Juann Mamo rediscovered


Klabb Kotba Maltin has just published Ġrajja Maltija – Ġabra ta’ Novelli, a collection of Juann Mamo’s hitherto unpublished short stories ─ writings that had only appeared on left-wing newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s. This anthology, edited by Mark Vella, contains a critical essay and is replete with linguistic, historical and cultural annotations.

Juann Mamo, better known as the idiosyncratic author of Ulied in-Nanna Venut fl-Amerka, is probably one of the few Maltese writers who has continuously fascinated generations of readers. The re-discovery of Mamo’s short works is not only a bonanza for those that have been enthralled by Mamo’s unique novel, a humorous tale of the tribulations of dim-witted Maltese emigrating to America, but also sheds new light on Mamo’s literary project and vision.

Though Mamo’s themes and leitmotifs overlap from novel to short story, these new unearthed writings reveal a harsher outlook on Maltese reality, expounded with a bitter humour that chastises a national tragedy characterised by poverty and a quasi-endemic ignorance. This collection shows Mamo’s genius not as a flash in the pan, but as an organic project obsessed with the sorry state of the majority of the populace. Even though staged in the distant 1930s, Mamo’s writing still echoes to this day and age and his stories, with very little extrapolation, can be adapted to realities we face even in these modern times.

This might have been the book Mamo himself might have published, having once declared that he was planning to publish an anthology of 24 short stories. Research has come very close to this number but, rather than a quest for numerical completion, this collection can be viewed as another piece in Mamo’s literary jigsaw, and another addition to the Maltese literary library. Through this new discovery, many interesting insights may be drawn, complementing Mamo’s biography, and also enriching the history of the Maltese short story, the socio-realist movement, and the study of Maltese literature.

The book is available from all leading booksellers.

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