The Malta Independent 17 May 2021, Monday

The two faces of quarantine

Tuesday, 13 April 2021, 10:20 Last update: about 2 months ago

The mostly read and talked about word across the world, during the past year-and-a-half, was and still is quarantine. The pandemic continues, alas, to perpetrate the same fears, to cause the same human tragedies and to threaten economies and people's livelihoods that signalled its advent. The resort to quarantine was the first effective way to combat the vicious virus, to protect loved ones and to be a part of the collective effort at eradicating it.

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The quarantine in Jim Crace's renowned book Quarantine, however, is in itself a challenge immersed in the writer's overwhelming imagination and spiritual sense of creativity. The author offers a fascinating insight into his thoughts and makes specific artistic inroads, often tantalising, challenging and even provoking the reader. His presentation of Jesus' quarantine in the desert is embellished with a contrasting assortment of surreal and down-to-earth characters, themselves seeking to share in the isolation, the thirst and the hunger. The book excels in its description of the desert, often referring to its physical features, the drought, the prickly plants, the colours, the nightly cold and the hot days which project, to a Maltese reader, strikingly similar images of a Maltese summer.

In his introduction to Quarantine, winner of the Whitbread Novel of the Year in 1998, Stuart Evers, novelist, short story writer and critic, writes at length about the book's many challenges, saying that rereading it, however, continues to be exciting everytime as one experiences its unique magical pull.

Charles Flores, the translator of this incredible work by Jim Crace, an Affiliate Professor within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Malta, says in his foreword to the Maltese Language edition that given the current circumstances all over the globe, this was not an opportunity he wanted to miss. He says the gap between belief and non-belief is vast and subject to many interpretations. Kwarantina is perhaps the most intellectually provocative and daring book ever to hit the Maltese Language book market as it tackles humanity's beliefs, rituals and traditions in an exciting twist of creativity which is deep in metaphor and commands your attention.

Flores insists the time is right for Maltese society to widen its horizons and, through this and other translations of worthy books, to seek better ways to discuss diversity in thought, emotion and the spirit.

'Kwarantina' is out on sale from all bookshops in Malta and Gozo or online from Horizons at https://horizons.com.mt. For more information phone on 2144 1604


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