Towards the establishment of a hub for literary exchange and translation in Malta

Valetta Bus Station, Malta

Valetta Bus Station, Malta

by Dan Gorman

One of the main topics of discussion here in Valetta has been the establishment of a ‘hub’ for literary exchange and translation, physically located here in Malta, and potentially forming part of the Valetta 2018 Capital of Culture portfolio. The remit of this hub would be to facilitate literary exchange and translation, around the Mediterranean and beyond. There was a lot of discussion as to the limits of this exchange, both geographical and political and the question of identity raised its head throughout the proceedings. Is there such a thing as Mediterranean identity? And if not, is this something we want to create? And if we are talking about the EuroMed, how do we do so whilst bearing in mind the colonial legacy involved?

The ‘hub’ as I see it could provide a focal point for these discussions, for cross collaboration and cross pollination of literature and ideas around the Mediterranean. Mobility and migration have also been key topics of this weekend, and one of the reasons Malta has been raised as a possible location for this hub is its location and the ease of access; however this ease of access is clearly not the case for all. It’s difficult to be on Malta without discussing migration. As was mentioned during the conference ‘in terms of EU external relations, Malta has the sole role of an exclusionary force’ and there has been much criticism of the Maltese authorities detention policy. There are many people in Malta working extremely hard to counter and challenge these policies, both in Malta and across the region. Whilst in Malta the work of the Jesuit Refugee Services have been mentioned to me many times, and their website provides a good reference point for information about migration and Malta.

A literary exchange and translation hub could provide a space for discussion and exchange, where these topics could be explored freely and openly both by those physically located here and through a range of virtual resources. This project could represent and celebrate the plurality and diversity of the populations in Malta, Europe and the Mediterranean, a point which has been made by many of those working on the project.

One of the true pleasures of being here in Malta has been meeting the Inizjamed organisers. Initzjamed is an NGO which is ‘committed towards the regeneration of culture and artistic expression in the Maltese Islands and actively promotes a greater awareness of the cultures of the Mediterranean. Inizjamed is a secular, non-partisan organization that acknowledges that every generation must seek to create its own language and both respond to realities of its day and look beyond them’. Initizjamed is composed of a group of incredibly dedicated individuals and has a great standing in Malta. They organise an annual literature festival here and as part of this have hosted a number of poets who have previously taken part in Reel Festivals, including both Golan Haji and Rasha Omran from Syria. There is a willingness to engage with the wider world, and with seemingly complex issues through the arts which makes me feel very positive about the establishment of the hub here.

And then of course these is the wider group, made up largely of Literature Across Frontiers network members. The discussions here have been extremely stimulating. Representatives from organisations from Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Greece, Italy, Spain, as well as ‘wider Europe’ have been involved. This network is one focused on openness and inclusivity, and as such will continue to grow. A number of difficult topics were broached over the course of this weekend, and disagreements were had. I salute the fact that these were not shied away from, but were discussed openly. This focus on a plurality of opinion, on mobility of both people and ideas, can form a basis of literary exchange and translation and can in turn provide tools for challenging exclusion. My thanks to Literature Across Frontiers for making these discussions possible, to Inizjamed, Valetta 2018 for their great hospitality, and to all the participants for making them so enjoyable and productive.

Dan Gorman is the director of Firefly International and coordinates Reel Festivals, a project which focuses on dialogue through arts events. He is Literature Across Frontiers’ guest blogger in Valletta this weekend.