Some of Mejlak’s stories hark back to a form that is extremely popular in Maltese story-telling: the praspura. The praspura brings an odd mix of characters, usually children and/or standing members of the community, who indulge in silly and misguided behaviour. However, whereas the repercussions of a conventional praspura are minimal, and do not for the most part stray beyond the boundaries of the village or community where they are set, Mejlak’s characters and stories occupy a much broader canvas. For instance, Mark Delia’s prank on social media in "Kolp ta’ Stat" (Coup d’Etat), following his confused reaction to a romantic break-up, wreaks absolute havoc in the country and has very serious political consequences. This is typical of Mejlak’s stories: a seemingly lighthearted plot turns out to have undertones which are mischievous, or even grim, which surprises the reader.
It is the jarring tension between what is written and what is implied which drives most of Mejlak’s work. His stories cast a long and poignant shadow. This is clearly seen in Riħ Isfel (Merlin Publishers, 2007), a young adult novel set on the island of Gozo during the 1980s. On the surface, Riħ Isfel offers a straightforward thriller revolving around a missing child, set in the village where Mejlak actually grew up. But the juxtaposition of nostalgia with the gritty tale of abduction sets the scene for a coming-of-age tale in which the idyll of childhood is replaced with a harsher understanding of the world. The two worlds co-exist, but one is slowly giving way to the other; and this dynamic is clearly evident in Mejlak’s prose.
Mejlak’s strength lies in holding up a mirror to Maltese idiosyncrasies and exposing a rather dark and unsettling underbelly. Behind every light moment lies an uncomfortable truth; and with every truth there is the potential for a great story.
Biography written by Noel Tanti
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul