Il-Linja l-Ħadra ta’ Clare Azzopardi

 
     
 

Diskors ta' Adrian Grima

Review by Paul Xuereb - Riċensjoni ta' Mario Azzopardi

Go to English version    


 

Il-Ħamis, 6 ta’ Lulju, fit-8.00pm fit-Teatru tal-Kavallier ta’ San Ġakbu, Merlin Library se jniedi l-ktieb ta’ novelli għall-kbar ta’ Clare Azzopardi bl-isem ta’ Il-Linja l-Ħadra li ġie ddisinjat mill-artist magħruf Pierre Portelli. L-atturi Marcelle Teuma u Joseph Galea se jaqraw uħud mix-xogħlijiet, waqt li Dr. Adrian Grima se jagħmel taħdita qasira. Kulħadd huwa mistieden.

 

Uħud min-novelli li hemm f'dan il-ktieb dehru diġà bl-Ingliż (tradotti minn Albert Gatt) f'kotba li ġew ippubblikati f’Ċipru, l-Iskozja, l-Irlanda u Malta. In-novella Il-Linja l-Ħadra nqrat minn Marcelle Teuma fil-Festival Internazzjonali tan-Novella li ttella’ mill-Kunsill Nazzjonali ta’ l-Ilsien Malti f’Diċembru ta’ l-2005.

 

Fid-daħla tiegħu għall-ktieb Dr. Grima jgħid li “Minkejja li tirrakkonta stejjer li fihom infushom huma “komuni,” l-istrateġija narrattiva ta’ Azzopardi xejn mhi komuni.” Il-ħila ta’ l-awtriċi “li torganizza l-istejjer tagħha b’mod li qatt ma taf x’inhu ġej jixħet aktar l-attenzjoni tagħna l-qarrejja fuq kull kelma li tikteb, fuq kull taqsima li toħloq, fuq kull djalogu li “tislet” minn fomm il-poplu komuni tal-bidu tas-seklu 21. U minkejja l-organizzazzjoni metikoluża, dawn l-istejjer ma jinħassux stilizzati jew letterarji żżejjed – pjuttost bil-maqlub.”

 

“Kultant, b’dak li tikteb, Azzopardi kapaċi tagħti l-impressjoni li n-narrattiva tagħha hija sempliċi, li hija riproduzzjoni faċli, forsi fidila wisq u għalhekk prożajka żżejjed, tad-diskors tagħna ta’ kuljum, u li ma tridx wisq biex tikteb stejjer bħal tagħha. Imma kif jistgħu jixhdu dawk kollha li jiktbu jew jippruvaw jiktbu dan mhux minnu, għax in-narrattiva tagħha hija r-riżultat mhux biss ta’ talent mitwieled fiha iżda ta’ reviżjoni kontinwa u ħafna qari ta’ xogħlijiet ta’ kittieba ewlenin, minn Angela Carter, Dacia Maraini u Djuna Barnes, sa John Fowles, Julian Barnes, u Irvine Welsh.”

 

Fuq Il-Linja l-Ħadra, l-awtur Immanuel Mifsud jgħid hekk: “Jekk se taqra dan il-ktieb lesti ruħek: f’dawn l-istejjer il-familjari jsir stramb, u l-istramb isir tant familjari. Clare Azzopardi se ddaħħlek fi mkejjen fejn mhux suppost tittawwal.”

 

Skond Dr. Mary Darmanin, “B’ħarsa kuraġġuża lejn il-ħajja Azzopardi tqaxxar kull qoxra li warajha nixtiequ ninħbew. Minn barra kulħadd jidher normali, imma fl-istejjer ta’ Azzopardi kull persuna ssir unika u irrepetibbli.”

 

Clare Azzopardi (1977) temmet l-istudji tagħha fl-Edukazzjoni fl-Università ta' Malta fl-1999 u llum tgħallem il-Malti fl-iskola sekondarja tal-bniet Sir Luigi Preziosi u fl-Università ta' Malta. Fl-2004 ġabet Masters fl-Edukazzjoni mill-Università ta’ Sheffield fl-Ingilterra. Hija attiva f’Inizjamed u kienet il-koordinatriċi ta’ żewġ korsijiet għal min irid jikteb letteratura għat-tfal, żewġ sensiliet workshops għall-kitba tan-nisa u bosta proġetti. Mexxiet ukoll sessjoni ta' kitba kreattiva bħala parti mill-Festival Internazzjonali tan-Novella mtella' mill-Kunsill Nazzjonali ta' l-Ilsien Malti.

 

Xi xogħlijiet tagħha ntgħażlu biex jinqraw waqt attivitajiet letterarji mtellgħa minn Poeżijaplus u Inizjamed. Clare Azzopardi tat sehemha wkoll fil-kitba tal-kotba edukattivi Prosit (2000), Skaluni (2001), Stilel (2003-2005), Senduq Kuluri (2005) u Senduq Buffuri (2005) Il-poeżiji tagħha dehru f’Illejla Ismagħni Ftit (2001) u xi novelli dehru f’Kull Belt Hemm Kantuniera (2003), Ktieb għall-Ħruq (2005) u fir-rivista letterarja In Focus (Ċipru, 2005). Fl-2005 ħareġ il-ktejjeb tagħha Others, Across fis-sensiela Contemporary Maltese Literature in Translation (Inizjamed, Midsea Books) bi traduzzjonijiet għall-Ingliż ta' Albert Gatt ta' tnejn min-novelli tagħha.

 
 
 
 
 

Clare Azzopardi to Launch Il-Linja l-Ħadra on Thursday

                                                               

On Thursday 6 July at 8.00pm, at St James Cavalier, Merlin Library will be launching a collection of short stories for adults by Clare Azzopardi; entitled Il-Linja l-Ħadra. The book has a cover designed by the well-known artist Pierre Portelli. The evening will include readings by Marcelle Teuma and Joseph Galea, and a short comment by Dr Adrian Grima. The general public is welcome.

 

English translations of some of the stories in the collection have been published in Cyprus, Scotland, Ireland and Malta. The story Il-Linja l-Ħadra  was read by Marcelle Teuma at the International Short Story Festival organised by the National Council of the Maltese Language in December 2005.

 

In his critical introduction to the book, Dr Grima states that, "Azzopardi's narrative strategy is unique, despite the ostensive familiarity of the subject matter." The author's "ability to tell such unpredictable stories serves to further draw the reader's attention to every word, every turn of events, and every snatch of dialogue that she elicits from the normal people, living at the turn of the 21st Century. Despite their meticulous organisation, these stories are far from stylised or excessively literary - quite the contrary. "

 

Albert Gatt, Azzopardi’s translator, states that, "Azzopardi's narratives would be more accurately characterised as small sketches from the lives of individuals ... the refusal to tell it straight is a crucial aspect of Azzopardi’s fiction."

 

The author Immanuel Mifsud has the following comment to make about Il-Linja l-Ħadra: "Readers about to tackle this book should be prepared. In these stories, the familiar begins to seem strange, and the strange becomes familiar. Clare Azzopardi will lead you to places where you shouldn't dare to pry."

 

According to Dr Mary Darmanin, "Under Azzopardi's courageous face, all the layers beneath which we take to conceal ourselves begin to peel away. While everyone likes to present a normal exterior, every person becomes unique and unreplicable in Azzopardi's stories."

 

Azzopardi has also published numerous works related to education, such as Prosit (2000), Skaluni (2001), Stilel (Merlin, 2003-2006) and Senduq Kuluri/Buffuri (Merlin, 2005-2006), Einstein u Peppina Favlina (Education Department, 2005). Her poetry and short stories have been collected in anthologies such as Illejla Ismagħni Ftit (2001), Gżejjer (Inizjamed, 2000), F’Kull Belt Hemm Kantuniera (Inizjamed, 2003) and Ktieb għall-Ħruq (Inizjamed, 2004).

 

 
 
 
 

COMPLEX PEOPLE IN COMPLEX STORIES

Paul Xuereb

 

Clare Azzopardi: Il-Linja l-Ħadra. Merlin, 2006.  ISBN 999091277-7  135pp.

 

Clare Azzopardi is one of a small number of young authors, most of them associated with Inizjamed, who can be regarded as the New Wave of our time. The group includes among others writers like Adrian Grima, Ġużè Stagno, Stanley Borg and, of course, Immanuel Mifsud whose second prize in this year’s National Book Awards for his volume of short stories Kimika must have astonished those who strove to prevent its publication and even its being reviewed.

 

The nine stories in this elegant little volume with its red cover and green ribbon ties show Azzopardi’s alignment with some of the authors with whom she is associated, in her mastery of a colloquial style, especially in the dialogue, which includes coarse language and in her preference for the predicaments of free-living young people and the relations between the citizens of this country and the immigrants who come to our shores without passport or visa. She gives us pictures of a young society living often on the razor’s edge and having precarious relations with the elders of that society. It is a picture that is often grey or even black, but the vigour of the writing and the faceted structure of the stories prevent the readers from ever getting depressed.

 

As Adrian Grima writes in his introduction to the volume, “[She] gives us different voices and perspectives, and very often the complexity of her plots disorientate us or even bewilder us…” Thus in “Ir-Raġel li waqagħlu l-mobile fil-loki”, which about the interconnected lives of people living in a block of flats, Azzopardi cuts rapidly from one person’s perspective to another and only late in the story allows an event mentioned early on to produce yet another unhappy experience for the unfortunate young man who has repeatedly dropped his mobiles in his toilet bowl. This is the lightest of the stories, but even in this piece none of the characters seems to be having much fun.

 

Also humorous is “Isma’ tini l-business card tiegħek!” in which the narrator describes how a sexy woman seated next to her on a plane behaves to an excitable and very susceptible air steward and to her. The story opens with the author’s using the cliché of a metaphorical recipe for a human relationship or event, but the cliché improves when she applies it to her classification of relationships: “those you try once and are immediately successful so you keep on using them until your fingers get worn out by the odour of onions and garlic; those others that are pale, dry , unattractive, and more or less artificial” and so on. The sexy woman’s behaviour is outrageous in the narrator’s eyes, but the woman cares very little for this, and by the end of the flight she gets her own back on her censorious neighbour, who is a lawyer, by seriously embarrassing her. The author does not pass judgement, but I suspect she prefers the fun-loving woman to the self-important lawyer.

 

Of the other stories, “Jien ix-Xhud” is a dark little tale of a marriage that starts going wrong during the wedding ceremony itself where nobody has a pen with which to sign the register, and the narrator, one of the witnesses, has to write her signature with a pencil. The author shows impressionistically how wrong this marriage has gone and hints at the bride’s subsequent suicide. Has she leaped down from an upper window, has she hanged herself wearing her wedding-dress? Azzopardi lets us guess. What is clear is the symbolism of of the marriage signatures having been written in pencil, and the explicit judgement on the impermanence of contemporary marriages emerging from the death of the priest who officiated at the wedding, on whose tomb the following epitaph is engraved: “Here lies buried the love that wedded 33 couples, none of whom are now living together.”

 

In “Rasi ġo l-ilma” the hatred of Gordon, a young soldier, for his abusive and drug-dealing father is woven with the tale of his sudden conversion from a beater up of interned immigrants to a darkly gleeful liberator of a large group of them. As a boy, Gordon was forced by his father to keep his head down in a bath of water with his lungs near bursting, while his younger sister lived in such a state of fear that she was permanently dumb. Freeing the immigrants is for Gordon an act that redeems him to an extent from his being the son of his dastardly father, whom he has once agreed to help with his drug-pushing, and makes him worthier of being the son of his beloved and much maligned mother. The conversations between father and son reach an oddly moving climax in the one where the father lies dying and tries awkwardly to reach out to his son, but Gordon hardens his heart against him.

 

“/No adjective describe story/” focuses much more on immigrants than “Rasi go l-ilma.” It is also more intellectually engaging because of the way Azzopardi shows how the linguistic barriers between Adiam, a sensitive and affectionate immigrant woman, on the one hand, and the Maltese people who want to help her, on the other, are not an impediment to the encounter of their humanity. The drama of the immigrants is placed ironically against a background of St Paul’s shipwreck on our shores. Azzopardi is skilful at depicting the friendship between women: in this case between Ruth, the immigrant-runner’s daughter; Rachel, the immigrant-runner’s former young mistress, and Adiam.

 

Of the other stories, the title story is structured within a journey on the District Line of London’s underground railway, from Stepney Green to Victoria, made by a Maltese woman sick with cancer and her two afflicted friends two days after the 7/7 terrorist attacks on the underground. The train is empty, the stations – even Victoria – are empty, but two of them half hope that a bomb will hit them and deliver them from their sorrows and pains. Each station is like a station of the Way of the Cross, except that the meditations it arouses are not religious but painfully existential. The protagonist is not just physically sick but mentally afflicted by her mother’s hostility to her homosexuality; she remembers a dialogue between her and her mother in which the mother persists in ignoring her daughter’s hints that lesbianism runs in the family. Her journey on the underground has taken her nowhere, and in the epilogue we see her seeking, in vain as ever, a refuge back at home in Malta.

 

The book is dedicated to Albert Gatt who has produced in Others, Across (Inizjamed, Midsea Books, 2005) excellent English translations of two of the stories in the present book.

 

 

Published in The Sunday Times (17 Dec. 2006)

 

 
 
 
 

IL-LINJA L-ĦADRA: IS-SENS AKUT TAR-RABJA FEMMINISTA

Minn Mario Azzopardi

 

Clare Azzopardi, Il-Linja l-Ħadra, Merlin Library, 2006

 

Jekk taħseb li l-letteratura tar-rabja sfumat wara John Osborne u l-qatgħa ta' l-irrabjati l-oħra ta' l-era tas-Sittinijiet, erġa' aħsibha. L-iskumdità u r-rabja għadhom jinfurmaw il-letteratura kontemporanja, minn Dario Fo sa Ravenhill, minn Harold Pinter sa Irvine Welsh.

 

Hemm imbagħad il-letteratura femminista post-moderna, b'esponenti bħal Angela Carter, li mietet fl-1992 wara li akkwistat titli notorji, fosthom li x-xogħol tagħha hu sado-masokista, pornografiku u xempju tat-terroriżmu letterarju femminili.

 

Lokalment, Clare Azzopardi tista' tinkwadra ruħha fil-messa-in-xena ta' l-iskumdità u r-rabja. L-istejjer tagħha huma distanti mill-pijunieri tal-letteratura moderna femminista f'Malta, kif esponewha wħud bħal Lillian Sciberras, Marlene Saliba, Pauline Miceli, Daniela Attard Bezzina, Maria Grech Ganado u Doreen Micallef, li kkonfrontat anki lil Alla u ppruvat iccarratlu l-maskra.

 

Il-preokkupazzjonijiet ta' Azzopardi huma differenti. Dak tagħha jikkostitwixxi muntaġġ minn frammenti realistici li jinnega l-linearità narrattiva. Hu muntaġġ ipprovokat minn esperjenzi li għexet jew li laqtuha mill-qrib u li tinterpreta skond sensibbiltà li taqtagħha mill-principju tal-"letterarjetà" stretta, sterjotipika. B'danakollu, il-persona fl-istejjer tagħha, għallinqas kif toħroġ minn Il-Linja l-Ħadra (Merlin Library, 2006) hi ambigwa: għandha resonanzi personali daqskemm għandha mill-interrogatorju kollettiv li jagħmlu dwar ħajjithom u c-cirkostanzi ta' ħajjithom kor ta' nisa li jippruvaw jinħelsu, jiddemolizzaw l-istrutturi patrijarkali li rabtuhom b'oppressjoni ma' realtà waħda u limitata.

 

Kif kien intqal dwar Angela Carter, fi Clare Azzopardi jinħass ukoll l-istint irrabjat biex tkun dekolonizzata s-sesswalità femminili, anki f'sens "politiku".

 

Azzopardi stqarret f'intervista li kienet saritilha m'ilux li m'hijiex it-tip li tinfluwenza ruħha minn temi politici li joħorġu fil-gazzetti għall-konsum pubbliku. Iżda anki qari superficjali tar-"rakkonti" f'Il-Linja l-Ħadra jittradixxu lil din il-percezzjoni privata. Minbarra l-politika sesswali li tinħass timbotta x-xogħol kollu tagħha (b'kumbattimenti omofobici, kumplessi kontra l-paternità u l-bqija), Azzopardi tiddakkar anki minn tendenzi pubblici espressi fil-media, bħall-kuntrast li tagħmel bejn il-Maltin li laqgħu lil San Pawl u x-xenofobija li ħakmet lil taqsimiet socjali wesgħin fi żmienna.

 

Fost il-gallerija ta' karattri mġarrba li toħloq (għalija m'humiex "eccentrici", imma diversi minn dawk li jdommu l-kwotidjanità tagħhom skond regoli determinanti), Azzopardi tinterzja lilha nfisha, anki f'passaġġi ta' liricità limpida, vulnerabbli. Dan hu l-mod kif tiddeskrivi l-biki ta' Kristi f'“Rasi go l-ilma”:

 

"Biki għajjien, bħal tal-gawwi fuq il-baħar filgħodu kmieni. Kemm nixtieq nara l-gawwi xi darba. Kemm nixtieq nara ħafna gawwi ta' vera bħalma nara fuq it-televixin, u nibda nibki bla ma nisma' l-biki tiegħi qalb il-biki ta' mitt elf gawwija"

 

Iżda n-nota li l-aktar tindaqq f'din id-damma ta' stejjer li dik aggressiva, anki vjolenti. L-espressjoni esplicita tat-taħdit u tal-kuntest (inkluż dak lesbiku) timmarka pass importanti għal-letteratura femminista f'Malta. Il-mara hi meħlusa mill-kostrizzjoni tal-kawtela u mogħtija l-martell biex tkisser il-konnessjoni bejn il-poter maskili u l-abbuż. U l-aġitazzjoni kollha, mimlija rabja (imrażżna jew imwerżqa) għandha l-ħoss akut ta' l-emerġenza.

 

Jekk il-linja bejn il-liberazzjoni u l-oppressjoni għadha fitta u ostinata, dan mhux tort ta' l-awtrici.

 

 

Din ir-riċensjoni dehret f’Il-Mument tal-5 ta' Novembru 2006