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When asked, during an interview, how he had hit upon the idea for his book The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco simply replied, "I felt like poisoning a monk." That, for the semiotics professor and author, was inspiration enough. If I had the chance, I would ask the same question to author Pierre J. Mejlak. What does he feed his imagination so that, in return, it fattens his mind with storylines and populates it with memorable characters? What does his trained eye see that we don't? And that most shallow, yet nagging, of questions – why does he write?

Maybe Mejlak writes to remember. After all, the stories in his latest collection, Dak li l-Lejl Ihallik Tghid (what the night lets you say), are spiked with memories, regret, closures from the past that the characters would like to change the ending to, and stories that are only recalled in hours of dire need. Mejlak sees a story in everyone. Underneath our costumes and routines, we all have a story, a tragedy that ends in laughter, a joke that ends in tears. And the author's role is to read us in degree zero, and then fill in the blanks between our thoughts and limbs. Mejlak finds clues – a twitch or look here, a mannerism there – and follows them until he has the whole story.

Such clues enrich Mejlak's stories with intricate detail. Indeed, the author relishes minutiae – small, eavesdropping details that tell big truths. In L-Ambaxxatrici (the ambassador), it is the ambassador's choice of perfume that first outlines, and then colours her in, in all her layers and complexities. And in Kolp ta' Stat (coup d'état), the protagonist recalls his former girlfriend's mole on her shoulders, and on that dissects a whole anatomy of loss.

Back to my original question, maybe Mejlak writes because he wants to forget. To forget how, despite living in the age of man, the world goes on without us. As the widow in Preludju (prologue) listens while the conversation during her husband's funeral moves to surface realities, she realises how dispensable everyone is and how, despite what we think, when we die, life, in all its triviality and importance, still goes on.

But maybe, Mejlak writes because he simply wants to write. He wants to travel on a flying carpet of words, from Spain in Mort Naraha, Pa (I went to see her, pa) and Malawi in Kolp ta' Stat (coup d'état) to a war torn country in Il-Kubu ta' Rubik (The Girl with the Rubik's Cube) and, of course, Gozo. And Mejlak wants to find joy in writing; the joy of beautiful metaphors. And, as in Nuria Angels Barrera, Mejlak wants to taste the joy of writing as a secret pursuit, an act of protest, of love, of revenge.

Stanley Borg, The Times


              ©2006 Pierre J Mejlak. Site by: briangrech