It appears there isn’t much with words that Shaun Micallef can’t do. The ‘comic renaissance man’ has, after years of consistent TV, essay, column and sketch writing, decided to turn his considerable wit to extended fictional prose. Preincarnate, his new time-bending illustrated novella, tells the tale of Alexander Pruitt, who is murdered in England in 2005, only to reawaken in England 1657 (inside the body of the son of Oliver Cromwell, no less). He is then frozen in sleep by Masonic monks, only to be reawakened somewhere down the line by a group of Victorian novelists, all the while being chased by the author across Paris, Edinburgh, Los Angeles and Area 51, but not necessarily in that order. Badgers are also, randomly, a persistent presence.
‘It’s a challenging idea and [I thought] maybe the way in which it’s delivered should be challenging too,’ says Micallef. ‘I love re-reading books that I’ve enjoyed. If you get new things out of it next time you read it, that’s great – you’re getting value for money.’
Preincarnate is, of course, very, very funny. You get a strong feel for the type of books Micallef likes. Playful homage is paid to 19th century literature; meanwhile, Micallef explains how blockbuster author Matthew Reilly gets a brutal beating.
‘I thought, he’s very successful, he’ll be able to withstand it. Hopefully he’ll still talk to me.’ All novels and novelists are up for parody here, making it a playful deconstruction of the medium. ‘There are lots of jokes about books and about writing. I tried to keep it to a minimum; hopefully it’s not too much.’
While there’s plenty of humour in his work, there’s also self-identification through Micallef’s protagonist, with his feeling of not belonging to one time or place. ‘I always feel that I should be watching the Marx Brothers on Broadway in the ’20s,’ says Micallef. His myriad fans though, are likely to prefer him exactly where he is.