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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Paperback writer

I am rarely starstruck. Last night I was quite starstruck for the first time in years: I finally met Ġużè Stagno face-to-face. To me he's the most relevant Maltese novelist of our time.

He picked me up in his white car outside the old entrance at the University of Malta as I said goodbye to Kenneth Scicluna (another under-rated creative mind). This Monday saw me spending five hours exploring and discussing Bertolt Brecht's Short Organum for the Theatre with my Theatre Studies students. It had already been quite a day even before I met Stagno.

He drove us to Sliema with the intention of having a drink at what used to the be the Allies Bar down by the Ferries. This was an effort to evoke the spirit of Francis Ebejer who sat there on a regular basis between the 1960s and his death in the mid-1990s, drinking and smoking cigars. The plan failed for two reasons, possibly three. The place was packed. Parking on the Sliema seafront at about 5pm is not a pleasant experience. We probably weren't exactly too keen on communing with the ghost of Ebejer anyway.

So Ġużè drove to Valletta via Sa Maison and parked by the Catholic Institute. We walked through City Gate in search of a watering hole of sorts. I needed to use a toilet, badly. As we cruised through Republic Street we were stopped by a couple of acquaintances who hadn't seen me in years, and I gladly introduced them to Ġużè Stagno, the author in person. He mentioned a couple of bars we could go too. I just needed one that had a decent gents' room. It transpired that most places in Valletta are closed at 5pm during the week. We tried the Premier. Closed. Let's try the Australia Bar. My fascination with that place started when I first read about it in an Albert Marshall poem. We turn the corner but sadly the Australia Bar is now just a distant memory.

Somehow we end up at the Lower Barrakka where the public toilet has been recently refurbished. When we discovered that even the local bocci club down by the Mediterranean Conference Centre was closed we no longer cared for a drink. So we sat down on one of the Barrakka park benches next to the rather fascist looking statue by Ugo Attardi, unveiled by President Demarco in the presence of Valletta Mayor Paul Borg Olivier some years ago.

Eventually I managed to steer the conversation towards the idea of a Toni Sant biography written by Ġużè Stagno. We had already discussed the topic briefly via email some time ago. I doubt that the project can come to light anytime before the end of this decade or the next. However, I found this topic to be an excellent conversation device whenever he asked me something about myself rather than continue to talk about himself as most egocentric creative-types would do.

On our way out of Valletta we bumped into Andrew Alamango from Etnika. What a wonderful coincidence. We exchanged contact numbers and now I'm looking forward to having coffee with him tomorrow morning after standing in line at the ID card office.

Stagno kindly took me to Sliema where I had planned to spend the rest of my evening. Before he left I insisted on giving him a parting gift, which I know he enjoyed very much: a copy of Artwork's only 45 rpm release from twenty years ago. Perhaps now he'll stop pestering me in public about the music section on my personal website; something I still can't seem to find the time/energy to do since I launched my site in 2000.

Ġużè Stagno and Toni Sant posed for a photo outside the Imperial Hotel in Sliema before they parted.

Blogger Robert Micallef said...

Stagno minghajr sigarett u magenb Toni Sant jidher hafna iktar mans u intellettwali ;)

Bijografija T.Sant bil-pinna ta' Guze? - ghogbitni l-ideja!

Ton, kontra qalbi ma stajtx narak din id-darba ghax ghadni msiefer. Forsi l-Ingilterra!


12:31 PM, March 17, 2005
Anonymous Il-mara t' Edmund tal PBS said...

Great Pic :)

Yes, Allies Bar has totally changed now. I remember F.E very well always sitting at a coffee table chatting away. My gran was a regular there too wasn't the first time she spoke to him as well.

And yes, isn't our 'enfant terrible' absolutely the best. So honoured I can call him my friend. 

8:02 PM, March 24, 2005
Anonymous margaret said...

Years ago, I translated into Polish Francis Ebejer's play Hour of the Sun (which was performed here on TV) For a bibliography of foreign plays in Poland I need to know the date of Francis Ebejer's death and the date and place (name of theatre) of the first performance of this play. Can you help me? Thank you in advance

6:39 PM, May 30, 2005
Blogger Toni Sant said...

Ebejer died on 10 June 1993. He was born on 28 August 1925.

Margeret, I emailed you some information about the rest of your query. 

8:02 PM, May 30, 2005

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