The Malta Independent 21 November 2018, Wednesday

Frans Sammut Passes away

Malta Independent Thursday, 5 May 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

Frans Sammut, the author of various popular novels such as Samuraj and Il-Gagga, passed away aged 66 yesterday.

He died unexpectedly in hospital from natural causes.

Labour MP Stefan Buontempo, who was close to him during his final days, said when contacted that he had lost a friend and mentor. “It is a very difficult moment for me. I drove Mr Sammut to hospital myself around three weeks ago, and I promised I would drive him home too when he gets better,” he explained

Dr Buontempo and Mr Sammut became close friends after they worked together on some parliamentary work about the Maltese language. “Our relationship started as colleagues but it developed into a dear friendship. Many people know him, but I feel privileged to have known him so well. Only now am I realising what a giant of Maltese literature he was,” Dr Buontempo added.

“I want to read his books now because I never had time to appreciate him as a writer. I just couldn’t believe he was sick,” he went on. His good advice will be Dr Buontempo’s best memory of Mr Sammut.

Marie Benoit wrote, “What always struck me about Frans is his lack of intellectual pretension. He carried his considerable learning and extensive knowledge, especially of French history, so lightly. The greatest surprise was what lay behind the smiling facade which gave little evidence of his well-stocked mind. Had I been God I would have left him here for a good many more years.”

Former Labour leader Alfred Sant said he knew Frans Sammut for over 43 years. “We were both aspiring writers, among other things, and he was active in the movement Qawmien Letterarju which in the mid to late 1960s was attempting to energise Maltese literature. The belief was that Maltese literature needed to become better aligned with European and American writing, while giving evidence of how society in Malta was changing. Frans also had a deep lifelong commitment to the Maltese language and how it could be safeguarded.

“I always liked his provocative style and we quickly learnt how to be critical of each other in ways that helped me at least, to clarify my ideas about writing outcomes, both mine and his.

“There are a number of memories. Chief of all now must be the memory of how he faced the sudden, abrupt illness that struck him unexpectedly and formally declared hardly more than three weeks ago, carrying pain and the irrevocable verdict of death. His courage and dignity were impressive. He had always been as I saw him, a man imbued with intelligence, commitment and courage, passionately dedicated to the issues he believed in, even when on purpose he projected the image of roughness. So among my dearest memories of him there are the times when he would launch erudite discussions about how Maltese is derived from strains of dialectic Arabic originating from medieval Spain that were carried over to Sicily and from there to Malta by among others, Jewish families who ended up constituting a major part of the Maltese national stock,” Dr Sant said.

The Nationalist Party said that although the Maltese cultural sector lost one of its pillars yesterday, Mr Sammut will remain alive in the Maltese people’s memory through his literary works. While offering condolences to his family, the PN said that Mr Sammut’s works of the highest quality will remain to be enjoyed by future generations.

The Labour Party described Mr Sammut as the national author of contemporary Malta who carved himself a niche with his unique literary contributions. Mr Sammut was a revolutionary par excellence with his continuous appeals for social justice and education for all. As a researcher of the old Maltese language, Sammut was the best and his eye for detail rendered him unique in his circles, the PL said.

Biography

Mr Sammut was born in Zebbug and received his education at St Aloysius College, St Michael’s training college and the Royal University of Malta from where he graduated Bachelors of Arts in Maltese and Arabic. As an educator, he worked as a teacher and eventually as a head of school, for 20 years. He was married to Catherine Cachia and had two sons, Mark Anthony and Jean Pierre. In 1966, Mr Sammut co-founded the Moviment Qawmien Letterarju. In 1974 he won the Rothmans Prize for literature for penning the popular novel Is-Samuraj (The Samurai), and in 1991 he won the Government Prize for Literature with Paceville. In the same year, he was elected secretary of the Maltese Language Academy.

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