Maltese Literature Since 1990
by Charles Briffa.

Read also Major Trends in the Maltese Novel by Charles Briffa.

Order The Literature of Malta by Arnold Cassola.
Order Naked As Water: Selected Poetry (eds Mario Azzopardi, Grazio Falzon).

Maltese literature in the 20th century was shaped by two major groups, the Academy of Maltese Writers (founded in 1920), and the Movement for the Revival of Literature (founded in 1967). The former is still very active whereas the latter was short-lived but highly influential.

Maltese literature since 1990 takes the legacy of these two associations and adds elements gleaned from current trends. By the end of the 20th century however, Maltese literature owed as much to the individual genius of a handful of writers as to any intellectual or artistic corporation.

In the field of poetry, there has been a marked change from the sixties. At that time collectivity was the main literary preoccupation. Post-1990 poets all have distinct voices. Their poetry does not avoid experimentation but generally eschews the cultivation of stylistic idiosyncrasy. In the decades following the sixties Maltese poets set forth in divergent directions, but still represent a continuation of the modernist tradition. Foremost among these poets is Oliver Friggieri, considered by some to be the voice of the nation.

In drama, the last decade of the 20th century saw the death of the greatest playwright, Francis Ebejer. The last phase of Ebejer's literary career also coincided with the emergence of other successful playwrights, Oreste Calleja for example, who is ensuring dramatic continuity in the first years of the 21st century.

The readership of serious Maltese fiction has in general been recruited mainly among those who were chiefly interested in social change. Looking back on the century it becomes evident that local fiction has been depicting the spread of insecurity among the Maltese people: the historical and social novels reproduce most of the anxiety and fear that result from a nation's political fate, while the socio-psychological novel reflects a state of uncertainty and angst. It may be said then that on the small island of Malta, as has been the case elsewhere, the novel has prospered not as much in a stable and harmonious society as in a society where insecurity has encouraged literary production.

Children's fiction has also flourished in Malta in recent years, due mainly to the indefatigable efforts of Trevor Zahra. It was in the beginning of the 21st century that the Maltese Academy recognised officially children's literature as a distinct genre.

The poetry of the last decades reveals an important fact: the Maltese poet is utterly aware that he is a member of the global community. He must be sensitive to events and moods beyond his shores while confirming his Mediterranean identity. The environment and the self are, therefore, still very relevant as the advent of the 21st century sees Malta on the verge of becoming a full member of the European Union.

On the whole, Maltese literature since 1990 shows a tiny nation trying to cope with European standards to remain literary significant. The giants are few but there are lesser beings walking in their shadow who have much to offer.

Read also Major Trends in the Maltese Novel by Charles Briffa.

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