Sieħbi Immanuel Mifsud dalgħodu ħabbar fuq Facebook li Daniel Ellul tana feature qasir fuq il-letteratura Maltija kontemporanja fis-Sunday Times ilbieraħ (li sa dalgħodu kien għadu ma dehrx fuq is-sit tagħhom), u li hu kien mitlub jikkummenta dwar is-suġġett. Immanuel irripproduċa t-tweġiba tiegħu fuq il-blogg tiegħu. Jien ukoll intlabt nikkummenta, imma ma qalulix li hemm deadline marbuta ma’ dan l-artiklu allura l-kummenti tiegħi waslu tard wisq biex ikunu nklużi. Xejn ta’ barra minn hawn, però ħsibt li naqsam it-tweġibiet tiegħi minn fuq il-messenger hawn:
Is Maltese literature passing through a golden age?
I believe that it’s only really with the benefit of hindsight that we can determine golden ages in literature or any other field of creativity. What may seem like a great period in any given time while it’s ongoing may seem less relevant later.
What themes, style, motifs etc. Define contemporary maltese lit?
It’s hard to define anything these days. That’s a theme in itself. We are, however, finally seeing a more inclusive scene develop. It also depends on how you frame the term “contemporary”. I’d like to think that this relates to writers who are still alive and/or have produced something that we’re still discussing now in the context of whatever else is going on in our lives.
Is Maltese lit now more critical than the past? I.e towards society, those in power etc.
No. Maltese writers have been critical for a long time. The key difference now, perhaps, is that there are more writers able to communicate to audiences willing to read whatever they may be writing. Another key thing to consider is the relaxation of censorship laws. Things that were legally classfied as blasphemy or our-rightly prohibited just a few years ago are now legally acceptable.
Which works were the first to start this “critical” contemporary period?
It’s hard to say, especially if, like me, you believe that criticality has existed in Maltese literature for many decades. However, if you press me on the point of a contemporary period, I’d have to point to the short-lived Minima publishing house and the writing of authors like Immanuel Miifsud, the retired novelist Ġużè Stagno, Karl Schembri, and Alex Vera Gera elsewhere. However, that’s very much an old boys’ club perspective, and therefore we shouldn’t ovelook the significant contribution of authors like Claire Azzopardi, playwright Simone Spiteri, and Loranne Vella.
These last years have seen several new authors make it to the literary scene. Why do you think this is happening?
I want to believe that the National Book Council has something to do with this. However, I’d say that the greatest contributing factor is likely to be the fact that we’re now a full generation away from being an independent republic that’s also a member state of the EU, even if remnants of the colonial mentality still reign widely across the Maltese islands
How many people buy a successful Maltese language novel/ collection of short stories?
I wouldn’t know. The only people who can really answer this question are the publishers. I haven’t asked Klabb Kotba Maltin for the figures for either my novel Varjetà or my collection of short stories (if you can call them that) co-written with Immanuel Mifsud (awarded the National Book Prize in 2021), which was also broadcast as an audio book on Campus FM. Nor do I have the figures from the book of writings by Charles Clews I edited for SKS Publishers in 2019. Still, whatever the numbers may be, I’m sure it’s far from enough to sustain the book publishing industry or for anyone in Malta to live off the earnings from professionally writing novels or short stories.
What are some of the biggest challenges Maltese lang authors face today?
From my personal perspective, the greatest challenge is finding relevant publishers willing to circulate the works of Maltese authors to audiences outside of Malta in languages other than Maltese. The National Book Council was ramping up to address this issue before the pandemic but nothing really significant seems to have come of it more recently. Without this, Maltese-language authors remain, at best, parochial heroes or anti-heroes, take your pick.
Which contemporary Maltese lit book do you recommend?
Kissitu Kullimkien by Lara Calleja.