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Post No. 54 (In-nanna Genoveffa)

August 2, 2011

After having whizzed (not in the American sense) through the Seba’ Trongiet Mewwija by Trevor Zahra in between the Kimika stories, I decided I liked Trevor Zahra enough to undergo a €9-tomy  (for the non-medically inclined readers it means having €9 surgically removed from my wallet) and get myself Il-Hajja Sigrieta tan-Nanna Genoveffa.

Good. Very good, actually. Stops short of excellent. Only just. Even the cover is witty. Genoveffa’s father was a mercer. He was a great influence on his daughter. So they stuck a picture of a bit of fabric folded to look like external female genitalia peeping coyly beneath a considerably pulled up skirt.

I had only read Taht il-Weraq tal-Palm by Zahra before (as something not intended for children, that is. The Wied Pepprina chronicles *ahem* and the rest were standard fare for children my age)

It reads a bit like a Maltese version of Fanny Hill, but amusing. This is not to say it’s porn – or even mildly lascivious. I’m not going to play the critic. There’s a time and a place for everything.

Nanna Genoveffa is original – to my mind – in that it portrays sex as something innocently naughty. It’s not passionate. It’s not erotic. It’s not even sexy. It’s fun. I don’t know if you can call it a novel in the strict sense, though.

I have 3 gripes with the “novel”.

a) when she and 2 other girls were caught having a diddle at school. I found the whole episode – including the build up – highly improbable. When you come across it in the beginning it doesn’t really jar, but after having gone through the whole book and you look back, it somehow seems out of character. Try it. Sister Celia.

b) the war shelter incident. It happens relatively late in the day. You get to know Veffa quite well through her adventures. She is a mischievous little girl right into her old age, but she is not bad. The shelter bit was thoroughly out of character I felt. I’m talking about Ghajnejn.

c) Cucumbers. As if. whatever possessed him to include that?  Veffa becomes the butt end of a joke. She is nearly ridiculed. Being funny is one thing, but this level of  ridicule is monstrous. I can imagine what Zahra had in mind when he wrote that. He probably thought that some gentle ribbing would be in order, but the way it was done, and the time, it was more of  a broadside to the chest that crushed three ribs and tore the intercostals. I’d strongly – vociferously if I could –  recommend skipping Platt Insalata. I can’t suggest that you read it before you get to know her, because it would probably distort your view of nanna Genoveffa. If you read it after you finish the book, you could end up thinking that Veffa was not just naughty after all. This chapter felt  like finding a burnt garlic clove in a mouthful of otherwise delicious lasagne.

I am aware that talking about a Maltese novel in a language other than Maltese might not go down well in some quarters… I thought about it too, to be honest. I hear Babel fish can fix that problem in no time 😉

One last thing. I don’t want anyone leaving here thinking I’m an infallible polymath *ahem*. It’s about Fanny Hill. Many moons ago, when I could still go to book fairs and stuff, I caught this book floating face up in a sea of bargains. A bright round label on the front informed me that this book was a steal at only LM1.50 (= €3.49) I snapped it up. Obviously. On the bus trip home I turned the book over to read the “blurb”. There was a price tag right next to the picture of the little penguin. It said LM1.35 (= € 3.14). Not much of a bargain, as you can see. Moral of the story: Illicit sex always comes at a price.



From → Misfires

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