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On books, book lovers and book producers

On January 20, in the evening I went to the Auberge de Castille for the presentation of the awards for the “best” books published in Malta during 2009. I had pencilled down the appointment in my HTC for January 27 and only found out about the mistake late afternoon. For reasons I will explain further down I was not in the mood to go for the activity; but I did and was not disappointed.

The book that I edited together with Prof Mary Anne Lauri and Adrian Hillman placed second in the General Research in Maltese and English Categories. “Exploring the Maltese Media Landscape” (Allied Publications) was a collection of essays exploring different aspects of our mediascape. I think it was the first such book studying the media environment that has developed around us and developed us around it. The Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ktieb, currently under the chairmanship of the energetic Dr Gorg Mallia, has been organising this event for a number of years. In recent years the event is being held at the Office of the Prime Ministers.

The organisers see this as a clear sign of Government’s support for books published in Malta. I was surprised to find out that during 2009 the number of such publications totalled 458! I think the figure is amazing especially when one considers the small size of our population. It seems that the book is far from dying though I believe that new forms and new media will continue to change the shape and production style of books as we know them. More and more people will to-day read book from their Kindles, IPads and Smart Phones. I, for one, have stopped using the print version of the Liturgy of the Hours, popularly known as the Breviary. I pray the Breviary on my android based HTC. I use the same means to do the Lectio Divina and to reflect on the Mass readings.

I DEDICATE THE PRIZE TO...

The event was well planned and moved smoothly. I would have loved, though, to be permitted to dedicate the prize I won together with my colleagues. Had I been given that chance I would have dedicated it to my dearest close friend, George Fava, who died in the early hours of that same Thursday after losing his battle with cancer. (This is the reason why I was not in the mood to participate in the event.)

George contributed greatly to the upgrading of book publication in Malta.

He was a first class graphic designer. Though hailing from the old school of book design, he learned the new desktop publishing tools and practiced them to perfection. He was an artist; not just someone savvy in the latest software. His artistic abilities were enhanced by the fact that he was very well read and cultured. Many books carry his artistic signature or that of the young people he tutored in the subject.

George was also responsible for the publishing arm of the Media Centre. Dozens of books were published under his direction. Every year the Media Centre used to publish six books as part of the Klabb Qari Nisrani book club. Other books were published though the department known as Media Centre Publications. The department published some of the best selling books in Malta. George was responsible for all this. I was Chairman of Media Centre until 2000. I can attest to his high sense of duty, dedication and honesty. He loved the place as if it was his own.

In the last two years of his working life, George moved on to Miller Distributers. He was heavily involved both in Miller’s initiative to start printing foreign newspapers in Malta and in their publications department. Once again, he found a venue for his creativity and great respect from the workers and the owners of the place.

Luckily, for George he moved out of the Media Centre before it was dismantled in the middle months of 2009. The authorities had then said that their move was inspired by their desire to do things in a more efficient and effective way. Their plans for doing so are still a heavily guarded secret. The Media Centre – almost two years after its dismantlement – is just a most dismal place denuded from its past glory and devoid of any creativity. Fr Tabone OP, the head of the soon to be formally set up Secretariat for Social Communications, is hoping to help the Phoenix rise again. I wish him luck.

IN PRAISE OF AUSTIN

Austin Gatt’s opinion piece in The Times of Wednesday 26 is one of the best pieces I read about the on-going divorce debate for a very long time. It is no knee jerk or emotional reaction. It is a principled piece, well argued. It is as balanced as it is assertive. It respects the contrary opinions as much as he lucidly explained his.

I hope that his contribution is not a one-off contribution to the debate, but it will be the first of a series.

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