The English autobiography of Dom Mintoff, former Prime Minister of Malta, has landed – and one of the first people to finish reading it has already called it “one of the best things I’ve ever read in my life”.
Mark Camilleri, the executive chairman of the National Book Council, has lauded the autobiography, called Mintoff, Malta, Mediterra: My Youth.
“There is no doubt that if he was alive he would win all possible book prizes,” Camilleri told Lovin Malta. “It’s great, and changes the dynamic since we’ve never had anything this good until now. This is the first extensive Dickensian piece of Maltese literature ever, and it’s one of the best things ever written by a Maltese.”
“It’s Dickensian but it is also very sensible and we don’t have Dickensian literature in Malta because Maltese people started writing later in the 20th century, way after the Dickensian literary style had gripped Europe,” he said.
Camilleri was far from the only one who had high praise for the new book
The autobiography was – surprisingly to many – entirely written in English by Mintoff himself, and it chronicles the Bormla youth’s rise in Maltese politics, in his own words
“The book is around 500 pages, but has plenty of pictures provided by the National Archives of Malta,” Camilleri said.
A small, evocative section of the book was posted to give readers a sense of Mintoff’s personal writing style
“Reading lately the autobiography of Dr Herbert Ganado, a Maltese church-crusader and politician with a fluent and pleasant pen, I learnt that the word Mandraġġ was originally a corruption of the Italian manderacchio, which means the most sheltered inlet of a harbour. But many people with a less Italianate upbringing believe, like me, that our man-in-the-street stuck to the appellation Mandraġġ because the neighbourhood resembled a mandra – the Maltese word for a pigsty – more than a cluster of humble abodes. Next to Gita’s dwelling stood a cast-iron water fountain like a sentinel on a frontier guarding Valletta’s charitable sop to Cerberus. This government water-pump took the shape of a one-metre pillar with its top a lion’s head in whose mouth was inserted a pipe from which one drew water by opening a valve. To avoid water wastage a gadget kept the valve automatically closed and water only flowed as long as a firm hand applied a twist to the pear-shaped handle. It said earn and drink. No twist, no water! The Mandraġġajri kept this valve open all day, for they filled diverse containers for all their domestic needs and trudged their burdens down many narrow steps and dark alleys. This was the only source of water for hundreds of souls whom the Knights Hospitallers of St John and successive British imperial governors – aided by Maltese ecclesiastics – had condemned to live in dark hovels for over three-and-a-half centuries. In fairness to the memory of the foreign Grand Masters, there were two or three fountains in the approaches to the Mandraġġ, but these had dried up long before my time. In my life I have seen many shantytowns in Africa, America and Asia as well as old remnants of ghettoes in Europe. In none of these was the stink greater and the darkness thicker; not one exceeded the degradation of this horrible Christian enclave in the Pope’s most fervent Catholic land.”
– Page 52 of ‘Mintoff, Malta, Mediterra: My Youth‘
The autobiography also features a number of rare images of Malta’s former Prime Minister and the era he grew up in
The book is set to give readers an insight into the personal thoughts of one of Malta’s most controversial political figures
Yana Mintoff, Dom Mintoff’s daughter, had previously talked about the book, which was also translated into Maltese.
“My father wrote beautifully in English,” Yana Mintoff told TVM. “He started writing daily a year after my mother died and I remember him telling me that he wasn’t spending so much time at the beach so that he could have more time to write at home. I was working in the United States at the time, and he used to fax me eight pages every week and I would return them to him with my suggestions.”
Mintoff was Prime Minister of Malta between 1955 and 1958, and again between 1971 and 1984, and was the Leader of the Labour Party.
Mintoff, Malta, Mediterra: My Youth is published by BDL Books and can be purchased by following this link.