While in certain quarters, public officials wile away the hours calling on companies to out their foreign workers, and in others, they’re erecting imaginary walls, Palermo, Italy is staging a Festival of Migrant Literature:
The festival in Palermo, moreover, promises to talk about migrant literature without hyper-anthropologizing migrant stories. They write, approximately:
Literatures migrate. From one place to another. From one time to another. If there were no literatures, the city would shut down, and our words would lose their meanings. Literatures migrate with people. And we welcome them and stand with them them.
These are not migrants in any straightforward way. One speaker is Iraqi novelist Ahmed Saadawi, who writes on Facebook that next week, if he’s lucky in his visa, he’ll be at the festival. Saadawi is not a migrant in body, although Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein certainly migrated into his award-winning Frankenstein in Baghdad. Soon, in translation by Jonathan Wright, that novel will be migrating back into English.
Other featured writers include the Turkish novelist Hakan Gunday, whose powerful novel More, translated by Zeynep Beler, explores guilt and accountability through the lens of migration; Leila al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab, who recently collaborated on Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War; Saleem Haddad, author of the transnational Guapa; comix artist Omar Khouri; Nigerian Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka; and many others.
The festival, which is set for October 12-16, promises “hundreds of guests, meetings, and shows in dozens of places in the city[.]”