The Malta Book Festival has become a yearly appointment, with every year bringing a bigger crowd, and a better, more varied programme. Here are 6 reasons why you should be navigating the labyrinthine streets of Valletta down to the Mediterranean Conference Centre from the 9th to the 13th of November:
- Not a book fair
Don’t get me wrong. Book fairs are great – you get to walk around and buy a pile of books for less money than you would normally pay. But the Malta National Book Festival is more than that. While it did start off as a book fair, in 2013 it underwent a rebranding from the concept of a commercial book fair to a National Book Festival. There is still a commercial aspect to it, as you can obviously still go and buy books at bargain prices. However, adding to that commercial element is a programme nuanced with educational and cultural activities, making it a far more interesting visit than your typical book fair. The programme is varied enough to be enjoyed by both the very young and old, with children’s activities such as tracing and colouring activities of their favourite characters occurring alongside more adult activities such as exhibitions and conferences.
- Putting Faces to Names (or Names to Faces)
The National Book Festival has always been known to gather a diverse number of authors under one roof, intent on promoting their works of art. This year will be no different, with local, eminent authors such as Maria Grech Ganado, whose name is emblazoned on every local student’s list of books to read, having a whole evening dedicated to her and her life’s work. There are also a number of well-known foreign authors that will be participating in this year’s festival, such as the British writer Patrick McGuinness, the Bulgarian satirical writer Alek Popov, and the Egyptian novelist Basma Abdel Aziz. These three brilliant authors will be present at various stages of the festival, with the highlight being their participation in a conference on Literature and Totalitarianism, that will be occurring on Wednesday evening. The conference, along with other similar events, should be a great opportunity for the public to engage in discussions with some of the greatest literary minds of the contemporary age.
- Foreign Literature
While you would associate the National Book Festival, with national literature, the Malta Book Festival also offers an insight into foreign literature and authors. Of particular note, this year is a presentation titled ‘Cervantes and Don Quixote in Literature and Culture’, which commemorates the 400th anniversary of the writer’s death. Interestingly, there will be some Maltese elements added to the mix with Emmanuel Abela, a popular folk singer, singing excerpts from the Maltese translation of Cervantes’s work.
- Bookbinding Exhibition
Let’s face it, how many times have you stopped and thought about the binding process of a book? Probably never. Which is why you need to visit this year’s thematic exhibition on the fascinating subject of book-binding. The exhibition, that will be located within the Perello Suite of the Mediterranean Conference Centre, contains displays of handmade books as well as the opportunity to engage in discussions and workshops on the construction of a codex.
- Films, not just books
If you are someone who is perhaps more in films than books, you are in luck. Saturday evening will feature a short film premiere, featuring the short story adaptation titled ‘Il-Komplici’ from the collection of short stories ‘lura d-dar u grajjiet ohra li ma grawx’ by Walid Nabhan. The event is open to all, and it presents the opportunity to meet Ryan Gatt who is the young film director, as well as the writer who authored the collection of stories. The event certainly promises an interesting and provoking discussion on literary adaptation into film.
- The Venue
Do you think you will get bored with talks on books and films? Don’t worry, you can tune out the literary talk and use this festival as an opportunity to tour the baroque building where it will be hosted. Built in 1574, during the reign of Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere, the hall measures 155 metres in length and was at the time, one of the largest halls in Europe. It is the former ‘Sacra Infermeria’ of the Knights of St John, which was considered to be one of the best hospitals in Europe, and could accommodate as many as 914 patients in an emergency.
Best of all? The entrance is free of charge. Beware, however, you’ll probably have an empty wallet, a heavy bag of books, and a contented smile by the end of the night.
You can view the full programme of the festival here: http://ktieb.org.mt/?p=2662