European Union Prize for Literature

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20 March 2018

Interview with Walid Nabhan

Last Saturday, EUPL Maltese Winner 2017, Walid Nabhan presented his award-winning book L-Eżodu taċ-Ċikonji (Exodus of Storks) at the Citadel Cultural Centre in Gozo. Interviewed by Kit Azzopardi, the Palestinian-Maltese author also signed copies of his book and engaged in a Q&A session with his audience. At this occasion he answered a few questions for EUPL. 

Many people under estimate the power of Arab women in the time crisis as well as in relaxed daily life

What made you decide to write a semi-autobiographical story?  

It was more of a secretory process rather than a decision as if the words lead me to formulate a testimony. After all, writing is a form of testimony, a detailed testimony in this case. It is true that the historian paints a general picture but it is the narrator (the novelist) who defines the fine details of what happened.

Which of your book characters do you find most interesting? Why?

I personally admire Omaymah, the elder sister who took over the wheel after the death of her mother. Though she was firmer than a normal mother and she even stripped the father of his authority. Many people under estimate the power of Arab women in the time crisis as well as in relaxed daily life. In most cases she practices her tremendous power behind the curtains leading the man to believe that he is in the front seat.

What’s the language you would love to be translated into? Why?

All languages! Given that the translation is good. A translation for me, can either be good or bad, there’s nothing in between. A proficient reader would immediately pick up any translation deficit struggling behind incoherent words. A shallow translation could be fatal to the significance of the script.

Which part of yourself did you bring to the story? (Biographical facts, a friend or a family member has inspired you for a character, etc.)

I only brought my writing tools to the table. The protagonists could be any Palestinian family in the diaspora. It is true that I have registered some personal details and autobiographical chronicles but that was the general scene of most Palestinian families at the time. The scenes that my memory has registered at home are almost the same scenes which I witnessed at my childhood friends’ homes. More or less it was the collective memory serving as an engine behind that semi-autobiographical narration.

Is there a specific topic that you would dream to write about, or a specific genre that you would dream to write in?

I constantly dream of writing good literature, it doesn’t matter whether it is a novel, short story, poetry or even a play. What counts is the way in which it is received and how it is relevant and reflective of the contemporary fellow human of today. I believe that the best novel still hasn’t been written yet. Literature is constantly evolving and changing conformation. One must be aware that we are living in rapidly moving world. The language, in the first place, must create itself accordingly.

Has EUPL opened new horizons for you? (Literary events in other countries, selling rights for translations into new languages, networking with other winners, etc.)

Undoubtedly, since I won the EUPL prize, I have been approached by foreign publishers to translate my novel from tiny Maltese to titanic languages such as English, Arabic, German and so on. Moreover, I have showered by invitations to participate in several European and international literary events which would definitely add to my profile.

Have you had a chance to read books by other EUPL winners – from 2017 or earlier years, especially those coming from your own country?

I have read my fellow colleagues Pierre Meilak and Immanuel Mifsud and am an admirer of both. I have also read the excerpts of my fellow winners in 2017 which have been collectively gathered in one publication. I am certainly looking forward to reading their full translated work because I am sure they are marvelous and distinctive works to make it to the EUPL award. 

What kind of reaction did you get from your readership when they heard that you got the EUPL Prize?

An enormous positive feedback which will serve as fuel to keep my thoughts alive.

20180319 Malta - Walid Nabhan - Written interview.pdf