Sbuħija Moħlija u stejjer ohra by Guy de Maupassant is a collection of short stories translated into Maltese by Toni Aquilina, D. ès L. de Maupassant professed neither a belief in religion nor in a philosophy of life, but the pessimistic influence of Schopenhauer is strongly felt within him and stands out in this book. No translator who wants to do justice to de Maupassant can leave out at least one story dealing with the macabre, the narrative in which the author excelled. Aquilina’s choice fell on Id il-Maqruħ, inspired by a ‘present’ given to him by Algernon Charles Swinborne as a memento when they became acquainted in Eretat (Normandy).
One third of the stories written by de Maupassant are set in Normandy as the author remained loyal to his birthplace until the end of his life. Although in Il-Papà ta’ Simon and Magħmudija direct references to the region are absent, it is beyond doubt that there is where these stories are set. Direct references to Normandy are found in Ix-Xwejjaħ Pa Milon and in Id il-Marquħ. In the former the main theme is the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, whereas in the latter it is the macabre and Normandy alternates with Paris in the plot. In Minwett and Gifa, the action develops in Luxembourg garden. In Vjaġġ Sanitarju, we come across a married couple who leave the capital city for the Mediterranean to avoid illnesses, but who return soon afterward because of a comical misunderstanding. Likewise comical is the story Il-Karezzi where reference to the church of La Madeleine leaves the reader in no doubt as to where the protagonists live.
The translator also chose Il-Karezzi because here de Maupassant speaks about women and we all know that he had affairs with many women. But at the same time, he did not hold them in high esteem. He saw them as inferior creatures able to enslave men with their beauty, and if need be with their weaknesses as well. Therefore, one would not be surprised that he sought women exclusively for sexual encounters. Finally, Aquilina did not want to leave out the exotic element in de Maupassant’s work, with which many authors of his time loved to pepper their writings. The harsh customs in an equally harsh environment that one came across in Corsica amounted to a strange experience outside the normal routine of everyday life for people in France. Vendetta, which came out in the second volume of Maupassant’s short stories already translated into Maltese, is followed here by Brigant Korsikan.
About the Translator
Anthony (Toni) Aquilina is Associate Professor in the Department of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Malta. He graduated B.A. (Hons) at the University of London and DI.M.A.V., M. ès L., D.E.A., and D. ès L. at the University of Poitiers. Served for 12 years as Subject Coordinator (French) and eight years as Area Coordinator (Languages) at the Junior College of the University of Malta. He taught French Francophone Literature, 19th/20th Century French Literature and French-Maltese Translation Theory and Practice for the Department of French of the same University.
He has authored several papers in refereed journals and translated original French works into Maltese, ten of which have been published: L’Arlesienne / L-Arlesjana (1993) by Alphonse Daudet; L-Eté / Is-Sajf (1997) by Albert Camus; L’Amie de Madame Maigret / Il-Ħabiba ta’ Madame Maigret (1999) by Georges Simenon; Le Petit Prince / Iċ-Ċkejken Prinċep (2000) by Antoine de Saint Exupéry; Marroca et autres contes / Marroca u Rakkonti Oħra (2003) by Guy de Maupassant; La symphonie pastorale / Is-Sinfonija Pastorali (2005) by André Gide; En Attendant Godot / Sa Ma Jasal Godot (2006) by Samuel Beckett; Le Donneur d’eau bénite et autre contes / Tal-Ilma Mbierek u Rakkonti Oħra (2007) by Guy de Maupassant, La Inutile Beauté / Sbuħija Moħlija (2012) also by de Maupassant and Le dieu du carnage / L-Alla tal-Ħerba by Yasmina Reza (2013). With Joanne Micallef, he also co-translated into Maltese Many Lives, Many Masters / Ħafna Ħajjiet, Ħafna Mgħallmin (2011) by Dr Brian Weiss.