365 by Trevor Żahra

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - BOOKS -

For Trevor Żahra read­ing is part of his ev­ery­day diet. “It’s most ben­e­fi­cial … like peck­ing reg­u­larly at healthy morsels,” he says, and be­ing one of Malta’s long-es­tab­lished au­thors we’d do well to heed his life­style ad­vice.

His new book 365, is the per­fect recipe for that. The book con­tent page lists 365 days of the year from Jan­uary 1 to De­cem­ber 31, and next to each date, there is a short story. Jan­uary 1 is Il-Walz; De­cem­ber 31 is Fjuri taz-Żejt and in be­tween be­gin­ning and the end, each and ev­ery date has a par­tic­u­lar story at­tached to it.

The sto­ries are con­cise and light. None would take you more than 15 min­utes to read. “They are just like lit­tle snacks, re­ally,” he says.

Żahra has spent ev­ery sin­gle day for last three years “ex­plor­ing and ex­ploit­ing” story poten- tials. All 365 sto­ries have an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal strand, he claims. Al­though there are some more than oth­ers; sev­eral snip­pets which did not make it to his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy: Il-Ġenn li Jżommni f’Sikkti (The Mad­ness that Keeps Me Sane) in 2008, have their way here.

But make no mis­take this is not non-fic­tion. This is Trevor Żahra at his story-telling best. “I can’t imag­ine re­al­ity with­out fic­tion,” he says, quot­ing au­thor Philip Pull­man who be­lieves that “af­ter nour­ish­ment, shel­ter and com­pan­ion­ship, sto­ries are the thing we need most in the world.”

Each of his 365 sto­ries is a jour­ney of un­pre­dictabil­ity and de­light­fully un­ex­pected per­spec­tives – all some­how hav­ing the goal of casting light on what it means to be alive.

This is not a col­lec­tion of pre­tend peo­ple and made up places; but won­drous and pro- vok­ing paths, which al­ways lead us to see life more vividly. His is a de­light­ful con­glom­er­a­tion of char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions from ev­ery­day life: a mix of hu­mour and wis­dom as he re­flects on so­ci­ety and hu­man be­hav­iour.

He ded­i­cated the book to his two sis­ters and brother, who were his first read­ers. “In their en­cour­age­ment and en­thu­si­asm I found sheer in­spi­ra­tion. So it’s high time that I show them my grat­i­tude through this small ded­i­ca­tion.”

He ends his De­cem­ber 31 fic­tional story with one of his char­ac­ters say­ing some­thing quite telling: “And I think I won’t write any­more”.

Is Żahra try­ing to pass on a mes­sage? Is he wrap­ping up his a half a cen­tury of grip­ping writ­ing? “I have to say that at time the idea did cross my mind.” How­ever, do not fret - he’s al- ready got two more projects in the pipeline.

Mer­lin Pub­lish­ers Direc­tor, Chris Grup­petta said: “Żahra and Mer­lin are syn­ony­mous so this col­lec­tion of short sto­ries is spe­cial for us be­cause he is our great­est trea­sure. Any new Żahra book is an event, but this is some­thing else: it’s a gor­geous oeu­vre that sits like a crown atop a life­time of Żahra’s lit­er­ary ca­reer.”

365 – which comes only in hard­back – is a thou­sand-pager but it won’t be a strain on the bi­ceps, be­cause spe­cial pa­per was used to make it as light­weight as pos­si­ble. It is avail­able from all book­shops or on­line di­rectly from www.mer­lin­pub­lish­ers.com

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