Tuesday 16 October 2018

The main local guests at the Malta Book Festival: Lou Drofenik and Victor Fenech

As with previous years, the Malta Book Festival will give the public a chance to meet renowned local authors and discover their literary heritage through special events dup- ing the five days of the Festival. This year the Festival will be celebrating Lou Drofenik and Victor Fenech, who have both won awards related to their literary work.

Lou Drofenik, who grew up in Malta and now lives in Victoria, Australia, was awarded the National Book Prize 2017 for prose for her novel The Confectioner’s Daughter (Ho- rizons, 2016), a novel of love, lost innocence and struggle. It is a celebration of Maltese women’s lives, their resilience and their intense familial relationships.

On a broader level, Lou’s fiction is founded on extensive historical research, and fo- cuses on the migrant experience, specifically in a Maltese-Australian context. Her work is notable for its engagement with questions of Maltese and migrant identity, and has been praised for its engagement with female perspectives and experiences in distinc- tion to the ‘predominantly patriarchal outlook’ of much of the Maltese literary tradition. When giving voice to her characters and to women in the Maltese society, Lou is con- tributing to shape the new local intellectual and literary scene. Lou also broke barriers, by winning the National Book Prize in a category that has traditionally been dominated by men writers.

Alongside international guests Nikola Petković, Philip Ò Ceallaigh and Vera Duarte, Lou will be discussing the realities of displacement as reflected in literature during the MBF opening conference ‘Literature in the Diaspora’, on Wednesday 7 November at 7 pm.

The NBC will also be wrapping up the festival with a special event dedicated to Lou Drofenik and co-organized with her publisher Horizons. On Sunday 11 November at 7.15 pm, journalist Ramona Depares will interview Lou about her new books, including

Love at the Time of the Inquisition, which was shortlisted for the 2018 National Book Prize, and her new book The Reluctant Healer.

Writer Victor Fenech has been writing poetry, both in Maltese and English, since 1965, when he published his first poetry book in Maltese, entitled Kwartett. Victor won the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Book Prize, an award which honours a lifetime of literary work, not only as literary output but also in terms of one’s contribu- tion to literary scholarship, to the education of local communities and to the nurturing of the local literary culture. As one of the first members of the Moviment Qawmien Let- terarju and the editor of Il-Polz, the movement’s organ, Victor has played a very im- portant role in promoting Maltese literature and encouraging new authors. Throughout his career, he has published many books of poetry, a collection of short stories and critical studies focusing on local poets and visual artists.

One of Victor’s legacy in Maltese literature is the introduction of the prose/poetry genre, which featured in F’Altamira back in 1979. Through his poetic journey, Victor has not only experimented with the poetic form, but also with content. One can sense a strong socio-political conscience in his works, which is sometimes anti-establishment. The environment has also been a consistent theme in his works, decrying the loss of green areas to built areas and overdevelopment.

His career and literary work will be celebrated with an event on Thursday 8 November at 8 pm. This is a unique opportunity for members of the public to get to meet the renowned author in person. There will be a panel discussion, selected readings, a screening of a film on Victor Fenech and a Q&A session with the audience.

It is a prerogative of the National Book Council to be at the forefront in being a plat- form to established and new authors through the Malta Book Festival. With events cel- ebrating authors who have contributed to the Maltese literary scene in the past, but also in contemporary times, the NBC wants to make it a point that celebrating authors such as Lou and Victor also means giving the right momentum and inspiration to younger or new Maltese authors.

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