Watch: “We cannot say that we are living in the best of times” – Immanuel Mifsud

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

In a country which lacks a reading culture, the writer has no power to change things, seasoned author and poet Immanuel Mifsud admitted during an interview with Newsbook.com.mt.

Mifsud launches his recent work entitled ‘L-Aqwa Żmien’ this evening. The title borrows Partit Laburista’s 2017 campaign slogan for the snap election.

Asked whether he feels like he has given up on Malta, Mifsud answered in the affirmative, explaining that while he gave up a while ago, he does not want others to give up too. He stressed that he needs to be careful of what to say since it would amount to a mortal sin if his writings would cause others to lose hope.

Paradoxically Mifsud noted that he is publishing a book which consists of short stories which are a conscious political statement, stressing that he felt the need to comment about the situation around him.

Speaking about the book itself, Mifsud said that while the political party chose “the best of times” as its political slogan, trying to convey the message that humanity is at its pinnacle, by observing the world around us one could easily see that this is not so. He commented that messages such as these are used by politicians and parties alike promising a better future.

The book does not draw only on incidents which happened in Malta. Through Mifsud’s eyes, the reader can see how he is viewing what is happening around him globally.

“I don’t believe that we are living in the best of times,” Mifsud told Newsbook.com.mt, adding that he does not believe that such a situation exists in Malta or abroad, “The best of times would mean that humanity would have reached the pinnacle of its evolution.”

In fact, Mifsud argued that, as an author and a citizen, he felt that this is certainly not the best of times and he had to simply say “no”.

Somewhere, someone is living in a garage, someone is struggling to pay next month’s rent, someone is hated because he is ‘black’ and for no other reason, Mifsud observed.

“Until issues such as these persist, even if on an individual level, then we cannot say that we are living in the best of times.”

In his new collection of short stories, although many of them are based in Malta, there is a universal dimension to them. Mifsud points out that it is not only in Malta that there is racial hatred or that people fear migrants.

He explained that, if he were recounting a story of someone who hates ‘blacks’ to the point that he would arrive to the point where he would shoot and kill them, this is not a story which just happened in Malta, as incidents such as these are also common in other countries.

Bottled up anger

Describing the book as a political effort rather than a literary one, Mifsud said that apart from two stories, the book was written within weeks.

“I had a lot of anger bottled up,” Mifsud admits. He said that although there were people who were truly convinced that they were living in the best of times, between the political slogan and the individual’s reality there is a big difference.

The reality of individuals living in garages or the youths who are anxious about their future are stories that are lost through the cracks because of forces in society that would like us to forget and ignore such realities.

There is an external force, wanting us to be ‘positive’, and this is not limited to a local setting, Mifsud added.

“This pressure is cruel on people who cannot be positive or do not have a reason to be positive,” Mifsud remarked.

The writer’s role

Asked whether he feels that artists and authors in general should write more political statements, he said that one should not differentiate between artists who choose to make a political statement and others who choose not to be controversial.

Mifsud argued that it is an ideological issue, and probably a Marxist idea, that would require a writer to have a political stand which would oppose or challenge power.

He highlighted that what he is doing is not “out of this world or original. There would be more strength if more writers took more of a political stand,” Mifsud concluded.

Video and editing by Miguela Xuereb