Council would like both children and caregivers to become more familiar with local publishers, as well as the experience of buying books online.

There’s more…

Now in its second year, the prize-giving ceremony of the 2020 Doreen Micallef National Poetry Contest will be broadcast on 13 November at 7pm.

This evening will provide an opportunity for those who appreciate poetry, to tune in for the announcement of the winners of the single most important single poetry competition in Maltese, the Doreen Micallef National Poetry Contest, followed by illuminating readings by the winning poets.

Another event is one that the NBC has been organising every Saturday of the Festival: the celebration of a literary career of one Maltese writer.

Last year, the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Alfred Sant, and therefore, the production Take//Two, directed by Abigail Mallia, produced a new short documentary feature about Sant’s literary life, as witnessed through five of his most acclaimed works. The documentary will be premiered at 8:30pm.

Of course, book launches and presentations remain a staple part of the Festival, with new publications by exhibitors AVC, BDL, Faraxa Publishing, Kite Group, Horizons, Merlin Publishers, Midsea Books and Klabb Kotba Maltin, as well as Instituto Italiano di Cultura.

Notable book presentations include the upcoming new edition of Dante Aligheri’s La Divina Commedia (Alfred Palma trans.), which will be published in 2021, on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, and the 39th issue of Leħen il-Malti by Għaqda tal-Malti – Universita, a talk on the Maltese translations works of Albert Camus’ selected works. Also, an interview with Daniel Holmes, in which Lovin Malta will be presenting the prison time memoir A Memoir from Malta’s Prison: From a cage, on a rock, in a puddle, among others.

The NBC also sponsored the first-ever publication of The Malta Illustration Annual, by the newly formed Malta Community of Illustrators (MCOI), whose aim is to bring together professional illustrators, promote the use and education of illustration as an effective communication tool in Malta, and safeguard the rights of illustrators locally and abroad.

The annual will be launched on 13 November at 5pm.

The full programme of the Malta Book Festival 2020 (11-15 November) can be viewed online. See you there!