Babel Festival focuses on divided identities, provinces of the empires and the government of the tongue. In 2011 these focuses come to a head with Palestine taking its place on the festival’s stage: Babel invites Palestinian writers from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel and the diasporas who write in English, Arabic and French. In its sixth year Babel welcomes the fragmented and sparse cultures and languages that, after the loss of the land of the poem, are left with the poem of the land.
In the last half century Palestine has been constantly in the eye of the media while little is known of what Palestinian writers, artists, directors and musicians create: the vitality, the measured reticence or the humour with which they react to territorial, cultural or linguistic wounds.
The writers invited to pronounce “The word beyond borders” are: Izzeldin Abuelaish, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, author of I Shall Not Hate; Susan Abulhawa, author of the stirring international best-seller Mornings in Jenin; Suad Amiry, writer and architect, inflammatory, hilarious and tough in her depiction of life in Palestine; Mourid Barghouti, poet and narrator, one of the best writers in the Arabic language; Mustafa Barghouti, democracy activist, candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in 2005 and promoter of major cultural projects in Palestine; the young poet Fatena al-Gharra, who recently had to leave her native Gaza and seek refuge in Belgium, translated for the first time into Italian for Babel; Jamil Hilal, sociologist, author of several studies fundamental in understanding the Palestinian situation; Elias Khoury, author of The Gate of the Sun, the most complex fresco of Palestine in the second half of the XX Century; Adania Shibli, one of the most original and fine-tuned voices in young Arabic literature.
Furthermore Babel will ask Daniel Barenboim, John Berger and Elias Sanbar, either in person or through video-interviews, to evoke the presence of three ghosts, Edward Said, Ghassan Kanafani, Mahmoud Darwish, who set Palestine at the heart of the world and brought the world into the heart of Palestine.
The program “Beyond the word’s borders” shows the vivacity of other artistic languages, with an exhibition of videos by young Palestinian artists and the final metamorphosis of Kerim Seiler’s sculpture Babel for artBabel; a concert by a chamber formation of the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, the ensemble of Arab and Israeli musicians created by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said; for cineBabel, a series of films such as Fix Me, Route 181, Le temps qui reste, and the late Juliano Mer Khamis’ documentary Arna’s Children that will open the festival on the night of September 15th, followed by a round table with Babel’s guests.
Like every year, the various sectors of the festival are growing: the Research Sector, with literary and cinema translation workshops, the Babel Series and Babel Library; the School Sector; the extraBabel projects, bringing Babel to other Swiss and Italian cities.