Scandals, past and present
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.