“She told me once how she had sawn a smile on her face, but it quickly tore and she could not patch it up.”
The Names They Left Behind is a book of eight stories about eight women which won the Maltese national literary award. To be a “real” Maltese woman is the tie that binds all stories, and Azzopardi wanted, as she says, to lend a voice to women of various origin and personalities (workers, poets, beggars…) because in Maltese literature women are most often stereotyped: as mothers, as inspiration or as prostitutes.
The banality of characters in this book is unusual; all of them are regular women with strong personalities. If they are strange or obsessive, the strength of their character will astonish us. Sandra gives her keys to unknown men to conquer and abandon them. Gracy’s story brings a supernatural element or she may be just a projection of cashier Helena’s suppressed salaciousness. Gracy’s monologue is sizzling with sensuality and is one of the highlights of this prose. Roża spends her entire life waiting: sometimes for her husband and now for death. She is dead, but alive and sews burial dresses. Polly had her child taken from her so now she consoles her dolls as if they were her children. The collection reaches its crescendo in her story, as it questions the other ones.
These stories are among the most significant achievements by the new generation of Maltese writers. We find in them stylish and literary departures from the usual, dark humor, and societal criticism (of conservativism, influence of the church, life in small places, shallow political speeches and promises). The environment that Azzopardi describes, both internal and external, is Maltese, Mediterranean and close to us, while this collection is the first Maltese book completely translated into Croatian.
Autor: Clare Azzopardi
Translator: Marina Horkić