Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi by Alex Vella Gera

I wish to preface this selection with a bit of a preamble that I think gives some relevant context. In 2009, Alex Vella Gera published ‘Li Tkisser Sewwi’ in the campus publication, Ir-Realtà. The perceived obscenity of the story led to the publication being banned from the University and a highly controversial court case. The case culminated in a much-needed legal reform to Malta’s censorship laws and an acquittal for both author and editor. In an article published following the acquittal, Vella Gera stated:

I was inspired to write the story back in 1997 after comparing Maltese literature (written up to that time) with other literatures, major and minor, and finding it lacking in one particular element: genuine realism when dealing with the more sordid aspects of our world.

I would argue that Vella Gera achieves his aims far more skilfully in his novel Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi (The Snakes Have Once Again Become Poisonous). If I were hard pressed to choose only one ‘story’ on this list that I wished to see translated into English immediately, it would be this one. I was completely knocked sideways by this book. It is, to my mind, one of the most accurate and compelling depictions of Malteseness in contemporary fiction – ‘ugly bits’ included. Vella Gera is such a masterful writer in the way he handles the protagonist’s struggle with class and language, the political legacy of the Mintoffian era, the constant desire to escape, what it means to be an expat and our ambivalence towards Malta.

Merlin, 2012