Otherness is a dominant theme in Borg’s work. The manner in which different groups within society are perceived, and the corresponding behaviour that this begets, are topics that Borg explores frequently. Amina (Merlin Publishers, 2018) is the story of a black girl who lives in an orphanage run by nuns. Her proficiency with numbers earns her a place in Malta’s first-ever Maths camp. However, besides contending with the nefarious hidden agenda of the people running the camp, Amina has to face a string of abusive situations from her peers. She is patronised, bullied, taunted and teased, and lumped with extra chores, simply because she is not Maltese and has a different skin colour.
Otherness in terms of foreignness is also tackled in ‘It’s nice, the tattoo’, from Innuendo (Merlin Publishers, 2019), a collection of short stories that Borg co-authored with playwright Anthony Portelli. Turu, a humble pig farmer, gets involved with Lara, a Latvian nurse whose good looks contrast sharply with his rough disposition. Nevertheless, his simple yet honest ways win her over and the two embark on a steady relationship. Turu and Lara accept each other readily, unfettered by cultural differences or class expectations. This serves them in good stead when Lara’s past rears its ugly head during the latter part of the story; Turu’s loyalty is resolute.
The opposite happens in ‘Oqgħod bil-għaqal, e’ (‘Be good’), a story about a couple facing fertility issues. It is a morality tale of sorts, in which both the couple’s inability to have children and the unacknowledged resentment this brings about, wreak havoc on their relationship. The emotional distance between Victoria and Peter drives a wedge between the two marriage partners, propelling the former to seek (sexual) satisfaction elsewhere. It is telling that she chooses to do so during the Carnival in Venice, while wearing a mask, thus re-imagining herself as literally the ‘other’ woman.
In Fittixni, the issue of otherness takes on a political slant. Young Jack becomes obsessed with unravelling the mystery surrounding a little girl found at sea in a wooden box by his great grandfather. Jack is supported in his quest by the ghost of the girl’s mother, a woman who was estranged from her family as a result of her political convictions. When her daughter Julia is born, she seeks to rekindle the relationship with her family; only this time it is Leon, the man with whom she eloped, who wants to stop her from doing so. By contrast, Julia’s presence unites her adoptive Maltese family, and even though her stay is a short-lived one, they welcome her as one of their own.
In Borg’s work, otherness is perceived as an opportunity to defy prejudice and view others through a lens that is not superficial. Failure to do so foments intolerance, animosity and alienation, with broad repercussions that affect us all.
Biography written by Noel Tanti
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul