Mariella Pisani Bencini is a National Book Prize-winning author. She has so far published two books, one in Maltese titled Tlett Nisa u Mara, and another in English called We Belong. She has also produced Malta’s longest-running television programme, Meander, Arti u Kultura, which is now in its 30th year. Here, she tells Iggy Fenech why Ġorġ Peresso’s novel, L-aħħar Warda, published by Horizons in 2021, is her favourite book by a Maltese author.
My favourite book by another Maltese author: L-aħħar Warda by Ġorġ Peresso.
It’s about: The novel recounts the story of a gentleman whose origins are shrouded in mystery and the enigmatic relationship that develops between him and a beautiful young girl, ripe for knowledge with a bad experience in her past.
The thing that most fascinates me about it is: In this novel, Peresso portrays man at par with nature; indeed, at one with nature. In fact, I consider this novel to be an ode to Nature, written in a poetic style that’s deep and profound… It provokes thought and concern for the beauty of the nature around us. As in a fairy tale, reality is sparked with magic, and the characters are simultaneously depicted as superhuman and humanly vulnerable. Moreover, through the author’s distinctive style, the novel, imbued with an underlying sense of musicality, is a song to Nature. Page after page, it constantly provides food for thought.
My favourite quote from it is: ‘L-arti hi l-mod kif it-tajjeb isir sabiħ u għalhekk it-tajjeb biss jista’ jifhem dak li hu sabiħ.’
If you could ask the author anything about it, what would it be? I had interviewed the author about this novel on Meander. It was an interesting talk, which revealed the depth of the author’s thoughts and how he incorporated them into the narrative. I’m fascinated by his heartfelt appeal for the preservation of Beauty, in all its forms, and how he writes about this in words that are carefully chosen and that render the Maltese language so beautiful.
It’s helped shape my writing/thinking because: I, too, am concerned with the concept of Beauty, and I particularly admired the author’s style of writing, a reflective yet flowing style imbued with symbolism. L-Aħħar Warda elicited from me, an author myself, a greater appreciation of our important role, as authors, in the enrichment of Maltese literature.
I’m currently working on: The production, scripting, and presenting of my weekly television programme, Meander, Arti u Kultura on NET TV. This takes up most of my time, however, over the past few years, I have been working on my third novel. This will be in Maltese and is, as yet, unnamed. It will be set in Malta in the second half of the 20th century.