Malta might be small, but the country’s literary contribution is anything but.
As Malta celebrates the highest number of books published in a single year, the National Book Council once again came through with one of the most highly-anticipated awards ceremonies of the year – the National Book Prize.
This year’s rendition of the National Book Prize saw some big names from Malta’s literary and political spheres come together in celebration of local literature.
Education Minister Justyne Caruana, President George Vella, and National Book Council Chairman Mark Camilleri all made appearances at the awards ceremony – and they all had something to say about the importance of literature.
Now Malta’s no stranger to the National Book Prize…
Having kicked off way back in 1971, this award show has been shining a spotlight on the country’s best authors and literary works for years on end.
This prestigious prize also comprises the Terramaxka Prize – a literary awards ceremony focusing on books for children and adolescents. Unlike the National Book Prize, this takes place during the highly-anticipated annual Malta Book Festival, which was held virtually for the first time ever this year.
This year, the National Book Prize dished out awards in nine literary and research publishing categories and three special categories – the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Best Emergent Writer Award, and the brand spanking new Poet Laureate Award.
Now giving away literary awards might seem like a walk in the park, but a whole lot of work goes into the ceremony’s preparation.
For starters, a whopping 68 works were shortlisted for this year’s National Book Prize and the Terramaxka Prize. Out of these, 44 were shortlisted for the National Book Prize across nine different categories.
All submissions were then evaluated by an independent board appointed for the sole purpose of adjudicating the National Book Prize.
Now that we’ve gotten a bit of a better understanding of what goes into an awards ceremony of this calibre – here are the big winners of the National Book Prize 2020.
Lifetime Achievement Award For Contribution To Literature
Local literary legend Trevor Żahra walked away with the Lifetime Achievement Award – and we couldn’t be happier.
Żahra has published more than 130 books since he kicked off his literary career way back in 1971. His first published book was ‘Il-Pulena tad-Deheb’ – an adventure book for kids that we’ve probably all read at some point in time. But this isn’t the first time Żahra won big at the National Book Prize.
Żahra has won a National Book Prize 18 separate times, yes you read that right!
Poet Laureate Award And Best Poetry In Maltese
On a different note, poet John Aquilina walked away with the Poet Laureate award for his Maltese and English writing as well as the ‘Best Poems In Maltese’ award for his work titled Tluq.
Fun fact – his first poetry collection, ‘Leħnek il-Libsa Tiegħi’, won him his first National Book Prize in 2011.
Prize For Best Emerging Author
The Best Emergent Author award went to none other than Lara Calleja – a writer from Marsaskala who loves incorporating the theme of village life into her works. As of yet, Calleja’s released two books – Lucy Min? And Kissirtu Kullimkien – and is currently working on publishing a play.
Novels In Maltese And English
Ġorġ Peresso, a major contributor to Maltese literature, was awarded the prize of ‘Best Novel’ for his book titled Il-Wiċċ L-Ieħor. Having said that, Peresso’s contribution to Malta’s cultural sphere also touched upon radio and TV.
Short Stories In Maltese And English
Former journalist and editor Aleks Farrugia won the award for ‘Best Short Story’ for his book Għall-Glorja tal-Patrija!:Kapriċċi Patrijottiċi. Apart from being a locally-renowned author and journalist, Farrugia is also a lecturer at the University of Malta.
Drama In Maltese And English
Well-loved playwright Simone Spiteri won the ‘Best Play’ award for her work Żewġ Drammi: Appuntamenti / Repubblika Immakulata. The two works, which were originally published 14 years apart, were published in a single book last year.
Biographical And Histographical Research
Priest Jonathan Farrugia won the award for ‘Best Biographical and Historiographical Research’ for his publication Ir-Redentur: History, Art and cult of the miraculous effigy of Christ the Redeemer at Senglea, Malta.
Literature professor and co-founder of Alternattiva Demokratika Arnold Cassola walked away with the ‘Best General Research’ prize for his work The Joannes Gennadius Maltese treasure trove in Athens.
Cassola is behind a flurry of academic publications and books covering a range of topics about Maltese history.
Carlo Bonini, Manuel Delia, and John Sweeney won the prize for ‘Best Work of Literary Non-Fiction’ for their publication Murder on the Malta Express, which looks into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Prize For The Best Book Production
And last but not least, local publishing house Horizons Malta walked away with the award for ‘best book production’ for the book The Unreality of Realism: An Insular Perspective On The Development Of Modern Art by Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci.
The streamed ceremony was hosted by veteran TV broadcaster John Demanuele.