The Babel Prize for Literature 2021

Rosalba Fantastico di Kastron
Rosalba Fantastico di Kastron

Rosalba Fantastico di Kastron

In a ceremony held on Dec. 2, 2022, in Tirana at the National Theater of Albania, Italian poet Rosalba Fantastico di Kastron received the 2021 Babel Prize for Literature, recognizing her outstanding contributions to literary crossings between languages.

Fantastico is the first recipient of the annual Babel Prize for Literature. Her award ceremony, deferred by one year, was scheduled as soon as possible once the easing of pandemic restrictions enabled the arrangement of an in-person ceremony.

The writer’s debut English-language poetry collection, The Traces of Soul, published in 2019 by Mundus Artium Press, extends the international reach of her perspective, which combines attentiveness to family and local culture in her native Salice Salentino (Lecce), Italy, with empathy for a wider world.

The Babel Prize for Literature recognizes individuals whose interlingual emergence transcends the meaning of the ancient symbol of the Tower of Babel. Prize recipients make the literature of scattered tongues an occasion to build and highlight cross-cultural relationships founded on selfless love.

The poet’s choice of an Albanian-hosted ceremony for receiving the Babel Prize for Literature, her first major international award, reflects a wish to pay tribute to difficult days in that nation’s recent history. In 1990 when tens of thousands of Albanian refugees landed on her Puglian coast, Fantastico was among the first Italians to welcome and help them in any way she could.

I have strong feelings right now, but with particularly significant emotions. This city and this Albanian land are very important to me, because I feel at home here. The Babel Prize is such a great honor for me,” Fantastico told Tirana’s TV Klan after the ceremony.

The award, including a diploma, a personalized medal of honor and a commemorative gift, was presented by Babel Prize for Literature delegate Gjeke Marinaj, an Albanian writer who also fled the country in 1990 due to political persecution. Marinaj traveled to the Tirana ceremony from Dallas, Texas, where the Babel Prize committee is based.

Fantastico attended the ceremony in the company of a special delegation of her Italian compatriots, including the noted actor Francesco Leccese; the vice president of the Pro Loco association for historians of local traditions, Adele Pulice; the founder and director of the “Calcagnile Academy” of the Academy of Fashion and Costume in Lecce, Rosanna Calcagnile; and the administrator of the “Calcagnile Academy,” Aldo Urso.

Fantastico is a knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, among numerous other awards and honors she holds for her work. In 2019, she received the “Women of Puglia” award for promoting her region’s cultural identity worldwide.

Her other publications include collections of poetry in Italian as well as in Puglia’s Salento dialect.

In addition to stature as a poet, Fantastico has achieved renown as a painter, playwright, theater director, and educator in arts and culture. In and beyond her country, she plays an active role in international literary festivals.

The Babel Prize for Literature can be given to either a translator or writer, whether on the basis of a major work or for lifetime achievements furthering literature-driven communication across specific cultural and linguistic contexts.

Focusing on cultural exchanges that may include any source or target language in the world, the prize supports inclusivity, regarding each possible permutation of language as equally vital for the integral health of humanity’s dynamic whole.