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This year’s book festival – a round-up

With the upcoming Malta Book Festival just a couple of days away, it is worthwhile seeing what new titles will be on show at the various bookshop and publisher stands. The programme for this year’s festival, which has already been released, features quite a large number of local book presentations and official book launches.

On Saturday, Alfred Sant will be present for the official launch of his anthology of short stories, Western, in an activity set up by SKS.  The title story is a Maltese cowboy story about a Qormi farmer who emigrates to the US in the 1860s.

The improbable figure of the Qormi cowboy acquires great symbolic value in the hands of  Sant as he explores the failures and aspirations of the Maltese in the superficially alien landscape of the Wild West.

Like all the other stories in the anthology, Western has the quality of a simple narrative, interwoven with deep concerns about Maltese identity, culture and nationhood.

The Maltese translation of Daniel Rondeau’s Malta Ħanina by Toni Aquilina will also have its official launch at the festival on Saturday. Both author and translator will be present at the launch.

Malta Ħanina is an eclectic literary essay that merges the author’s own memoirs of the island, the fruit of his three-year stint as the French Ambassador to Malta, with ruminations on Mediterranean culture and Europe’s root in the Orient.

Currently French Ambassador to Unesco in Paris, Daniel Rondeau is well-known in literary circles and has been awarded a good number of prestigious literary awards.

Another intriguing work of translation will be presented next Sunday during a conference on Cervantes and Don Quixote: Żwieġ Qarrieqi, the Maltese translation by Fiona Sciberras of one of Cervantes’ Novelas Ejemplares (exemplary novels), a collection of 12 novellas by Cervantes modelled on the Italian tradition of the racconti, or short stories, such as Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Cervantes’ novellas are usually grouped into two sets. One set is loosely defined as ‘idealised’ in the sense that they are characterised by improbable plots, emphasis on psychological depth and are concerned mainly with amorous entanglements. This set is very close to the Italian model. The other set is defined as ‘realistic’ not only because the plots are more probable and involve realistic characters and environments but also because they address social issues and are highly critical of established practices. Żwieġ Qarrieqi (Deceitful Marraige) belongs to the latter set.

Also next Sunday, L-Għaqda tal-Malti – Università will launch its 35th issue of Leħen il-Malti, the journal of L-Għaqda which has been published since 1931, the year L-Għaqda was set up. The publication will feature a number of short stories by contemporary writers – Il-Patawwa by John Portelli, Tolleranza Żero by Leli and Għekiesi by Rita Saliba, poems, including Idejn l-Imħallef by Maria Grech Ganado and academic studies of the Maltese language.

BDL will set up the book launch of an exciting new publication Essays in Honour of Joseph Attard Tabone as an all-day event at its stand next Sunday. The essays, written by various contributors, are meant to celebrate the 80th birthday of the well-known historian and conservationalist who left an indelible mark on Maltese archaeology with his discoveries, including the rediscovery of the world-famous Brockdorff Circle. It should be remembered that besides his academic contribution to historical and archaeological studies, Tabone is also the founder of the Xagħjra Cultural Centre and the Malta Ornithological Society, now BirdLife Malta.

Besides the above, there will be many book presentations that cover a wide gamut of literary genres from historical studies to children’s literature. Just to mention a few, Horizons will launch several new novels on Thursday evening, while the Italian Culture Centre stand will host numerous book presentations every day.  The authors will be present to meet members of the public and sign copies of their books.

The Malta Book Festival take place between Wednesday and next Sunday at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta.

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