The festival

Babel is the literary festival focused on translation. Understood as linguistic hospitality, translation is the practice that prompts you to go towards the other, in order to invite the other to your own home, and serves as a model for other kinds of hospitality. Babel invites writers who work across languages and cultures, and their Italian translators; the festival promotes translations between different art forms, organizes translation workshops, prizes, and residences, and publishes new work.

Past editions have featured world-famous writers such as Derek Walcott, Marie NDiaye, Ismail Kadaré, Amitav Ghosh, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, Mourid Barghouthi, Valeria Luiselli, Irvine Welsh, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Asli Erdogan, Ljudmila Ulickaja, Elias Khoury, Yu Hua, Adam Zagajewski, Adania Shibli, Samanta Schweblin, Abdelfattah Kilito, musicians such as Arto Lindsay, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Tartit, The Tiger Lillies, and András Keller, as well as several young writers that Babel has translated and published with Swiss and Italian publishers and media.

In 2012 Babel was awarded the Straniero Prize in Italy, and in 2013 the Swiss Literature Prize for translation and literary mediation and the Special Prize of the Jury by the Federal office for culture. 

Babel 2021 | BabelBabele

The myth of Babel tells of the loss of the earth’s one language and one speech, and of the confusion of all languages.

Suddenly every object and every idea assumed a plurality of names, and the oversized tower, symbol of the human imagination and hubris, was abandoned within the huge shadow foreboding its destruction.

The myth of Babel tells of the scattering of the children of men over the face of all the earth.

The Babylonian empire extended from the city of Babylon to several modern states, such as Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, all countries that nowadays have very large diasporas. If these diasporas have various and different causes, in one way or another they are all connected to another great collapse, that of the Twin Towers in New York and its repercussions in the Middle East.

Exactly twenty years after 9/11, Babel looked at the highest human fabrications, their astonishing downfalls, and ruins.

Babel traced the dispersion and diaspora, in ancient times as now, of peoples and languages upon the face of all the earth.

Babel listened to the punished condition that marked the birth of the multiplicity of languages and the birth of translation.

BabelBabele took place September 10-12, 2021, and welcomed: Kader Abdolah with Laura Pezzino; François Jullien; Charif Majdalani with Maria Nadotti; Mathias Énard and Sinan Antoon; Usama al-Shahmani and Yusuf Yeşilöz; Dima Wannous with her translators Elisabetta Bartuli and Cristina Dozio; André Naffis-Sahely and Ribka Sibhatu; Renata Colorni with Ilide Carmignani; Elisa Shua Dusapin, Stella N’Djoku, Vanni Bianconi and Pascal Janovjak; Mohammad Reza Mortazavi and Camilla Sparksss.

Babel publishes Specimen, an entirely multilingual web-magazine, which through translation gives voice to the multifaceted world. Texts can be in every language and alphabet, potentially translated into and from any other language. With a special inclination for second languages and hybrid forms, Specimen engages an ever-expanding network of writers, artists and thinkers, fostering relation and linguistic hospitality as the core of its approach.

Favouring a slow pace, Specimen publishes an average of four new texts and a number of new translations every month. You can follow us on Facebook, or rely on our Newsletter for a monthly recap.

At times Specimen returns to the physical world, in the form of limited editions or on-demand publications, as well as through public debates on the occasion of special events and festivals.

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