A group of friends brainstorm potential characters for a play about contemporary Malta in Ryan Falzon’s short story which is among the first works to appear in a new online literary journal.
Potential roles include an exploited food delivery courier, a sleazy real estate agent and a restaurateur who on social media says he wants foreigners to leave the country but is only too happy to underpay foreign workers at his eatery.
Reċti tal-Kbar, Parties tat-Tfal is an example of one of 10 pieces of literature published in Aphroconfuso so far.
The journal’s name comes from a 16th-century description of the Maltese people as a mix of Sicilians and Africans, the journal’s two editors, Loranne Vella and Joe Gatt, told Times of Malta.
The two editors have published long-form literary pieces that include short stories, translations, poems and literary essays in the journal that has seen some 2,000 visits since its May 1 launch. The pair hope their online journal can attract new readers to Maltese literature.
People can find books in cafés or at literary events, but you need to know where to look, “but online pieces can be read on your phone”, Gatt said.
“We hope to break a few barriers and get new people interested in Maltese literature,” he said.
Publishing online means that Vella and Gatt have managed to keep costs low.
We hope to break a few barriers and get new people interested in Maltese literature– Joe Gatt, one of the journal’s two editors
“There is no monetary element but that also means that there is no monetary risk,” Vella said.
This means that writers can push more experimental works outside of the “mainstream”, which would have never been published otherwise.
For example, one of the journal’s most recently published works is a literary essay about the body by Charlene Galea, which is also available in audio form.
Vella and Gatt have plans to turn all of Aphroconfuso’s published works into podcast episodes.
Audio narrations are a way to make works accessible to the blind but also for those who want to listen while driving or running errands, Vella said.
Editors’ dreams and plans
Vella and Gatt hope to turn their tiny online journal into a publishing house for books and anthologies in the future, however, Vella insists that Aphroconfuso wants to focus on the works themselves.
“If you are target-oriented then you are looking for the quickest way to succeed but we want to focus on the content itself,” Vella said.
They do that through what they describe as an “intensive editorial process”.
“After meeting a writer for the first time, we plan a schedule of drafts and propose a publication date. During the writing process, we involve ourselves as editors,” Vella said.
The two editors are the ones that usually invite writers to contribute to the journal having followed and enjoyed their work. But interested writers also contact Aphroconfuso directly. Vella and Gatt are writers themselves. Gatt has written for several publications such as The London Magazine, The Face, Dazed & Confused and The Guardian.
Vella’s novel Marta Marta is shortlisted for this year’s national book prize.
The 2022 feminist work challenges Catholic dogmas, the lack of reproductive rights and the focus on women as only wives and mothers.