What is striking is that Mifsud did not consciously plan to be a writer. As a young adult, he threw himself headlong mostly into alternative theatre, so the transition to prose was not as straightforward or obvious as one might think. Instead, it is important to understand what has made Immanuel Mifsud the writer he is today, namely an amalgamation of literary interests, historical events, and personal experiences.
Growing up and coming of age in the notorious 1980s, which were turbulent times in Malta, he felt the urge to protest. Initially he thought that he was just another angry young man calling out the State and the Establishment; he would have probably been defined as an enfant terrible. Yet his acts of defiance were registered in a different way. Channelling this need to protest in short stories, his first collection Stejjer ta’ Nies Koroh (Stories of Ugly People, self-published, 1991) established a direct link with the 1980s. He believed that the medium of the short story was the appropriate vehicle to voice his discontent, while he started exploring a growing fascination with Communism in Central Europe.
Despite there being a dearth in fiction dealing with the 80s and 90s locally, trying to make a name for himself in the local literary world brought certain challenges as publishers back then did not have faith in unknown young writers. However, this did not impede Mifsud from persevering and challenging the status quo, whilst observing significant changes and shifts in society in the 1990s, particularly in education and the media. The liberalisation of the latter gave him new foci and vision to consider the concept of how we have become more comfortable with oversharing aspects of our life, what he terms "the confessional society".
Another source of inspiration for Mifsud is the night-time, as his writings are often informed by the circadian rhythms of the night, suggestive of reflection and solitude. It is not surprising that the characters who emerge in these late-night hours and weave their way into his works are misanthropes: marginalised, maladroit individuals.
Wary of the danger of sounding repetitive and falling into dreaded clichés, Mifsud decided to break the mould and move away from the genre he had become synonymous with; namely, the dark underbelly of human nature. Through Fl-isem tal-Missier (u tal-Iben) (In the Name of the Father (and of the Son), Midsea Books, 2010), an autobiographical/biographical work, he explored the tenuous relationship with his father. He felt compelled to focus on this relationship at one point in his life, as though he wanted to come to terms with a hidden guilt complex haunting both father and son. To date, it is one of his most successful works. The gap between what he is drawn to personally and what eventually lures his readers remains mysterious to Mifsud, but as a writer he transmits a nervous energy. Resisting the perception that he might be a voice in the wilderness, what he hopes to achieve essentially through the act of writing and through literature is overcoming barriers and presenting human nature in unconventional ways, by disavowing stereotypes.
Biography written by Stephanie Xerri Agius
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul