‘Such themes were taboo in Maltese society in 2005’

Alfred Buttigieg shares why Immanuel Mifsud’s Kimika is his favourite book by another Maltese author.
Alfred Buttigieg discusses his favourite book by a Maltese author.

Alfred Buttigieg’s career as an author and playwright has spanned over three decades. Among his work, there are plays like Ir-Rewwixta tal-Qassisin, which was dubbed “the first important historical play written and performed in Malta since its independence” by drama expert Marco Galea in the 1980s, and Ippermettili Nitlaq, which in 2010 was chosen as one of the 120 best contemporary plays for the stage at the European Theatre Convention.

My favourite book by another Maltese author: Kimika by Immanuel Mifsud. 

It’s about: Kimika is a collection of seven short stories which focus on Maltese people who experience moments – or lives – of profound vulnerability. It’s a rich and varied gallery of characters written in different styles and shades of tone and idiom, at times poetic, at times poignant, sometimes laconic, sometimes coarse. The plots include seedy aspects of Maltese life – sexual abuse, prostitution, paedophilia, racism, and drugs. Such themes were taboo in Maltese society in 2005, when this book was published. 

The thing that most fascinates me about it is: Immanuel’s ability to avoid sensationalism. He combines sombre themes and heartbreaking situations with comedy, irony, and wit, making them compelling and entertaining. 

My favourite quote from it is: My favourite quote is from the story Angela, Jane u Lin. It has to be this one, given my anticlericalism and hatred of hypocrisy in politics and religion: “Dun Nicholas: Angela, indem ħa nagħtik l-assoluzzjoni. Angela: Daħħalha f’għajnek l-assoluzzjoni!” (Repent so I can grant you absolution/ Shove your absolution up your arse.)

If you could ask the author anything about it, what would it be? I would ask him what his own response was to the cries of the shearwaters. I know that the story Il-Lejl L-Iswed taċ-Ċief is rooted in a birdwatching visit Immanuel himself made to a cliff in Ta’ Ċenċ. 

It helped shape my writing/thinking because: Immanuel’s characterisation might have influenced me to pay closer attention to character development in my plays. 

I’m currently working on: I believe in patterns. Although I consider myself a playwright first and foremost, I started my writing career with a novella, Gezzu, and I like to think I’ll end it with another. In recent years, I’ve been working on and off on a semi-autobiographical piece, which I think of as my memoirs in disguise. I hate talking about my personal experiences so it’s turning out to be harder to write than I expected. But anyway, Gezzu was a kind of existential fable about a non-conformist spider; the present work is narrated from the point of view of a pet tortoise observing a human individual’s life. As I said, I enjoy parallels in life and art.

For more Sunday Circle magazine features read all about Giovanni Bonello’s favourite book or this long read about living with a disability in an ableist society.

Related Posts