New novel from censored author hits the bookshelves

Alex Vella Gera's new novel tackles cultural displacement, amongst other things

L-Antipodi is a novel in Maltese whose story spans different times and relates the adventures of unforgettable characters in places like
Prague, New York and Malta. Most of these characters are Maltese people who dream of abroad, but who when they find themselves in that vague place known as ‘abroad’, soon end up weeping for their homeland (either because they are homesick or else because they have realised how backward it really is).

But ‘abroad’ is not only a geographic location, because the homeland is not only that rock in the middle of the Mediterranean or the environment and culture of the Maltese people. Homeland is also internal, a part of us just as much as our hair, our
eyes, our beating heart. It is that which makes us Maltese, which defines our ‘Malteseness’. At the heart of the novel is the urge to escape the stranglehold of this ‘Malteseness’, namely through transgressive behaviour both in thought and action. This can take many forms, one of which is naturally social and sexual behaviour unbound by a strict morality.

Indeed morality is one of the major themes of the novel, because the author believes that in Malta the narrow conventions of our Catholic morality are not restricted to being simply a question of religious or personal choice, but are linked indelibly with the collective conscience of the nation and with the popular perception of what it is that makes us Maltese. A Maltese Muslim, for instance, is not considered as Maltese as the rest.

This phenomenon is not given much attention, but that does not mean it is not true. Indeed, it is a perception which to a large extent governs and keeps the Maltese in their place.

In Maltese literature, the idea that our country is too small, which gives rise to the need to escape its confines, is hardly something new.
The theme has infact inspired some of our best novels. With L-Antipodi, Vella Gera not only updates the concept to a contemporary setting, but also invites the reader to follow the novel’s protagonists’ adventures and decide himself whether escape results in something concrete or if it is all just an illusion.

The author urges you to ask: in truth, how possible is it for a Maltese individual to really transform himself, having been born and bred in the Maltese greenhouse and with a dummy stuck in his mouth? How can one truly escape one’s ‘Malteseness’, and why is it that some Maltese even consider it to be a disease or infection that first and foremost must be purged from them before they can begin to feel that they are whole and complete individuals?

And finally, where does the man with one eye and one leg fit in?

L-Antipodi is available at all leading book shops in Malta and Gozo for the price of €10.