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Dimech's writings are now a book of aphorisms

The last writings of the Maltese social reformer Manuel Dimech penned during his exile in Egypt are being published in a book edited by Mark Montebello and Francis Galea.

The writings seem to have begun casually while he was in exile in Egypt, jotting down his musings in the page margins of his books

The book Aphorisms: Wisdom of a Philosopher in Exile, which will go on sale on November 10, is being published following two “paramount” discoveries the two editors had made “separately and almost simultaneously”.

First was the discovery in 2002 of aphorisms attributed to Dimech, which had been transcribed and edited by Juan Mamo in the 1920s.

Then, seven years later, some of the same aphorisms written in English were found in Dimech’s own handwriting in the margins of a Japanese grammar book.

Dimech put down these timeless thoughts during the final years of his life, between 1917 and 1920, during his exile in Egypt. He passed away alone in 1921 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Fr Montebello and Mr Galea launched the book yesterday outside Dimech’s birthplace in Valletta, where a plaque will be unveiled by President George Abela in November.

Dimech was born on Christmas Day, 1860, in a house on St John Street, right across from the one where Nerik Mizzi passed away.

The man was sent to prison several times during his eventful life.

He spent his first two-day detention sentence in the lock-up under the law courts in Kingsway, Valletta, when he was just 13 years old. As the years rolled by, Dimech saw his weekly Il-Bandiera tal-Maltin (The Flag of the Maltese) published for the first time in 1898, which served as his public voice for years to come.

His proposals for the island’s development were not only cultural and psychological but also constitutional, and he dreamt of Malta as an independent sovereign state.

When the war broke out, he was arrested on suspicion of being a paid spy for the Germans. He was eventually deported to Sicily and later on banished to Egypt.

During his exile, various pleas for his return by the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force in Egypt and the Secretary and the Foreign Office in London, among others, were refused by the British colonial Government.

In their book, Fr Montebello and Mr Galea say that the aphorism writings seem to have begun casually while he was in exile and Dimech jotted down his musings in the page margins of his books.

He then copied them on separate sheets of paper and prepared them for some form of publication.

The authors say that, although the original transcript is missing, Mamo, a Maltese labourer who visited Dimech in prison, transcribed Dimech’s manuscript.

Some 90 years later, Fr Montebello and Mr Galea found a Japanese grammar book with Dimech’s authentic writings in English.

And the two men immediately started working on gathering these writings – which “give witness to his presence of mind, moral integrity and stamina during a period of terrible suffering” – into a book.

Published by Sensiela Kotba Soċjalisti, it will include 2,582 aphorisms, 57 epitaphs and 17 fables.

Words of wisdom

• An enemy faced is half defeated
• Of all barriers, “if” is the highest
• Since Christ and his chosen few spoke, all that men have said has only served to create confusion and schisms
• Sleep, or wake: do not doze
• Take care never to tease an unmuzzled dog
• The first man that should be hanged is he who says: “Let us set an example”
• Who has authorised authorities to exercise authority, and to talk and act authoritatively?

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