In his poem ‘Il-Jien u l-Jien’ (‘The I and the I’) Borg rues the fact that his true sense of self has been compromised from birth; the need to conform to a predetermined moral code and set of rules is more important than the expression and the development of one’s being. This leads to a life lived in a continuous state of tension, in which one has to constantly battle between constricting conventions and an instinctive drive towards self-affirmation. According to Borg, there is no avoiding this tension, and the wisest path lies in making peace with the reality of being both free and shackled, simultaneously in and out of a prison cell.
Borg associates the genuine expression of the self with truth: this is what one strives for in the desire to live an existence uncontaminated by social, political and moral exigencies. Nevertheless, what this truth is or means, remains unclear. Borg’s journey is ongoing because he knows that there isn’t one ultimate truth and that our existence is plastic, multifarious, uncertain. On the other hand, Borg has a very clear idea of what truth is not; and of the lengths to which we will go to, individually and as a group, in order to look the other way.
Borg’s poem ‘Il-Karnival tal-Boloh’ (‘The Carnival of Fools’) is inspired by the scene in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame where Quasimodo is crowned Pope of Fools, a moment in which the hunchback is both celebrated and reviled. Society projects its shortcomings onto those whom it regards as ‘other’, in this case the hunchback, whose physical deformities are, according to Borg, an outward manifestation of those truths which are best ignored, censored or concealed. We wear masks all year round and we learn to live with the silence of our unspoken truths.
Still, is there a difference between what is true and what is untrue? How does subjective truth fare against a more objective point of view? Can we really rely on a subjective-objective dichotomy? Borg tackles these issues in ‘Repubblika’ (‘Republic’), the very last short story in his anthology titled Il-Parabboli tal-Imġienen (Parables of the Insane, Merlin Publishers, 2021). Here we experience a series of different points of view revolving around one hard fact: the cold-blooded murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. We read about how this heinous crime is processed by different people who occupy distinct realities – realities which, in and of themselves, are exclusive rather than inclusive. Borg intimates that when one personal truth is deaf to another, a space rife with hate and intolerance is created.
Borg’s uncompromising voice provides an exciting and thought-provoking perspective on subjects that have been tackled by many others before him.
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul