MaltaToday previous editions

MALTATODAY 22 January 2023

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 31 of 43

maltatoday | SUNDAY • 22 JANUARY 2023 4 THEATRE Raising some hell at Spazju Kreattiv Laura Calleja speaks to Kevin Saliba on his Maltese translation of Jean- Paul Sartre's work 'Huis Clos' and the production of 'Bil-Bieb Mitbuq' which will be on at Spazju kreattiv from the 27 January to 29 January 2023 Bil-Bieb Mitbuq is based on your Maltese translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos. Can you tell us the reasoning behind deciding to translate this work? I've been exposed to Sartre's work since my mid-teens. Prior to that I didn't know much about philosophy. Still a senior MU- SEUM member, I had only read some Augustine and Aquinas along with some Catholic heav- yweights like Thomas Kempis. Thus, studying literature and philosophy at college was a huge game-changer. In retrospect I'd say it was tad traumatic: un- til then, in my book "God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good". Then along came Sartre and his fellow existentialists to upset the apple cart. Sartre's works made a huge impression on me back then. Unable to make much sense of his philosophical works, I stuck to his literary output instead, particularly 'Nausea' and 'No Exit'. Incidentally the former conveyed, especially certain sa- lient passages, exactly the way I sometimes felt about most things – that all-pervasive sense of meaninglessness threaten- ing to engulf the entire world. Suddenly most of my assuranc- es started, slowly but surely, to crumble. My sense of self was shattered. My wilful misreading of Nietzsche's famous dictum "God is dead" didn't help things at all: I turned my back on Ca- tholicism in favour of Marxism. Heaven could wait. You might think that thus my youth was rather ruined, but I beg to differ: given a choice I wouldn't change much of it. Make no mistake: it was unar- guably one of the most exciting periods of my life, only second to my time in Luxembourg. 'No Exit' back then struck me as equally revelatory: cognitive biases aside, I saw the play being staged literally everywhere, and I just couldn't help believing that most human relationships are bound to be intrinsically dys- functional. Moreover, I felt sad noticing that many people place too much importance on what others happen to think of them. Perhaps I was surrounded by the wrong sorts of people, but to this very day I believe that Sartre was really onto something. Then of course there was his minimal- ist vison of hell: just three peo- ple taunting each other – in an impossible love triangle – with their own baggage, prejudices, perceptions and desires. To my ears it all sounded as the devil stripped-down, live, unplugged. As Jim Morrison puts it in poem Elegy, "could any Hell be more horrible than now, and real?" A big question, that one. I still recall discussing this play, just 17, with a former men- tor – a school headmaster with the reputation of a "sapituttu" – while musing about translat- ing into Maltese with an eye to raising some hell by staging it all at St James Cavalier. But I didn't feel up to it. So, we can argue that this project is, strictly speaking, some 25 years old. My interest in this play – also on an academic level – never wavered. I have also seen the play staged abroad numerous times. None- theless almost a decade later, when I took up translation stud- ies, I choose to translate 'Nau- sea' instead. But that's a story for another day, perhaps. Why did you think it would resonate with a Maltese audi- ence? I think of Sartre a universal philosopher, so it stands to rea- son that he resonates with all audiences, irrespective of na- tionality, race, gender or credos. Philosophical themes such as existence, essence freedom, bad faith, being-for-others, mean- ing, the self, the other, the look, shame, intersubjectivity, an- guish, abandonment and despair among others shall always keep on haunting the human condi- tion as long as mankind lives – there's no exit from such things. You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave, as that overplayed oldie goes. That should be enough to place him among the all-time Western greats, up there with Plato, Aris- totle, Hegel, Kant, Schopenhau- er, Nietzsche, Heidegger. Which is not to say that I don't have – mind you – some strong misgivings about the man and his work, including this one. What was the most challeng- ing aspect of translating the work and then turning it into a production? I finally decided to translate this text in 2018 so as to nego- tiate some very difficult person- al circumstances. I cannot say I found the task particularly chal- lenging. It was as if the words – to my surprise – just flowed on the page on their own accord. Maybe it's because I had already been translating literature and philosophy for a good number of years. Or perhaps it was just because this project had been simmering on the back burn- er for over two decades. I don't know. That being said, this must be the text I enjoyed translating the most – which is a bit odd con- sidering my penchant for being wrestled down to the ground by words. But to my mind nothing beats translating dialogues – es- pecially these kinds of vicious exchanges. Turning this into a production

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of MaltaToday previous editions - MALTATODAY 22 January 2023