It was precisely on the 02 January 1992 that I bought the book “Fil-gzira Taparsi jikbru l-fjuri” by Oliver Friggieri. It’s a collection of short stories, supposedly fictitious but clearly a mirror of Maltese society, with a focus on its political and religious fabric. I must have started reading it once upon a time but at some point and for some reason, I closed its covers for good. Recently I found myself leafing though it and, to my surprise, discovered a bookmark lodged at roughly one-third through the book. It was like discovering a fossil of interrupted reading, so lost in the dust motes of time that I had completely forgotten the plot of the stories I had read. With a wipe of the cover and the installation of a fresh bookmark, I started it anew. Now, a good 24 years later (plus a surplus of months, weeks and days), the marker is permanently extracted and the back cover patted down.
It was an enjoyable read although there was nothing quite new to it. The skeletal facts were part of the history of my youth while the multiple stories were often more of the same, just different characters and altered plot. What I find sadly interesting is that although a quarter of a century has gone by since its publication, the political criticisms are just as relevant today; less so the ecclesiastical ones. The Church in Malta has lost a lot of its power and if it weren’t for the traditions and their celebration – Christmas, Easter, feasts of patron saints – the places of worship would be tombs of times gone by. Both book and I have aged but while its stories have undergone petrification by printing ink, my stories have yet to reach the calcification stage.