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Truth and cynicism in a clinical world

Carmel Scicluna: Barney l-Ispiżjar – a novel. Self-published. 2012. 372 pp.

This is the writer’s sixth publication, a satirical and socio-political work that focuses on post-modern living and the existential angst it can bring with it.

The publication opens with a preamble by literary critic Paul Buhagiar, before branching out into three different narratives recounted by the protagonist.

What binds the narratives together is their Kafkaesque aura, that tragic sense of emptiness at the heart of today’s post-modern man, and the desperate existentialist theme reminiscent of playwright Samuel Beckett.

The first section presents the tales and the pranks of the customers who go regularly to the pharmacy of Speditu Bartolo, the owner, and the pharmacist Barney, his employee.

As far as the owner is concerned, pharmacies are no different from tuck shops. However, he doesn’t care much about money; rather, he cherishes the thought of his own spiritual salvation and that of his customers.

The second section revolves around the narrator’s boyhood larks, supporting the stories with varied hues of pungent socio-political commentaries while building up an amusingly satirical picture of a contemporary society.

The third section contains no hint of the comical, but rather reflects in an utterly sober and intellectual manner on the existential emptiness in today’s seemingly meaningless world, and on the heart of humanity, which has got used to live without God, or at least some sort of a redeeming spiritual reference.

Like the two previous novels, Barney l-Ispiżjar is a very powerful read, intended, I believe, to drive a message home, to prove a point and, particularly, to jog us awake to a reality that could ultimately prove to be a nightmare and downright ominous for us all.

Undoubtedly, Scicluna will not stop here and more novels will be forthcoming. It is a shame that such worthy literature eludes local publishers, and that the author has to fork out expenses to see his works in print. But the satisfaction is there nevertheless.

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