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A summer romance

Alfred Massa:
Vaganzi Sajfin: a novel in Maltese
Horizons Publications, 2017; 223 pp.

Nothing goes down better in the hot summer days than a good novel and a cold drink. The average Maltese reader, however, is particularly fond of romantic stories at all times and, whatever the season, this genre of literature never fails to appeal nor seems to diminish in its huge popularity.

Many are the Maltese authors who have, both in the past and currently, essayed and contributed most generously to this type of novel; and, indubitably, one of the most prolific and loved of such authors is Alfred Massa, who has just published Vaganzi Sajfin, his 15th novel in a series which can now be  considered  as classic in Maltese literature.

Typical of Massa’s personal style of writing, Vaganzi Sajfin is, once again, a colourful romp into imagination, a delightful canvas, representing a drama unfolding around a group of people with all their  human frailties, aspirations, sentiments and idiosyncrasies exposed to the critical eye of circumstances.

Newly-weds Michael and Jenny go for a short holiday in Paris with a stop at Lourdes. Here, Jenny prays for a particular favour... Christopher and his partner Elsie fly over to Malta for a holiday at the invitation of their friend George.  Martin and Marisa, an elderly couple, have their summer break at Marsacala, where Marisa befriends her neighbour Anna, both of them great devotees of the Virgin Mary and both frequent visitors to her small chapel in the same village. Eventually, Christopher is found dead and Jenny’s plea at Lourdes is granted...

What was the favour she had asked for? How did Christopher die? What happened to Salvu, Anna’s husband? What happened to Elsie after Christopher’s death? How did Martin and Marisa’s families finally approach each other?

As can be surmised, these are indeed small, highly-emotional tableaux, intentionally created apart to finally (and not without the unexpected anti-climax) put the whole picture together... indeed the story in its completion, on the background of a highly imaginative storyline that is always alive and gripping, never boring.

As is his usual wont, Massa, with a vast experience of life behind him, uses a very human approach to each situation, to each character. The occasional moral is once again thrown in here and there for effect, huge doses of nostalgia hover delectably on the whole story and, an added bonus, everything is recounted in excellent and beautiful Maltese.

Vaganzi Sajfin is another valuable addition not only to Massa’s previous 14 novels, but also to Maltese literature in general. Highly finished and beautifully printed by Horizons, this book is a must for all those who not only enjoy a good Maltese novel but also for those who love and cherish the Maltese language.

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