It’s nearing 6am, as night turns to day I hear the first bus of the morning pick-up passengers at the bus stop outside. The windows of the wooden balcony are open, this unfortunately lets mosquitoes and noise in, but it’s still too warm to sleep without the fresh air coming through.
Not that I slept this night.
Arriving accidentally early for a court case yesterday morning I passed by a bookshop to pick up a copy of A Death in Malta – An Assassination and a Family’s Quest For Justice, by Paul Caruana Galizia, that I ordered online a few days ago.
I sat in a coffee shop as a colleague drank a coffee, and read the first pages of the book as we waited for the right time to head to the courts. I closed the book knowing a few more pages would mean wanting to stop time to read on.
But just in those few minutes, I felt drawn to the story that we all think we know, but we really don’t.
I was due to testify in court for the first time in my life and my anxiety was high. As I sat outside the courtroom my watch congratulated me for exercising. Otherwise uneventful, I stayed in Valletta afterwards, shared lunch with another colleague and her friend. Discussed conflict analysis and PhDs, and headed to Spazju Kreattiv to change my shirt to a more comfortable t-shirt.
The hardback book patiently waiting in my bag this whole time.
Chance meetings with others, as inevitably happens in Valletta turned up. And a couple of intended meetings too.
Sitting in a café in St. Christopher’s Street, recommended by a photographer in London who I only know through Instagram, the book now lies on the table. I touch the my coffee cup to see if it is cool enough to drink. And I finally get ready to sink into the book when I remember that I had an urgent call to make for an organisation I volunteer with.
Call done, follow-up emails signed and delivered, café closing, I strike up a conversation with the owners about politics and am invited to stay on, chatting about problems and solutions over a beer and snacking on crunchy broad beans fried in garlic oil in the closed cafe. The plate of broad beans rests upon the book, that still hasn’t been opened.
That impromptu beer leads to last-minute shifting of another meeting from Sliema to Valletta, and the conversation continues. Political reform. Constitutional reform. Hope for clean politics.
I know better than to open the book on the short bus ride home, where I pick up the car to go pick up my girlfriend and some friends to give them a lift home.
Later, recycling taken out, cat litter cleaned, Duolingo streak maintained, I finally open the book. Choosing it over the two I’ve already started in the last week.
And so here I am, nearing 6am, every last word read and acknowledged, down to the acknowledgements. As I close the book.
I am reminded of both my reason to return to Malta from Berlin, and every reason why, every other week or so, I consider leaving again.
In reading Paul’s words, I am reminded of Malta as home. As he tells his family’s story, the story of his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia before she was a mother. Before she was a journalist. Before she was assassinated for her work. I feel drawn to the familiarity of the beginnings of this story.
They echo stories told by my mum and aunts about St Dorothy’s school which they attended at roughly the same time as Daphne. Of their walks along the coast from Paceville – before Portomaso – to Sliema – before townhouses turned to a thousand apartments – with my Nanna who would visit her sister.
Still alive and still living in Sliema to this day. Of the political violence of the 80s, as told by my aunts. For my mum had moved to Rome. To the hope of the early 90s and EU accession talks, as my parents decide to move us to Malta.
Of the hushed matter in which politics would be discussed around us kids. About seeing the celebratory vans at a PL victory driving through the high street of Balzan. Of mum buying the Independent only on Thursdays and Sundays. Of the Flair and Taste magazines which were the only ones not to go into recycling. And I read about the courtrooms, seeing them in detail after having spent some time there today. And St. Christopher’s Street.
But most importantly the 2019 protests, counting the barriers put up outside parliament – around 70 if I recall correctly – blocking exit routes out of Valletta – with a tangible feeling of hope and change in the air.
When I’m asked now about Malta I say. Everyone remembers where they were when they read or received the news about Daphne’s assassination. I was at my desk in Berlin, I received a message on the family group chat. I walked around the office telling my colleagues, all human rights activists, that they couldn’t understand the meaning of this.
I am fed up of people’s attempt to summarise Malta in a few sentences. To comment on our politics with no understanding of contemporary political history. Which we ourselves cannot find consensus on.
Maybe because of the shared class background as I share above, or the smallness of our country, where other people’s stories become your own – Paul’s writing strikes me as the most necessary read about Malta, that I’ve read to this day. I finally have a book to hand to Brussels bubbles politicians and campaigners who want to understand Maltese politics more. When it’s impossible to summarize the last 6 years, let alone more.
So, against the advice of campaigners who tell me to keep my emails short and to have only one clear self-serving call to action…
I ask you instead to buy this book, in turn supporting the Daphne Foundation set up by her family to continue her legacy to uncover corruption in Malta.
And as a secondary call to action, I ask you to sign this petition by the Daphne Foundation and Friends of the Earth Malta against the Melita gas pipeline. Really want to know why? Read the book.
And if you’ve reached this far, you like how I write, so please forward this email to a friend or send them this link to sign up to my newsletter.
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