Alfred Palma reviews Is-Sinfonija tad-90 by Carmel Mallia on the occasion of the author’s 90th birthday

Shakespeare once said “All the world’s a stage”, and “all the men and women merely players”, a profound philo­sophi­cal quote that contains the principal essence of man’s life on earth.

Humbly, I would like to add that every human being is given a unique dramatic role to enact on life’s stage for a number of years; this role is acted (not easily) with other human beings and with the fate (kind or cruel) that the stage director will have destined for him or her. And the longer the life on the stage, the more moving and varied will be the role; the experiences will be more numerous and colourful, spiced of course with every emotion imaginable, which every human being experiences as long as he stays on the ‘stage’.

Memory is one of God’s greatest gifts to man. And the more man lives and experiences life the more he’ll have things to remember: good and bad times, happy or sad; and if he’s lucky, he’ll remember what he or she went through.

If he or she happens to be a poet or a poetess, memory changes into a diary as long as the years lived; and the remembrances eventually change into a poetic symphony that intensifies and welds itself with a sort of music that truly composes a symphony.

This applies especially to Carmel Mallia, poet, author, essayist and linguist, who has been enriching Maltese literature with his works.

This month, Dr Mallia reaches the venerable age of 90, and to celebrate this special event he has crea­ted a poetic masterpiece: Is-Sinfonija tad-90 ‒ 90 tiny poems of two rhymed lines each, in which he recounts not only his views and experiences of life, but also exposes his intellect and literary and philosophical prowess, thus adding to the beauty of his works, which he often embellishes with humorous asides, thus adding further beauty to both his words and writings.

Dr Carmel MalliaDr Carmel Mallia

Dr Mallia opens this beautiful work with two very profound and philosophical quotes: one by Jean Jacques Cousteau and the other by Pedro Calderon de la Barca, which both prepare the reader for what is to follow; but first, in a preface, the author expounds on why he wrote this symphony.

He is celebrating three anniversaries this year: the 80th year of his wife Josephine, the 40th anniversary of his marriage and, of course, his 90th birthday, The preface, which he titles Biex Niċċara (To clarify), is sweetly genial and shows Dr Mallia’s wit. He introduces 90 years, filled with a multitude of colourful events, comprising everything that made Dr Mallia what he is: a highly cultured man, intelligent and artistic, one who appreciates life and all the beauty it can provide. No wonder he named the book Sinfonija: beautiful mini-poems indeed, fantastic, truly musical, written in exquisite Maltese and, once again, those delightful witty asides with which Dr Mallia adorns all his works.

At the end of the preface to this poetic symphony, Dr Mallia chooses a quote by André Gide: “Be faithful to what is in you” and another by the Latin poet Horatio; “Quod est in votis” (That is my wish); two philosophical and sublime quotes which prepare the reader for these poems, their originality of form and the beauty of the Maltese language.

We wish him many more productive years of great contributions to the art of his country.

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