A Jordan-born Palestinian Author, Writing in Maltese, Wins a 2017 European Union Prize for Literature

Last month, Palestinian-Maltese writer Walid Nabhan was named one of the winners of the European Union’s 2017 Prize for Literature:

The EU Prize shifts participating nations annually, with 12 eligible each year. Nabhan was nominated for the prize on the strength of his semi-autobiographical 2013 novel L-Eżodu taċ-Ċikonji, The Storks’ Exodus.

L-Eżodu taċ-Ċikonji tells the story of a Palestinian refugee in Malta, and reports say it twines human relationships and politics.

Born in Jordan to a Palestinian family, Nabhan moved to Yugoslavia to study, back to Jordan, where he served time in the army, mostly in the desert, which was where he says he began to think a great deal about poetry.  After that, the writer traveled to Malta, where he became a (somewhat controversial) citizen, publishing books in Maltese as well as translating from Maltese to Arabic.

According to a profile in the Times of Malta:

While he took to speaking the language easily, writing in Maltese was hard. Having already published short stories and poems in Arabic back in Jordan, Nabhan started writing literature in Maltese while he was learning how to write.

It was only 10 years after he arrived, after meeting writer and Inizjamed founder Adrian Grima, that his works in his adoptive tongue came to light. Two collections of short stories: Lura d-Dar u Ġrajjiet Oħra li ma Ġrawx and Leħen tal-Fuħħar u Stejjer Oħra – and Nabhan can count himself as a Maltese writer.

Although acclaimed, it seems Nabhan does not make his living solely from his writing.

Last year, the winner of the NBC PBS Short Film Contest — to make a short film from a Maltese short story — was Ryan Gatt, for his proposal to adapt Walid Nabhan’s short story ‘Il-Kompliċi’ from the collection of short stories Lura d-Dar u Ġrajjiet Oħra li ma Ġrawx.

It premiered last November.

Winners of the European Union’s Prize for Literature receive €5,000 “as well as various opportunities to promote their works to a European audience.”


Categories: Malta, other literary prizes, Palestine

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