In 2015 Babel was Swiss: a ten-year journey across word languages and literatures brought us back to our doorstep, and as after every journey, that doorstep looked different. We step in. Strong tensions between languages, between standard language and vernaculars, between spoken and written forms, are producing unprecedented literary results.
The language of Switzerland is translation, and to be lively it must listen and give expression to all the voices of its confederation of cultures: German and its Swiss vernaculars, Italian, French, Rumantsch and the languages of immigration, as well as the various spoken hybridisations.
The new generations of writers, raised in a multiethnic Switzerland, exposed to mixed cultural influences, move across such multilingualisms and create their own word from the given languages. In the German area, the bilingualism exists even in one’s own language, and for the first time, young authors are dealing equally with the German literary tradition and the language they use daily.
Babel explored several dimensions of this fertile multilingual tension, with many among the best Swiss writers. The dialogical measure was seconded by inviting the authors to dialogue with each other: Pedro Lenz and Guy Krneta, able to seize the human and expressive qualities of contemporary vernaculars; Peter Weber and Matteo Terzaghi, who imagine mutations in our mental geography that will be caused by the alpTransit tunnels; Pierre Lepori and Silvia Ricci Lempen, who operate in antithetical ways using French and Italian. Or to feature in dialogue with translators and other artists: the plus-quam-perfect Noelle Revaz with Maurizia Balmelli; cosmopolitan and Grishun writer Arno Camenisch with Roberta Gado; Swiss-Hungarian writer Melinda Nadj Abonji performing with Jurczok.
The literary program opened on Friday with readings celebrating Babel’s tenth anniversary, and the multilingual cabaret of Jürg Kienberg and Claudia Carigiet for the tenth anniversaries of Looren Translators House.
Saturday evening staged the concerts of two leading bands of Ticino’s surprising new wave: Fedora Saura (with spoken word incursions of Bern is Ueberall), and the Pussywarmers.
The main programs included cineBabel, launching the festival on Thursday with Mitten ins Land; the artBabel shows, in collaboration with Villa dei Cedri; translation workshops; school programmes; an extraordinary number of publications promoting the debate on Swiss literatures in book form and magazines; and the first steps towards a surprising new dimension of Babel.