Anton Sammut

Memories of Recurrent Echoes


Reading literary works encourages freedom of interpretation, for they offer us an alternative picture of real life.

With his epic novel Memories Of Recurrent Echoes, Anton Sammut managed to shape his vision in a very brilliant way, inviting us to experience through it that which we often are unable to experience without it.

Memories of Recurrent Echoes

by Anton Sammut

(360 pages)

Memories of Recurrent Echoes is an epic family saga, a highly moving story based in Bavaria, Germany, between 1890 and 1990: a hundred years of love, tragedy, madness and some of the irreconcilable contradictions of existence which mark out Man’s human nature. It ranges over an immensely wide spectrum of human concerns: crucial dilemmas, family ties, the psychological upbringing of children, the relationship between Church and State, and above all everyone’s responsibility to others.

Throughout the novel, worth is defined by comparison, and the very scale of the novel, which is packed with characters and events, affords much opportunity for this. Dialogue is real speech with all its hesitations, gestures, and passional moments. The principle of the eternal recurrence play a subliminal role, too.

Memories of Recurrent Echoes shows that humanity will the irrational and evil because it does not want to become an organ stop, because it wants to be left with freedom to choose between good and evil. This freedom of choice, even at the expense of chaos and destruction, is what makes us human. Through the mouth of one of his vilest characters (Klaus), the author reveals his view of humanity and history – of the evil in human nature and of the blood and tragedy in history – and his criticism of the optimistic, utopian, progressive view of humanity.

Anton Sammut built his novel (which is an English translation from his original Maltese Alte Vestiga) on a compromising ground between mundane experience and introspective world where a number of his characters conjure up their own alter egos and seek to identify themselves with ghosts and devils, which themselves turn out to be as neurotic as their hosts. The motif of the duality of Man’s nature and the alternation of good and evil play an important role in Sammut’s novel: unself-conscious feelings against icy intellect; freedom against authority; immorality and decadence against moral responsibility; a longing for the eternal and infinite against active participation in everyday life. This shows that the novel is also a thoughtful and explicit critique of conventional morality, with some self-affirmed characters who are ready to defy some man-made laws, the arrogance of power and sheer dogmatism. It is a physical and spiritual Odyssey, a metaphysical battle between will-power and self-doubt, an exploration of God, human freedom and what is truth.

The novel’s time frame covers some of the most important events in modern European history including the two World wars, the rise and fall of Nazism and Communism, and the dilemmas of Christianity in the 20th century: it is indeed a very well organized novel to the last detail.

Historical and intellectual background of the novel

In 1867 Austria-Hungary emerged as an influential and strong empire. After the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) Germany realized its centuries-old dream of unification.

Under the rule of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, social order was established, and his administration of internal affairs was marked by a rapid industrial transformation.

Many thinkers and intellectuals, however, felt displeased in such a commercial and Philistine society.

By far the most important and influential theorist was Karl Marx (1819 – 1883), whose Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital proposed a scientific theory of broad economic forces to revolutionize world history. At the time there was a marked decline in religious influence, and the discoveries of new sciences like evolutionary biology forced a restatement of old creeds.

For many, the dawn of the twentieth century was an optimistic era in which a progressive Europe would lead the rest of the world to its own summit of achievement.

One of the strongest opponents of this ideal of positivism and its belief in rational solutions was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900). Nietzsche focused on the individual, not on society, and he looked forward to a superman (Übermensch) who would rise above the herd of common humanity, refusing thus to be bound by any prevailing social and religious paradigms.

Meanwhile, physics and mathematics were breaking new grounds. With his theory of relativity (1905), Albert Einstein proposed that reality should be understood as a four-dimensional continuum. In the popular mind, relativity implied relativism, and Einstein’s discovery was widely thought to put the intellectual world on a new paradigm, both in a scientific and a religious sense…

Structure of the novel

Based on these intellectual principles and on the main 20th century historical events, Memories Of Recurrent Echoes is a monumental construction coordinated down to its smallest parts, not by the development of the traditional novel form, but by a new structural vision; it suggested an intuitive fourth dimensional reality.

The novel is approximately 85,000 words in length. It is written in four parts (I) 1890 - 1900, (2) 1900 - 1920 (3) 1927 - 1944, (4) 1963 - 1990, which makes use of cultural and psychoanalytic networks to thus build up a form of subliminar construction of meaning.

These strategies actually serve to engage the reader in new speculative thought, to refuse even the first stage of an interpretation and instead intercept a combination of related potential themes as how the gist of the novel could be better understood.

All else, dear reader, you can find out for yourself. So enjoy the reading…

Acclaim for Anton Sammut’s novel

Anton Sammut’s epic novel Memories Of Recurrent Echoes is undeniably a masterpiece. Its overall style is innovative, radical, relentless and gripping: an avant-garde work that absorbs the reader in speculative thought. It is a monumental literary edifice and the narrative line complements the supremely intelligent aesthetic vision of the novel itself.

- Alfred Palma – Poet, Author, Translator

Anton Sammut is by no means a professional philosopher, but the sheer erudition he has amassed is in itself proof of his exceptional character as well as mind.

- Rev. Prof. Peter Serracino Inglott

Some of his characters are more than characters, they are an incorporation of philosophical strategy towards life itself; and this fact gives them a stronger say.

- Prof. Kenneth Wain

With a formidable tonality, thoughtful and explicit, Anton Sammut built his novel on a compromising ground between mundane experience and the introspective world.

- Prof. Oliver Friggieri

Leafing through the book, the reader will realize that Anton Sammut’s novel is very well organized to the last detail: a very delicate and challenging philosophical study, and simultaneously a brilliant novel in a very pleasing literary form.

- Il-Mument, Feb. 1, 2009.

This is a one of a kind novel and as far as we know there has never been a book in the history of Maltese literature that comes close to Sammut’s style.

- It-Torca, Aug. 23, 2009.