Thursday, September 22, 2011

UNEASY RITUALS - New publication by Patrick Sammut


Short-story writing in Maltese is an exquisite experience for both the author and the reader. The language, as unique and challenging as it really is, lends itself magnificently to the genre, probably surpassed only by poetry which, as we know, provokes the highest literary elocution in the Semetic family of languages to which our National Language belongs.

However, it is no easy task to capture its spirit and nuance in translation, more so when introduced to an Anglo-Saxon linguistic ambience. Thankfully enough, Patrick Sammut’s forceful works, enriched by a strong vocabulary and a highly-committed style of presentation, found in Alfred Palma the precise, often patient translator who excels in both languages, and what you have in your hands is one special niche dedicated to modern Maltese Literature.

This is not the first time original Maltese Language works have been reproduced in English. Our national poet, Dun Karm, and several other Maltese writers and poets have had their works translated into English in what has been a commendable and fruitful exercise at displaying some of the best fare produced for our minuscule, yet throbbing literary market.

Patrick Sammut belongs to the new generation of young writers and poets who have gradually and successfully managed to cross the all-important bridge connecting the earlier Sixties generation to their pre-Wold War II predecessors. His commitment to Maltese literature has seen him establishing himself as not only a respected writer and poet, but also as a top-class literary critic whose works have become standard reference to anyone seeking to study or further analyse the development of modern Maltese Literature by way of the various generations that have come up during the past half century.

These short stories continue to underline Sammut’s linguistic prowess even when set against a massive creative background. He has put together an anthology that both entices and entertains. He gives a scholarly touch to what ever he writes – the teacher in him? – but still somehow manages to steer clear from the overtly academic that sometimes can dampen or anchor an otherwise good work.

Sammut’s frequent use of the first person is an elaborate piece of style, giving it authenticity and impact when least likely. His subject matter is wide and varied, his judgemental (again the teacher in him) attitude amply made up for by an unselfish and open-minded approach to all his characters and storylines. There is a keen sense of optimism, some would describe it as an acute sense of good feeling, in his work even in the worst scenarios of the stories.

This anthology provides the calm to every personal or third-party storm in the stories. Sammut is soothing and eager to please, his stories fun, his creativity sometimes predictable but still highly captivating. It makes of him the visibly mature author with something to say, unembarrassed to do so and seemingly determined to show it can be done minus the vulgarities and sensationalisms of some recent Maltese Language publications by authors of Sammut’s age and younger.

To have them produced and packaged in international mode, courtesy the English Language, is a joyous occasion for Maltese literary creativity and another welcome salvo from Patrick Sammut the man, the teacher, the critic, the poet and the innate story-teller.

Charles Flores, Sliema, MALTA

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