Our body’s regenerative powers are quite astounding but when battling a fatal disease, we are starkly reminded of our vulnerability and ephemerality. This is what happens to David Piscopo in Pace’s novel Suq għax Dalam (Drive, it’s getting dark, Merlin Publishers, 2016). David goes to England to get a second opinion about a cancer diagnosis and receives confirmation that it is indeed life threatening. He feels the world crumbling around him but instead of subjecting himself to numerous treatments and therapies that would ultimately do nothing but postpone the inevitable, David decides to make the best out of the time he has left and buys a car to drive back to Malta. However, he hesitates to tell his wife Catherine about his condition, and the more he procrastinates, the harder it gets.
David embodies a trait which we find in many of Pace’s characters: despite the bleak circumstances, there is always cause for hope. Sometimes this hope is misplaced, like in David’s case, when his wish for a second honeymoon of sorts (the journey back home with his wife) is dashed by his obtuse silence. But the search for meaning in a world that seems absurd and contrarian, brings David and Catherine closer together, highlighting the need we have to leave a legacy. David’s swansong is not the return to Malta but the few moments that Catherine spends on her own at the very end of the novel, remembering their life together. There are larger things at play besides our relatively limited experience of life and death. One finds a similar stance in Pace’s debut novel, It-Tielet Teorija (The Third Theory, Merlin Publishers, 2011) where the main character’s life extends beyond death, in the form of comments on social media platforms.
The search for meaning is also a major motif driving Pace’s latest book, Il-Papa Aħmed (Pope Ahmed, Merlin Publishers, 2019). The newly-ordained Pope grapples with doubts about his faith and its role in the world. The spirit seems to sit somewhat uncomfortably with the body and Aħmed goes through a series of visions triggered by fits. During these episodes he explores past and present realities, experiencing events which propel him to delve deeper into understanding the role which he was destined to play.
Pace’s work is defined by the interplay of the physical and the metaphysical, and how the collusion of the two creates a tension by which meaning is manifested. He underscores the fragility of our corporeal being, all the while reminding us that there is more to the human condition than the bodily form.
Biography written by Noel Tanti
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul