The Malta Independent 11 December 2018, Tuesday

Guze’ Chetcuti’s Death: Last of the great romantics passes away

Malta Independent Thursday, 20 July 2006, 00:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

The well known author, poet and playwright, Guze Chetcuti passed away on Tuesday evening at the venerable age of 91 at St Luke’s Hospital. Perhaps he is best remembered for his famous novel, Nirien ta’ Mhabba which was also recently serialised on TVM to great critical and popular acclaim.

Born at Cospicua in 1914, Chetcuti studied at St Albert’s Central School, Valletta and the teachers’ college at Valletta. In 1936 he entered government service as a primary teacher. Two years later he was appointed store officer with the Medical and Health Department. In 1940 he joined the editorial staff of the Information Office as translator. He also worked as radio announcer during the war years.

Chetcuti re-joined the Education Department and he taught Maltese at the Lyceum (1956-74), and lectured in Maltese at the Mater Admirabilis Training College, at the sixth-form and at the Upper Secondary School (1964-74). He also taught during the emergency teachers’ maturity course and acted as an examiner of Maltese on various examining boards.

Chetcuti was actively involved in the Akkademja tal-Malti’s affairs. A member since 1937, he was Secretary (1939-48), Vice-President (1990-92), President of its sub-committee for orthographic matters, and Honorary President (1998-2006). He is also a life member of the Ghaqda Poeti Maltin, council-member of the Malta Drama League, and co-founder of the Xirka ghat-Tixrid ta’ l-Ilsien Malti (1939). He was awarded the Freedom of the City of Valletta in 1986, and was appointed member of the National Order of Merit (MOM) in 1996.

Chetcuti’s publications include novels – Id-Dawl tal-Hajja (1957), Imhabba u Mewt (1961), L-Isqaq (best novel of the year, 1962), It-Tnalja (1963), Nirien ta’ Mhabba (1967), Qabel Telghet ix-Xemx (1987), Manwela (1993), and It-Tezor ta’ Dun Natal (1996); poems – Poeziji (1945), Melita Invicta (1945), Poeziji Marjani (1953), Il-Hajja Nzul u Tlajja’ (1964), Il-Lingwa ta’ l-Imhabba (1993) – Oratorju Muzikali ‘Marija Immakulata’ (1994), Poeti Maltin (anthology, 1973); plays – Il-Kerrejja (1963), Imhuh Morda (1965), tele-serial Manwela (1979), 1919 (1987); short stories – Fra Martin u Novelli Ohra (1991), Il-Mandraggara u Stejjer Ohra (1980), L-Imhatra u 24 Novella Ohra (1991), It-Tabib Fonzin (1994); criticism and language – Dwar il-Poezija Maltija (1946), Studji Kritici: Giovanni Curmi, Ninu Cremona (1956), Traduzzjonijiet u Komponimenti (1959), Tahrig ghall-Ezamijiet tal-Malti (1973), Tghallem il-Malti f’Ghoxrin Lezzjoni (1982), Nirien ta’ Mhabba: Noti ghall-Matrikola Avvanzata (1984), Stilistika Maltija u Movimenti Ohra (1985); and translations – Irmied (G. Curmi’s Italian poems, 1965), Epistolarju Romantiku (G. Curmi, 1965), Il-Martri (V.M. Pellegrini, 1967), L-Ghadu tal-Poplu (H. Ibsen’s play, 1987), Hrejjef ta’ Gahan u Stejjer Ohra (1997) (Aldo Farini’s Fiabe tradizioni e leggende maltesi)

L-Isqaq was translated into English by Maud Ruston as An Alley in Malta (1971), and into Arabic by Ibrahim Irnigami (1978). Ruston also translated It-Tnalja as The Snare (1978).

Contacted yesterday, broadcaster, poet and writer George Peresso described the passing away of Guze’ Chetcuti as the demise of the last of the great romantics.

“Chetcuti represented that last branch of writers such as Guze’ Galea, Guze’ Ellul Mercer and Guze’ Bonnici who worked tirelessly in the years before and after the Second World war for the promotion of the Maltese language. He was an expert writer of plays and prolific in every literary area including poetry and novels and also was deeply involved in the social aspect of things”.

Mr Peresso explained that Chetcuti was extremely conscious of the social conditions prevalent in Malta in the post war period and he worked tirelessly to write about them in the hope of bringing about social change.

“In an interview with me, Chetcuti confessed that he did not write about contemporary themes but he wrote mostly about historical events. He was also extremely helpful to the upcoming generation of broadcasters and contributed a lot of knowledge and insight into our work”.

Mr Peresso said that if asked to choose the most impressive of Chetcuti’s work, he would opt for the novel , L-Isqaq and the collection of poems, Melita Invicta which were inextricably linked to the war and the sufferings of the Maltese nation.

This paper also spoke to the former editor of It-Torca, Joe Vella who is married to one of Chetcuti’s daughters.

Mr Vella said that Guze’ Chetcuti continued to work assiduously right till the very end of his life when he was taken ill.

“Notwithstanding his love for literature and all the work that went with it, he remained a family man right till the end and always took great pleasure in his large family including a host of great grandchildren”.

Tributes in honour of Guze’ Chetcuti poured in yesterday including one by the National Book Council who said that Chetcuti was an important player in the history of our country as he worked for the Maltese language and for its literature in very difficult times.

“Not only in times when to love the Maltese language was considered dishonourable but also during the Second World War. Not even a cruel war lessened Guze’ and his friends’ love towards Maltese; a language we often not esteem these days. This was a time when Chetcuti was in the Akkademja tal-Malti and as its secretary he was very active”, the NBC said.

The council said that Chetcuti’s prose is realism based and he used literature to move forward the cause of the poor and uneducated. Another aspect which should not be forgotten is that of Chetcuti the translator as he translated to Maltese, works by Vincenzo Maria Pellegrini, Giovanni Curmi, and a play by Henrik Ibsen, it added.

Labour leader Dr Alfred Sant was also emotional in his praise for Chetcuti which was issued in a signed statement by the Labour Party. He said that Chetcuti was one of his teachers and was also a personal friend, humble and zealous yet also gentle and dedicated.

Dr Sant described Chetcuti as a beacon of inspiration for himself and for the nation. He praised Chetcuti’s work as one of the finest quality describing his numerous novels and poems as amongst the finest in Maltese literature.

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