IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER
by Alex Vella Gregory
For someone who believes an author should make his reader feel 'uncomfortable', Immanuel Mifsud is surprisingly calm and composed.
It is hard to believe this soft-spoken man is the same man who caused a stir with Kimika a few years back. Then again, one should not judge a book by its cover.
We start off talking about his work as an author, and more specifically how he looks upon the author's role in today'ssociety. "Literature is not there simply to please," he insists, "it is sthere to make us feel uncomfortable , to make us think". He extends his statement to all forms of art, and feels that in Malta we are still tied to the idea that art is there just to please
Mifsud's writing certainly moves away from such ideas, and indeed the ability to challenge our viewpoints is one of the hallmarks of his style. Inevitably, we end up talking about censorship, including the condemnation of his book Kimika as "literary pornography" in the media. Once more, I am impressed by his pragmatism.
The person who reacted like that was simply defending himself. The book clearly made him uncomfortable."
So is he against censorship outright? Before he answers that question, he calmly redefines the issue. "Kimikawas not intended for children. It required a mature audience, and I insisted a recommended age would be prnted on the cover of the first edition to give an indication. There were people who criticised me for it, saying I was limiting access."
Mifsud is in favour of limiting access to protect minors, but he insists that no adult should be prevented from choosing whatever literary work he wants.
Mifsud's writing delves deep into the human psyche and explores its darkest corners, and for his next book, Mifsud has chosen to delve deep into his own thoughts.
"Fl-Isem tal-Missier (u tal-Iben)j is autobiographical," asserts Mifsud. The title, In the Name of the Father (and of the Son) is not merely a poetic figure of speech. He feels it is a major departure from all that he has written before. Although it is ostensibly a series of memoirs about his father, th ebook goes further than that. Very often, the distinction between prose and poetry is blurred, creating a dreamy atmosphere where recollection and reflection unite.
One of the main issues that come to the fore is that of masculinity. "There is a lot of contemporary thinking about the crisis of masculinity, and growing up for me was in itself a crisis." He outlines some of the contradictions he had to face, including the big age gap between him and his father, and the discrepancy between his own robust appearance and the sensitivity of his nature.
Gender roles are not Mifsud's only concerns. In the book he also touches upon the political scene of post-colonial Malta. As a child his father sheltered him from politics, and it took time for him to work how things were. He also remarks that a lot of prose at the time steered clear of political writing, with a few notable exceptions.
My father considered politics as an exclusively adult domain, and I am grateful that he didn't involve me in it."
Fl-Isem tal-Missieris not simply about the author's relationship with his father, but also with his son. Indeed, Mifsud points to two key events that inspired him to write this book.
The first was his discovery of his father's wartime diaries. The second was precisely the birth of his son. "When you become a father, you face a lot of issues, including your own relationship with your father."
So, has writing this book helped him to face his demons? "I do not know," he admits very frankly. "It is still too early for me to say, and quite honestly I still do not know exactly why I wrote this book."
What Mifsud is definitely aware of is the need to look for new forms of expression and new ideas. Although like any author he fears the dreaded writer's block, he is more afraid of repeating himself and paying lip service to his readers.
Fl-Isem tal-Missier (u tal-Iben) makrs a new direction for Immanuel Mifsud. The journey might not be an easy one, but for those who are willing to try it, they will surely not be disappointed.
Fl-Isem tal-Missier *u tal-Iben is published byKlabb Kotba Maltin, and will be officially launched on October 7.
The Sunday Times (Malta), 26 September 2010
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