Introduction to a Maltese Personal Anthology

Jonathan has allowed us to do something a bit different for this Personal Anthology. We’re going to make recommendations, but it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to read them for the most part, and that’s the point of our selections.

Both of us first met at an English PEN event on multilingualism. It’s quite rare to come across another Maltese or part-Maltese person, even in London, that it always feels exciting when you do. We met for coffee and talked about a whole range of things, including UK publishing, translation, Maltese culture and politics, and what it’s like to be a Maltese person living and working in London (Kat) and a half-Maltese person born and raised in the UK and only speaking English (Jen). 

We met up a couple of more times, and then the London Book Fair came around. This year, there was an event on Maltese literature in translation as part of the programming in the Literary Translation Centre at the Fair, which was a follow-up to one the previous year with Maltese poets Immanuel Mifsud and Walid Nabhan. This year’s event was a discussion between Maltese writers Loranne Vella, Lou Drofenik and Antoine Cassar moderated by Jen, and the discussion centred on the uniqueness of the Maltese language and literature, how little is known about Malta and particularly contemporary Malta in the English-speaking world, and how Maltese writers at times resist translation through multilingualism or by keeping their stories focused on the local and national.

The event galvanised our desire to work on a solution to the lack of Maltese literature available in the English-speaking world, and over the last few months we’ve putting the plans in place to start a small press to publish Maltese poetry, fiction and essays in English. Though our plans aren’t quite finalised, we’re working on an anthology of Maltese writing and have plans to do events and partner up with other organisations keen to support Maltese literature in transltion. We also want to meet and work with young writers in Malta directly through writing and literary translation workshops and talks on the UK publishing scene to help make connections and start a real collaborative dialogue between our different literary scenes.

It’s good to remind ourselves that authors we now cherish and celebrate, like Han Kang and Olga Tokarczuk, were completely unknown in the English-speaking world a few years ago, and have gained prominence through translation. Our next favourite author could be waiting for us in another language – including Maltese. 

Here below are Kat’s recommendations of a selection of poems, short stories and novels by Maltese writers we think should be better known outside of Malta – some of whom write solely in Maltese, some who also write in English, and a few who have been translated into English and a number of other languages. Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to recommend a whole new anthology of Maltese stories.

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