'Sbuħija Moħlija' u stejjer ohra

Translated by Toni Aquilina
Sbuħija Moħlija u stejjer ohraSbuħija Moħlija u stejjer ohra

 

'Sbuħija Moħlija' u stejjer oħra / ‘La Beauté Inutile’ et autres contes by Guy de Maupassant, translated into Maltese by Toni Aquilina, D. es L. One can say without hesitation that de Maupassant professed neither a belief in religion nor in a philosophy of life. However, the pessimistic influence of Schopenhauer can be very much felt within him. In this collection of short stories, this influence can be seen to stand out most in Minwett and Sbuħija Moħlija. No translator who wants to do justice to de Maupassant can leave out at least one story dealing with the macabre, or as we usually refer to it, the fantastic narrative in which the author really excelled. Aquilina’s choice fell on Id il-Maqruħ. This was inspired from a ‘present’ which Algernon Charles Swinborne gave him as a memento when they got to know each other in Eretat (Normandy).

 

One third of the stories written by de Maupassant are set in Normandy. Indeed, he remained loyal to his birthplace (le pays de Caux) till the end of his life. Although in Il-Papà ta’ Simon and Magħmudija we do not find direct references to the region, doubtless that is where they are set. Direct references to Normandy are found in Ix-Xwejjaħ Pa Milon and in Id il-Marquħ. While in the former, the theme which stands out is the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, in the latter it is the macabre and Normandy alternates with Paris in the plot. The majority of the stories in this collection are set in Paris. In Minwett, the action develops in Luxembourg garden. The same goes for Ġifa and in the long, short story, Sbuħija Moħlija. In Vjaġġ Sanitarju, we come across a married  couple who leave the Capital City for the Mediterranean coast to avoid illnesses, but return soon after because of a somewhat 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.