Taormina book festival to focus on issues of freedom

Literature Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux among writers to be honoured.
Taobuk Festival SeeSicily host and creator Antonella Ferrara. Photo: Musacchio Ianniello Pasqualini

Malta’s closest neighbour will be hosting the 13th edition of the Taobuk FestivalSeeSicily between June 15 and 19 in Taormina, Sicily. This year’s edition of the festival revolves around the issue of freedom and its mapping.

Titled ‘Freedoms’, the theme refers to those recognised and above all those denied, in a space-time mapping whose coordinates will be traced by the most authoritative Italian and international writers, intellectuals, scientists, and artists.

Over five days, in the most significant venues in Taormina, guests from 30 countries around the world are called upon to explore the ‘meridians of freedom’ from multiple perspectives and disciplines, creating an observatory focused on the dynamics of the present and perspectives on the future.

The event, conceived and directed by Antonella Ferrara, is also rebranding under a new name this year: the original logo will be combined with that of the tourist promotion project conceived by the Sicilian Region to renew the island’s fascination for travellers. This strengthens the cooperation between SeeSicily and Taobuk for a festival with an international scope, which last year was honoured by the presence of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella.

“Taobuk 2023 will explore the creative power, the force of aggregation, the dignity and the opportunities that freedom and freedoms grant to free man, in guaranteeing him the inviolability of his body, his home, his privacy, and in assuring him the ability to express himself and the independence of the people to which he belongs,” says Ferrara.

“Among the reasons that led to the choice of the concept is precisely the urgency, dictated by the historical moment in which we live, to open a multi-voice dialogue on the historical process of a fundamental conquest of civilisation: the overturning of freedom from the privilege of some classes to a status that is no longer favoured, but recognised to everyone from birth on the basis of equality and brotherhood of men.

“A perspective that was unknown until the Enlightenment, from which it originated, and which is still in progress today. The condition of free men is therefore far from being taken for granted. A minority of humankind is in fact guaranteed the enjoyment of fundamental rights. An ambition that continues to be marked by the heroic sacrifices to pursue it. This is still happening today, as the tragic events of Iranian women show.”

Taobuk is a prestigious showcase of the Italian spirit and of Sicily’s material and immaterial heritage, with over 200 events with renowned guests including writers, journalists, directors, artists, and personalities from the worlds of entertainment and science.

A festival with a multidisciplinary approach that celebrates literature in relation to the other arts and sciences. An agora of thought achieving its climax with the presentation of the Taobuk Awards, once again delivered to high-profile figures who will enrich the roll of honour of the 48 winners of past editions. Among them we find Nobel Prize winners Svetlana Aleksievič, Mario Vargas Llosa, Orhan Pamuk, Olga Tokarczuk, Giorgio Parisi, and other writers such as Paul Auster, Michel Houellebecq, Emmanuel Carrère, David Grossman, Amos Oz, Abraham Yehoshua.

The Taobuk Awards for Literature 2023 go to three female writers: the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature Annie Ernaux (France), the Iranian Azar Nafisi and the American Joyce Carol Oates, three female figures, far in their human and artistic journey yet similar in their active commitment to the full emancipation of women. They all have drawn inspiration from their autobiographical experience to transfer it into the story of the social and collective constraints that shape existence. The prize-winners will give three keynote lectures.

Annie Ernaux, who has always been at the forefront of many battles for gender equality, has signed masterpieces such as The Years, Happening, The Young Man, and A Man’s Place. For her, writing even represents a ‘political act’ to become aware of what birth privilege or gender membership can represent in a patriarchal society. At the festival, she will give the lecture ‘Shared autobiography to unveil social constraints’.

Azar Nafisi is a witness of the current times, unyielding in her stance for the liberation of women in Iran, victims of continuous harassment. Author of bestsellers such as Reading Lolita in Tehran, Things I’ve Been Silent About and The Republic of Imagination, because of her fierce opposition to all forms of literary censorship, she had to choose exile in the United States to escape persecution by the ayatollahs’ regime. At the festival, she will give the lecture ‘The Freedom of Freedoms: The Right to Imagination’.

Joyce Carol Oates, a multifaceted and prolific American author and intellectual, in novels, short stories, poems, plays, and essays has explored uncomfortable issues such as domestic violence, oppression, and the commodification of women in a society driven by power and money. Several times finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner in 2019 of the Jerusalem Prize, awarded to writers whose work relates to issues of human freedom and society. She will give a lecture entitled Beyond the depths of plutocracy and oppression’. She will also preview at Taobuk her latest book Babysitter, which is published in Italy by La Nave di Teseo.

For more information about the Taobuk Festival SeeSicily check the official site.

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