This year’s highlight for Malta at the London Book Fair was Walid Nabhan with his novel “L-Eżodu taċ-Ċikonji”, originally published in Maltese by Klabb Kotba Maltin. A profoundly unsettling but moving tale of Nabil, a Palestinian refugee caught up in the various dilemmas of the here-and-there and the then-and-now, the novel won the National Book Prize for prose in 2014. It is the first Maltese award-winning novel to be written by a non-native speaker and, as such, it marks a watershed in the history of modern Maltese literature.
Nabhan, who is a relatively new voice in the local literary scene, was born in Amman, Jordan in 1966 to a Palestinian refugee family. His family originated in a small village in the outskirts of Hebron, Palestine. Growing up in Jordan as the son of a Palestinian refugee family, Nabhan experienced directly the unfairness of a system that views families like his as second-class citizens. After a spell as an engineering student in Yugoslavia, he was conscripted into the Jordanian army, where served for two years, most of which he spent in an army outpost in the desert. It was during this time that he first felt the urgings and thoughts that were to shape both his prose and poetry.
With the help of his brother, then a radio operator at the Palestinian Embassy, Nabhan eventually came to Malta in 1990, where he studied laboratory technology, graduating in Biomedical Sciences from Bristol University in England in 1998. In 2003 he gained a masters degree in Human Rights and Democratisation from the University of Malta.
It was during this time, a little over 10 years after he arrived in Malta, that Nabhan started writing in Maltese. Since then he has published two collections of short stories in Maltese; “Lura d-Dar u ġrajjet oħra li ma ġrawx” (2009) and “Leħen tal-Fuħħar” (2012), and a collection of poems “Fi Triqti Lejha” (2014). His poetry and articles have appeared in several publications and anthologies. Arguably, though, L-Eżodu taċ-Ċikonji’ is the most autobiographical of all his work to date.
Ever since this novel won the National Book Prize in 2014, we have made it our top priority to promote this book as one of our major literary exports. Now we are happy to report that thanks to our export strategy and the continuous support from Klabb Kotba Maltin, “L-Eżodu taċ-Ċikonji” will be published both in the UK and Lebanon.