This is a portrait I did not want to draw. This is drawn in sadness, not in ink, in heartrending grief. He was my mentor when, as an eighteen year old I sought a place among those who studied literature.
He was my lecturer in my undergraduate years, and again, a respected mentor as I poured my heart out in poetry and prose. He was the man we emulated when we tried to understand the depths in the cavernous maws of literature… he gave us the method, he built the way with his incredible mind. He was my friend throughout the years, and a colleague for the last two and a half decades. But always, he was the master and I was the student. Always his words lifted me to levels my own mind would not be capable of traipsing on its own. He was the man who brought us a modern awareness of our literature.
A critic, a writer of novels that stroked with passion the very nature of our being Maltese. That, at times carried a caring sting, clearly pointing out what he perceived to be his beloved nation taking paths to destruction. His voice was always strident, even when illness made it waver. His mind was always lucid and his poetry always heartrendingly genuine. And he is gone. Just like that. The man, the professor, the poet, the novelist, the philosopher… the master.
OLIVER FRIGGIERI is gone. But he has left a large part of himself in all of us, and it will be cherished like the priceless gem that it is, helping us map paths he created and to follow where he led.
Professor Oliver Friggieri died on Saturday November 21st at the age of 73.
The Times of Malta reports “An educator by training, he taught Maltese within secondary schools before moving on to tertiary education. He was appointed head of the University of Malta’s Department of Maltese in 1988 and continued to lead the department until 2002. He published a wide variety of books, ranging from works of literary criticism to poetry, as well as 10 novels and a collection of sketches. His works have been translated into English, French, German, Italian and Greek. Among his most famous works was his 1986 novel Fil-Parlament Ma Jikbrux Fjuri, which sparked controversy at the time of its release for its frank depiction of political tribalism within Malta. Friggieri was honoured with a gold medal in the Ġieħ l-Akkademja tal-Malti’ in 2016 and won various editions of the National Book Prize.”
In a statement, the government paid tribute to Friggieri as “one of this country’s greatest-ever writers” and said his writing had helped foster a sense of national unity. “His love for the arts, research and philosophy inspired one generation after the other,” the government said.