by Norbert Ellul Vincenti

Immanuel Mifsud has been bred on the theatre, to which he was drawn at an early age. He has an eye for the particular element in character that makes them preciously malleable to the dramatic form.

He is feverishly alive to people's interests and environments, pains and secrets. He looks at life with the eyes of a social commentator who wishes to participate in the experience that is being undergone. He has love for the poor and downtrodden and emarginalised.

An earlier book of a colection of short stories was about these. It was called Stejjer ta' Nies Koroh (Stories of Ugly People), that is, stories about the unremarkable ones in our midst.

There are plenty of those among us, you would say. They come not only from among the financially poor and lowly, but also from the richer and inane section of our society, the newly-made-rich-quickly, the absent-parent(s) children, the absent-children parents, the square pegs in round holes personalities, the enormously rich with no ideas what to do with their money, the denizens of enormous marbled but sad and hearless villas, the intellectuals with no sense of control over their lives, the godless arguers about God, the self-opinionated holders of long-standing social theories many times debunked. Somebody needs to pay attention to them too - and love them. These are some of our poor and pitiable, too.

In this collection of multi-coloured and multi-shaped writings, Immanuel Mifsud sets his sights on 'those who meet, without knowing each other, on Saturday Nights, in a haze of disillusionemnt'. Different people, of course, have different ways of reacting to Saturday Night fever.

There is a man who sees from his window a world different fromt he one he knew years ago.

The first disappointment comes to a newly married young woman.

The radio speaks; a Maltese emigrant returns to a changed society wondering whether it has been all for the good; a first experience comes at a discotheque ...

There are story-less features, like the opening one about the search for truth in thesocial ambiguities we live in.

Amidst the Maltenglish of cosmetic language - lipstikk, hendbeg, sprej - a sexually deprived wife of six year reflects on the boredom of the Saturday pizza outings, followed by more boredom in bed, while vainly awaiting her husband's unlatching of himself from television, and wondering whether all men are like that.

Then there is a highly charged (linguistically and emotionally) series of reflections on Desert Storm and the resulting apocalypse.

Christmas inspires its own share of ironic thoughts about the quick exchange of huge amounts of money and empty-of-all meaning greetings.

"Gideb" is masterly story, set in Saturday villa party life, of an adulterous man who 'returns' to his parents' love, and to sanity, when he realises that he has been 'betrayed' and 'used' by an adulterous woman intent on taking revenge on an adulterous husband.

'Ir-Radju' is a satirical comment on Saturday night radio confessions of people phoning in to tell all Malta what they would not tell in any proper confessional. The radio will then open in the morning with music (of course), intersperse some news occasionally, and boast there is no better in Malta - or more popular.

Guilt, sexual awakening, personal shipwreck, spiritual dryness are all subjects that Mifsud tackles. He uses narrative, stream of consiousness, verse, dramatic form, poetic 'drifting'.

In his introduction, Mifsud says he searches for the truth. Mifsud, as I read him, goes deep, without really coming to grips with the absolute, logical truth, or even trying to, unless it be that he gropes for the hidden nerve, the secret pain, the bloody spot that will not wash away, the gawing ulcer deep inside. But this, after all, is another way of agreeing with Mifsud and saying what he says.

We shall definitely see more of this writer. He has the necessary feeling for words, and the right empathy with human nature. His, is an authentic voice.

The Times (Malta), ‚Äč5 January 1994