The 2017 Malta Book Festival opens for the public on Wednesday November 8 with a conference on ‘Truth in Fiction and Non-Fiction’. The conference will take the form of a conversation between a number of guests of the Festival and will be moderated by former BBC journalist and reporter Rosie Goldsmith. Local author Alex Vella Gera, Kuwaiti poet and academic Shahd Alshammari, French novelist Gilbert Sinoué and British author and poet Ros Barber will be sharing their views on the definition of truth across different literary genres.

The conference will look at the difficulty of defining truth in literature and of gauging the truthfulness of an account, whether that account features in a text defined as fiction or non-fiction. The question is relevant to the current media-dominated world, where the line between factual reporting and literary invention has been blurred by the emergence of new genres such as literary journalism, conspiracy theory thrillers, popular science, and eyewitness diaries, to mention but a few.

Alex Vella Gera is an award-winning local author who in 2009 found himself in the midst of a heated controversy over the publication of his short story Li Tkisser Sewwi in a student magazine. The author claimed that the story, which recounts the sexual exploits of an irresponsible and sexist individual and is told in the first person, is nothing more than an attempt to capture an aspect of reality as removed from his own as possible.

Shahd Alshammari is a poet and a writer whose interests include the condition of women and disabled individuals in modern Arab societies. Her latest publication, Notes on the Flesh, explores through fiction the realities faced by the disabled, the sick and women in society.

The celebrated author of a large number of historical novels, Gilbert Sinoué weaves known historical facts with elements of fiction in a literary output that spans a large variety of genres – from biographies to sagas and thrillers.

Ros Barber, a UK-based author, poet and academic, is the author of The Marlowe Papers, a novel in verse that tells the story of how Christopher Marlowe became William Shakespeare following the famous tavern brawl in which the historical figure is reported to have been killed. In the novel, Marlowe is not killed but shipped away only to eventually return under a new identity.

Members of the public are invited to join the above, along with Goldsmith, in an attempt to define the elusive notion of truth in literature on 8 November at Sir Temi Zammit Hall at the Mediterranean Conference Centre at 8 pm. At the end of the discussion, the participants will take questions and comments from the public.

Shahd AlShammari                           Gilbert Sinoué                              Ros Barber                                         Rosie Goldsmith                           Alex Vella Gera

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