Erbgħin Jum – (Forty Days)
The book Erbgħin Jum (Forty Days) by Maletese author and participant of the Mahalla Festival – Antoine Cassar – has been awarded the Best Poetry Book prize at Malta’s National Book Awards on November 30!
It was truly an honour to work on it together with my good friend Marco Scerri. In my opinion, a piece of literature which is most deserving of an such an award. I. Antoine Cassar is a Maltese poet, translator, editor, and cultural organiser, and a creative activist for migrants’ rights and universal freedom of movement.
Erbgħin Jum is a piece of literature which is most deserving of an such an award.-
To walk. A primal activity which is becoming ever more exotic, to the detriment of our physical and mental health. Along the path, once our legs have settled into their own natural rhythm, there is delight, a full-bodied catharsis, an opportunity to sweat out the monsters that dwell in our blood, in our memory, in our imagination. A chance, perhaps, to become a little more human.
After years of random writings about passports, borders and maps, Erbgħin Jum (Forty Days), Antoine Cassar’s latest work, is a book-length poem that turns inwards, a brutally personal pilgrimage in the crazy cartography of the past, without compass or walking stick.
Erbgħin Jum is split into daytime and nighttime chapters, and is illustrated with eight ‘stations’ from woodcuts by Steven Scicluna, inspired by the work itself. Each daytime chapter narrates a walk, in a landscape real or metaphorical, not as mere exercise but as a means of reflection, a cleansing of the blood, a cultivation of hope, or for the simple, sensual pleasure of movement. Between walks, the nighttime chapters, born of insomnia, interrogate the phantoms of childhood and the shadows they continue to cast in the present.
Madness. Rage. Paranoia. Yet at the same time, each small step leads to lucidity, understanding, and the possibility of healing.
The Wandering Tower is the title of a surrealist short story by Sergej Prokofiev from the times of vivid migration movements on the edge of the world wars.
The Festival was quoting the title as a metaphorical frame for Mahalla 2020/2021. The tower of Babel is connected as a motive to the search for the origin of language and the access to the divine.