The Malta Independent 10 December 2018, Monday

Awguri, Giovanni Bonello!

Monday, 20 February 2017, 13:42 Last update: about 3 years ago

Judge Giovanni Bonello sat down to listen to a lecture on 20th century artist Olof Gollcher and his love of Rome, but was rather startled to hear the lecturer Francesca Balzan tell her audience: "You know what? I cannot do this".

Dr Theresa Vella took to the podium instead, saying that the audience was in reality gathered at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura to celebrate Judge's Bonello 80th birthday, and what better way to mark the occasion than the publishing of a book of fiction stories inspired by the Judge's meticulous research on Maltese history?

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Of course only one member in the audience was left speechless, the rest - which included his colleagues at the Fondazzzjoni Patrimonju Malti, family and friends, had been in collusion and sworn to secrecy for months.

The idea was inspired by Judge Bonello's series of Histories of Malta, where in several volumes he takes his readers back into a past world of intrigue, murder, prisons and pompous ceremonies. His stories are packed with historical delights and curiosities which throw light on otherwise forgotten Maltese heroes.

Merlin Publishers in collaboration with Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, have published the festschrift-with-a-difference, which brings to life ten characters salvaged by Judge Bonello, in the form of fiction stories, written by ten of Malta's most creative writers.

The book - Awguri, Giovanni Bonello! - is bilingual and features six stories in Maltese by Clare Azzopardi, Immanuel Mifsud, John Bonello, Nabhan Walid, Alfred Sant and Mark Vella; and four stories in English by Maria Grech Ganado, Emma Mattei, dor Reljic and Kristina Chetcuti. Each story is illustrated by Marisa Attard, with artistic drawings styled to match the era of the tales.

Some of the historical characters featured in the book include Ekaterina Greque, one of the several mistresses of Grandmaster Jean de Valette; Caterina Scappi who founded the very first hospital in Malta dedicated exclusively to women; Giovanni Buonamico, a Maltese doctor and traveller who was the first in Europe to write a treatise on chocolate; and Caterina Vitale, the late sixteenth-century benefactress of the Carmelite friary in Valletta who also happened to be an enterprising prostitute and sadistic torturer of slaves.

Dr Chris Gruppetta, director at Merlin Publishers, home to most of Malta's best authors, said: "There is little Maltese historical fiction around. We are honoured to have published such a fine specimen of the genre, with stories ranging from the delightfully amusing to the grotesque to the haunting."

Michael Lowell CEO of FPM - a non-profit making foundation with the aim of spreading awareness of the Maltese islands' extensive cultural heritage, said: "Judge Bonello is one of Malta's foremost historians who with his 'Histories' series, and inimitable style, has managed to attract a wide and committed audience. It has been a great honour and pleasure for us all to work with him over the last few years. I hope that he will carry on uncovering lesser-known aspects of Maltese history, and continue to surprise and delight us for many years to come."

Awguri, Giovanni Bonello! is out now and is available from leading bookshops or directly online from www.merlinpublishers.com.

 

A celebration of the publication will be held on 23 February, at 7.30pm at Palazzo Pereira in Valletta. For more information email [email protected] or 21246472


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