Scan­dals, past and present

Il-Pur­ga­torju 360o

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - BOOKS -

Au­thor & pub­lisher: JW Psaila 2014 / 154pp

Noel Grima On the 50th an­niver­sary of Malta’s In­de­pen­dence, this au­thor takes us around a mod­ern ver­sion of Dante’s Pur­ga­tory – Malta.

Just as Dante’s Florence comes across in La Div­ina Com­me­dia as a col­lec­tion of some of the most un­salu­bri­ous char­ac­ters in his time, so too Psaila weaves a tale of so many politi­cians and hang­ers-on who have con­trib­uted to make life in Malta all in all quite dis­tant from what it ought to have been, far dis­tant from what we all hoped it would be when Malta be­came in­de­pen­dent.

Read­ing this book again with all to­day’s scan­dals at the back of one’s mind makes one im­por­tant point: we may fo­cus on to­day’s woes but we had woes and scan­dals ga­lore in the past years. Psaila’s guide in the first part of his trav­els in Pur­ga­tory is Mal­taTo­day’s ed­i­tor Saviour Balzan while his guide when Par­adise draws near is Peter Ser­ra­cino In­glott. Psaila mixes peo­ple who are still alive, like Ed­die Fenech Adami and Al­fred Sant, with peo­ple who have died and who hope­fully are in Pur­ga­tory, since it is in­con­ceiv­able that any politi­cian in Malta goes to hell since no politi­cian has been sent to jail. The ac­tual poem, sec­tioned in Can­tos, is in rhyme but the au­thor hope­fully in­serts notes to jog one’s mem­ory. And in­deed some scan­dals have long been for­got­ten. This is one merit of the book. I my­self had com­pletely for­got­ten, for ex­am­ple, the ger­ry­man­der­ing scan­dal of 1969 which led to Par­lia­ment turn­ing down the pro­pos­als of the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and which could have led to the 1981 cri­sis hap­pen­ing 10 years be­fore we it not for the fa­mous 21 votes on the Fifth Dis­trict which gave vic­tory to Dom Mintoff.

Some­times, the event he speaks about is so in­tri­cate and in­volved that the ex­plana­tory note be­comes longer than the poem it­self. Thus, for ex­am­ple, to ex­plain John Dalli’s woes with snus.

The book has, we might say, only two heroes in this fir­ma­ment of scoundrels – Peter Ser­ra­cino In­glott (de­scribed with some un­known de­tails) and An­ton Tabone the for­mer Min­is­ter for Gozo and later the Speaker.

One might have thought the book is sar­cas­tic. It is not but it tells of what hap­pened in these 50 years with a mix­ture of sor­row, dis­ap­point­ment that things could have been bet­ter. I think that we can all sub­scribe to that. There ought to be a post-2014 se­quel to this.

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