Reviews of Passport are published here.

The reviews below are of the book Mużajk, an exploration in multilingual verse (Skarta, 2008). Reviews of more recent publications will be posted soon.

A fascinating experiment.
Language Hat

It seems pretty clear that ‘globalization’ is our destiny, for better and for worse. And Antoine Cassar’s mosaics are the best possible poetic expression of that, of a world in which we speak and understand each other’s languages – or at least try to. These multi-lingual tours of force are musical and smart, full of viscera and heart.
Moira Egan

L’oralità arcaica torna a risuonare nella parola in tempi di comunicazione tecnologica. Il poeta maltese Antoine Cassar si riappropia delle forme della lirica originaria, come il sonetto, in un mosaico di lingue, remote e prossime, capace di annodare l’umanità dialogante. Una performance metrico-vocale avvincente e suggestiva.
Enzo Mansueto

He estado metido en la música de los poemas, en la música de lenguas, acentos, métricas y rimas. Decididamente, la poesía comunica un saber y una sensación diferente a la de otros discursos. Hay un lenguaje que está por encima de los hombres, como decía Celan. Me asombra y me acongoja leer esta poesía, este continente inexplorado, pero al tiempo real y posible, de una poesía que se mezcla en muchas lenguas, que necesita para expresarse de todo un mosaico.
Joaquín Rubio Tovar

Elementi ġodda li lili, personalment, jaffaxxinawni. Dan hu prodott lilhinn mill-’poeżija’: dan hu diskors ġdid li jisfronda l-parametri letterarji tradizzjonalment assoċjati mal-’komunikazzjoni’ poetika filwaqt li l-mazza misselfa għat-twettiq ta’ dan l-isfrundar hija parti integrali mit-tagħmir ghad-dispożizzjoni tal-poeta ‘tradizzjonali’. Il-mużajk ta’ Cassar qed jiżviluppa f’eżerċizzju semjotiku inkejjuż imma ta’ importanza, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, fil-qasam tal-iżvilupp ta’ espressjoni sperimentali letterarja ġdida fil-Malti.
Albert Marshall

Sono fatto di tutti i popoli passati da qui, ho voce di tutte le lingue ascoltate. Nel mosaico che è la mia terra, la Puglia, sono anch’io clipeo sull’albero fiorito dell’accoglienza.
Biagio Lieti

A unique accomplishment, and seen from Italy (in this horrible moment of fascism and racism, and disregard for constitutional rights, and so on) it looks not only as the strong aesthetic statement that it certainly is, but also as a political, and even humanitarian statement: “no man is an island” somebody said, and Cassar’s mixture of idioms to me represents just that – the bright side of existence, complex, ethically rooted, diverse and funny, and also moving.
Damiano Abeni

Un viaggio nel senso del suono, cullati dal ritmo e dal ritmo scossi; ripresi, legati e slegati dall’arte antica della rapsodia.
Muzajk è l’arte del cucire insieme canzoni, è canto policromo, multilingue, gioco di contaminazioni insperate ma che saltano fuori allo schioccare stesso della lingua in un unico fluire di immagini incastonate. Mosaico sonoro di salti e piroette ardite offerte con cura all’ascolto.
Marthia Carrozzo

Mużajk echoes the bitter sweet nostalgias of a lost island paradise and the painful and at times hectic delusions of a Europe that is no more the cultural stereotype we know, but a strange amalgam of people trying to conform to a new commonality brought about by rampant globalisation.This book is a scintillating tapestry of multilingual musings penned by a man striving to express the indefinable… an islander who is basically a cosmopolitan – a European at heart. The brilliant cover design by Italian calligrapher Massimo Polello could not have escaped the attention of “those who breathe within, between and among languages”.

Even though the words come gushing out in a stream that oftentimes seems oddly contrived due to the diversity of the languages used, yet, somehow, it manages to achieve cohesion – even melodically, through its being confined to the strictures of the sonnet form.

The very evident existential angst can be interpreted as the animating motif behind much of this poetry. This explains why some of the poems deal with the poet’s quest to be catador de amores and end up being disappointed by the post-coital void. Inherent in this melancholia, I am sure, there is a vibrant forma mentis, a spiritual quest that is trying to find a philosophic core that is more solid, more satisfying than the transient moods of youth. ’Żda le, yo viviré. One day, perhaps, I’ll learn.

By pursuing this road, I would venture to say, the poet would surpass himself in producing a more mature and integral oeuvre that would vie with the best in modern European literature.

Achille Mizzi, 10.2.2009

“Antoine Cassar’s multilingual poetry and the plurivocality of his verses […] is the result of the endless possibilities that ensue when two or more languages are spun together. Poems like In città are confessional, touching, sensitive and linguistically witty evocations of displacement from and nostalgia for the south of Malta, with its ‘kċina tan-nanniet‘ in Lura and ‘la mer, cette grande lumière‘ in Azul. Muñeca checa speaks of loss, and love; a love that is based on the recognition of otherness and ultimate subjectivity.In Illum qabel għada and Ex nihilo nihil fit, Cassar weaves French, Spanish, English, Italian and Maltese into one poem. The resulting verses are not a linguistic Babel. Rather, the poems are a layering of languages that widens the horizons of interpretation; a delicate balance of economy that achieves rhythm, rhyme and a movement towards completion or at least, as Cassar writes, to mark existence, before the eternal silence descends.”

Stanley Borg, The Times of Malta, on the book Ħbula stirati

“I found this bit of gorgeousness via languagehat, a blog I’ve only just started reading.Antoine Cassar writes in five different languages, but rather than write one poem in one language, he has attempted to ‘braid’ all five together into single poems, called mużajki or mosaics. The results are intriguing. The first and third link will take you to some of his poems, and while you’re there I’d recommend listening to the posted recordings. I’ve found, in my brief encounter with them, that the different languages gel well with each other and form very interesting poetry. He’s woven the sounds of the different languages together wonderfully in the poems I’ve heard so far (Go listen).

In the Chimaera piece (first link), Cassar says:

… the mosaics are more than a mere linguistic challenge. Having lived in five different European countries and languages, I find it difficult to decide which tongue I feel more at home with. Although I still write monolingual poetry occasionally (particularly in Maltese), I believe that selecting one, or even two, would mean sacrificing others, and to a certain extent, I feel that making a choice would also imply a political decision. Why the fixation with one as opposed to many?

I think that’s what immediately appealed to me. Being multilingual, one tends to code-switch – or at least want to code-switch – quite a bit, and it is sometimes frustrating to have to limit oneself to just one language when another would fit a particular situation so much better. Given that there are probably more bilinguals and multilinguals in the world than monolinguals, it is worth asking why the majority has to limit itself for the sake of the minority. (And the over-generalised answer, probably, is that the minority is more powerful or influential – neither of which is to be construed as pejorative.)

There are more things to address here, not the least of which is Cassar’s project to include languages he does not speak into the mosaics, but as the project is, as far as I can tell, still gathering steam, I expect there will be more opportunities to do so. In the mean time, I’m just going to go enjoy what there is.”

Nadia Niaz, Mixed Nuts

Achille Mizzi dwar il-ktieb Ħbula stirati

ANTOINE CASSAR seddaq din il-ġabra b’sensiela interessanti ta’ poeżiji ‘multilingwi’. Meta qed ngħid ‘multlingwi’ ma nfissirx li kull poeżija hi b’lingwa differenti, imma li kull poeżija hija msawra minn kliem b’diversi lingwi – stil li ġie mħaddem anke minn Ezra Pound. Dan l-istil ta’ kitba jista’ jissejjaħ soraismus u ġie mħaddem minn ftit awturi għalbiex jinkiseb l-effett ta’ ironija. Ħaddmuh fost oħrajn Ninu Cremona, Victor Fenech, Ġan Anton Vassallo u Frans Sammut. Dan l-istil jissejjaħ ukoll makkeroniku (ara Prof. O. Friggieri – Dizzjunarju ta’ Termini Letterarji).Sata’ Cassar, li kieku ma kienx poeta raffinat, kolt u ta’ ħila, għamel kakofonija sħiħa. Fil-fatt, Cassar inqeda bil-forma dejqa tas-sunett taljan biex damm ma’ xulxin b’mod pulit impressjonijiet, ideat, sentimenti, nostalġiji, espressjonijiet popolari u għajdut ieħor. Biex għamel dan uża mas-seba’ lingwi. Jiena għoddejt il-Malti, l-Ingliż, il-Franciż, il-Germaniż, iċ-Ċek, l-Ispanjol u l-Latin. Li hu ta’ l-għaġeb hu kif Cassar seħħlu jintreċċa dawn il-lingwi kollha flimkien b’tali mod li jidhru minsuġa f’xulxin bħal arazzi wieħed – jew mużajk kif, tabilħaqq, hu stess sejjaħ lit-taqsima tiegħu f’dan il-ktieb.

Dawn il-komponenti mhux mixħutin bl-addoċċ imma fihom sekwenza poetika li turi li l-intenzjoni hi li l-kliem jaqdi s-sens u mhux il-kuntrarju. Din l-istrateġija żżid il-misteru u l-ambigwità tal-poeżija ta’ Cassar għax, kultant, la taf hux jitkellem bl-ironija, la taf hux bil-burlesk, inkella mill-banda l-oħra bl-akbar serjetà. Dan jagħmel il-poeżija aktar stimulanti. Ħaġa waħda hija ċerta – li l-poeta jirnexxilu joħroġ riflessjonijiet, xi drabi serji u profondi dwar l-eżistenza tiegħu nnifsu u tal-ħajja in ġenerali.

Iżda dak li hu l-aktar impressjonanti, apparti l-għarfien tajjeb ħafna tal-lingwi u l-bagalja kulturali li tmur magħhom, Cassar għandu widna fina mhux biss għall-kelma jew l-espressjoni individwali meħuda fiha nfisha imma wkoll sensittività akuta għall-valur sonorju u pittoriku ta’ kull kelma. Bħala eżempju sa niġbed din l-istrofa minn Ciao amore ciao.

Adagio, a tuo agio, il festeggiar d’un bacio,
tbissima lewn ix-xemx, turisti f’art il-ħolm,
arc-en-ciel, que tu es belle!, deux corps qui font une ombre,
si scioglie la mia lingua, e chiudo gli occhi, e taccio…

Wieħed josserva l-logħob bil-ħoss tal-kelma permezz tar-ripetizzjoni u tar-rima interna adagio, agio, bacio kif ukoll arc-en-ciel, que tu es belle! u l-onomatopeja arc-en-ciel, deux corps, chiudo gli occhi.

Dawn u oħrajn iġiegħluk taqrahom u tarġa’ tixtarrhom. U xi ngħidu għal frażijiet oħra bħal:

[…] ir-riħ li ’l bogħod ġie jtajrek
illejla niżżih ħajr, ô belle dame sans merci

U x’jidhirlek mid-definizzjoni ta’ Malti b’dan il-mod?

soy de una isla esmaltada, de un pueblo del sur

(bil-logħob fuq Malta u żmalt).

Ikolli ngħid li f’daċ-ċirklu Cassar mhux biss is-saltimbank li jimxi fuq il-ħabel, imma l-prestiġjatur li jilgħab bil-kliem, qisu qed jilgħab bil-blalen fl-arja bla ma jwaqqa’ mank wieħed.

Nispiċċa b’espressjoni oħra mil-lingwaġġ taż-żgħażagħ. Osserva f’dan li ġej il-bumbardament fit-tieni vers – qisu taħbit ta’ qalb li tibqa’ tnaqqas mir-ritmu mgħaġġel wara l-att post-kojtali.

Eppoi, post-coital void. Sirt maħta, xaħma, tajn,
bobbing about unbuoyed in an ocean not mine…

Osserva l-aġġettivi li kollha kemm huma jridu jfissru xi ħaġa simili imma diversa… għajja, telqa, abnegazzjoni.

Kollox ma’ kollox, jidher li l-impatt ta’ l-atmosfera u l-valuri Ewropej fuq dan il-poeta u l-oħrajn sħabu huwa evidenti.

Bħala nota aħħarija u bla ebda relevanza għall-valur ta’ din ix-xorta ta’ poeżija, nixtieq nistaqsi – Għandha din il-poeżija tiġi kklassifikata bħala ‘poeżija Maltija’ meta għandha proporzjon hekk kbir ta’ lingwi barranin?

Achille Mizzi, In-Nazzjon