‘Herbert Ganado’s book taught me life’

Judge Emeritus Giovanni Bonello explains why Herbert Ganado’s monumental work, Rajt Malta Tinbidel, is his favourite book by another Maltese author

Judge Emeritus Giovanni Bonello is a Companion of the National Order of Merit, a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights, and a prolific and award-winning author and historian. His contributions to melitensia include classic series like the Histories of Malta and Nostalgias of Malta, as well as titles like Art in Malta – Discoveries and Recoveries, and the two-volume Valletta – Lost City.

My favourite book by another Maltese author: The four-volume Rajt Malta Tinbidel, by the late Herbert Ganado, published by Klabb Kotba Maltin.

It’s about: It’s a biography of the Maltese nation wrapped around the autobiography of the author.

The thing that most fascinates me about it is: Ganado’s pioneer ability to use the Maltese language as a tool for expressing both abstract concepts and concrete facts in a compelling, pleasant, elegant, and eminently reader-friendly manner. I believe he was the first Maltese author to demonstrate that this amalgam was possible.  

My favourite quote from it is: Ganado’s prose, though almost always immersed in the subtlest of humour, was not generally epigrammatic, in the sense George Bernard Shaw’s or Oscar Wilde’s was. The masterpiece emerges from the sum total, not from single quotable phrases.

If I could ask the author anything about it, it would be: Where did he find the stamina to conceive a work of such proportions – a single-author encyclopaedia of life, of history, of culture, of the spirit? 

It’s helped shape my writing/thinking because: Differently from Ganado, I am a mere short distance sprinter, often short of breath, not a marathon-runner like he proved himself to be. Yet, for me, Ganado was overall maestro di vita. He did not teach me law, or literature, or communication skills. He taught me life – to be scared, but still promote what is right, to value integrity, when others mock it, to speak out loud, though only the sands of the desert are listening.

I’m currently working on: Six books. One is Volume XIII of my series Histories of Malta, another will be a volume of my collected papers on the history of medicine on the Island, and a third, a richly illustrated chronicle of life in Malta since the invention of photography. In another three, I am collaborating with different researchers.

Rajt Malta Tinbidel has been translated and adapted into English by Michael Refalo. The eight-volume collection is titled My Century. For other Sunday Circle magazine features check out this interview about Gerard James Borg’s weekend or these tips about building a financial fund.

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