Not only for young adults

Ramona Depares –  The Sunday Times, December 16, 2012


Adrian Grima: Din Mhix Logħba and Vleġġa Kkargata. Klabb Kotba Maltin. 2012. 92 pp and 48 pp respectively.

Adrian Grima’s two latest publications are beautifully complemented with illustrations by Karen Caruana and it is amazing the difference that a holistic approach can have on a book’s impact on the reader.
Both publications are officially targeted towards young adults, however, in reality they will be appreciated even by fully-fledged adults who are lucky enough to possess a good imagination that enjoys a touch of whimsy.

The first book, Din Mhix Logħba, is a collection of four short stories. The first tale, Ġejja l-Elezzjoni, will undoubtedly strike a chord in these particular times.

Told from the point of view of what is probably a teenage boy, it delivers a cutting account of the often pathetic foibles of the adults everytime partisan politics rear their ugly head; from the narrator’s perspective the biggest problem the election brings with it is that he has to forego watching football matches while his grandfather follows the political debates.

The narrator takes on the matter-of-fact, sometimes naive tone typical of someone just reaching puberty. This makes his (unintendedly spot-on) obser-vations even more cutting. A case in point is his understanding of poplu (the people), which should refer to all Maltese but that, when used by politicians, is limited to that sector of the electorate that is in agreement with said politician.

The second novella, Filgħodu Nqum Ikmissre , takes on a more sombre, deeper tone that explores a young boy’s relationship with his father. Fabbrika tar-Rikordji is a chilling account of child labour; presenting the anecdotes from the point of view of these children, this is a topic that perhaps doesn’t really touch our reality as much as it should because we don’t see enough visual evidence of it.

Rather than offering a black and white account, the narrator cleverly portrays the conflicted emotions of the protagonists, a technique that effectively highlights the myriad complicated issues that usually surround these situations.

However, for me, the winner was the very last story. Art lovers, particularly admirers of Frida Kahlo, will undoubtedly feel the same as me, drawing paral-lells between the ‘damaged’ protagonist and the circumstances that lead to her accident with the very circumstances that led to Kahlo’s real-life condition.

Grima’s other publication, Vleġġa Kkargata, offers a wholly fresh approach to poetry. For starters, despite the Maltese title, there are a couple of works by foreign poets (French, Italian, Icelandic and Catalan). Do not panic if you are not at all proficient in any of these languages – the foreign entries are few, but somehow they work beautifully into the spirit of the book and, more importantly, they come with Grima’s own translation.

The poetry is down to earth, colloquial, easy to follow. Not for Grima the overly-pretentious verses that leave you wondering what you have just been reading. Instead, every poem tells a story – or at the very least, portrays a tableau and describes a state of mind or introduces the reader to a snippet from some new character’s life.

The poems are written in rhyme and the overall vibe is a positive one, even when the particular work deals with human fears and emotions. A distinctly humorous touch is not missing.

Most of all, Grima’s poetry brings to life situations that we are all familiar with, from the hassle of a family holiday (Minuta Nifs) to the childlike happiness of spending time at the play-ground (Anja l-Bandli), to a little girl’s dreams of becoming a policewoman (Adriana l-Pulizija) and more.

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