Advert

So, where is his brother?

In light of the release of his first book, Jo Caruana sits down with well-known writer Victor Calleja to discuss his leap from columns to hilarious hardbacks.

Interviewing a friend is always a bit of a challenge, and I consider Victor Calleja to be a great friend. You see, there’s all the catching up to do before you can get down to the business of interviewing. Then there’s the ‘let’s get on with it, for goodness sake’ determination before the relay into more chatting. And then the moment where, finally, you make some topical progress before, naturally, lapsing into another round of yakking.

Nevertheless, I am pleased to say that, eventually, we got on-topic: the release of Calleja’s new book, Where’s My Brother & Other Confessions.

For Calleja, a well-known blogger and columnist, this book is the culmination of decades of memories and stories. Although he only actually started writing professionally six years ago, he is a storyteller by nature and, beyond that, a story collector. He also admits to having an incredible memory and, as the youngest of five children, he was privy to all sorts of sights growing up.

“As the youngest of a very boisterous bunch, you accept that you won’t really be taken much notice of!” he grins. “So, without realising I became something of an observer (or a bit of a peeping Tom!) and I stored up story after story.”

He’s always loved telling them too. At any event, Calleja will be found in the centre of a group, retelling one tale or another. People – including his wife and children – often told him they enjoyed listening and suggested he found a way to formalise them all… so he did.

“This book turns the tables on myself and those around me, and is kind of ‘warts and all’,” he details. “And why not? I’m not a fan of perfection and like the idea that this book can give a bit of fun insight and burst a few bubbles.”

The result is a series of unconnected episodes within which Calleja plays a cameo. It’s a set of Maltese stories with a nostalgic twist that will please anyone keen to know more about the island in the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s also very funny with chapters, including Where Is My Brother (Fejnu?), Sex And The Family, and A Life in Cheesecakes.  He chose the stories haphazardly, mostly allowing his muse to take over and guide him on an ad hoc path through thousands of words. “They all truly happened,” he stresses. “The only lies I have allowed myself are a few name changes to avoid offending or embarrassing people. Of course, all the incidents are written as seen through my eyes, with others as the protagonists.”

This book turns the tables on myself and those around me, and is kind of ‘warts and all’

Now that the book is in print, I ask Victor for his favourite story – which he finds hard to pin down. They are, after all, all very personal and each is special in its own way but, eventually, he picks The Cake – the tale of his sister’s wedding cake. “I guess it’s my favourite because so much went on in it,” he grins. “And, although my sister has sadly since passed away, there are some fun memories linked to it.”

The story begins with his sister’s request to him ahead of her wedding: take a very particular Maltese wedding cake to Germany, where the event was taking place. “The cake was ordered from the top local confectionery at the time and, true to my sister’s character, everything had to be absolutely perfect and the cake needed to reach Germany in pristine condition so it could be enjoyed by her new German family. I was quite overwhelmed by the responsibility!

“As the cake’s crowning glory, my sister had chosen gold perlini from Italy (rare at the time!) and I had passed them on to the confectioner for safe keeping. Unfortunately, he’d taken that request so seriously that, by the time it came to finishing the cake, the perlini were nowhere to be found and he was in quite a panic – as it turned out he’d hidden them in the safe and forgotten about it.

“So the perlini were located but the story doesn’t end there! When I finally went to collect the cake an elderly confectioner was putting the final touches to the piping when I walked in. He was carefully doing his thing when, all of sudden, the icing got stuck in the bag. To solve this, the confectioner simply put the bag to his lips and sucked the cream out before continuing! I was horrified… But it was too late to stop the process so, once it was finished, I took the cake away anyway and, thankfully, got it to Germany in one piece. Naturally, I warned my wife and siblings to stay away from it on the wedding day, but the rest of the guests seemed to love it!”

Of course, Calleja admits that some stories were harder to write than others, especially when reminiscing about loved ones who are no longer around, including his sister, parents and his wife’s parents. “It made me feel their loss more than ever,” he says. “In many ways I’d love to be able to show them the book and relive the stories with them, but on the other hand they might not like me giving away our family secrets!”

However, looking back on the process as a whole, Calleja says he didn’t find the book difficult to write at all. He admits he didn’t know it would be published but that he wrote it for his family primarily. “It was only once I got really into it that I thought it could have wider appeal, and I was thrilled when Kite decided to publish it. I have been thrilled with the response, especially as most readers say it’s given them a good laugh, which makes me really happy.”

Now he’s already got his sights set on the sequel – so there are more confessions to come! “I have many more stories to tell,” he promises. “The next book is on the cards in the near future.”

Where’s My Brother & Other Confessions is on sale in bookshops and online at www.kitegroup.com.mt.

Advert
Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert