Frans Sammut

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Frans Sammut
Frans Sammut (1).jpg
Malta's National Modern Author
Born Francis Xavier Sammut
(1945-11-19)19 November 1945
Ħaż-Żebbuġ, Malta
Died 4 May 2011(2011-05-04) (aged 65)
Occupation Playwright, novelist, short story writer, broadcaster, teacher, cultural consultant to Prime Minister
Notable works Il-Gaġġa
Il-Ħolma Maltija
On The Da Vinci Code
Bonaparte à Malte

Frans Sammut (November 19, 1945 – May 4, 2011[1]) was a Maltese novelist and non-fiction writer.[2]

Early life[edit]

Frans Sammut in mid-2010

Sammut was born in Zebbug, Malta.[1] He studied at the Zebbug Primary School, St Aloysius' College, St Michael's Teacher Training College, the University of Malta (B.A., S.Th.Dip./Diploma in Sacred Theology, M.Ed.) and Perugia University (Diploma to teach Italian abroad).


Sammut first gained recognition in the early 60s when he was still in mid-teens through his short story L-Istqarrija which won first place in a contest by GHaqda Kittieba Zghazagh and through two other short stories which won second fourth places in the same contest; then in the late 1960s, he co-founded the Moviment Qawmien Letterarju (Literary Revival Movement). Later he served as Secretary of the Akkademja tal-Malti (Maltese Language Academy).

In 2010, he was elected Fellow of the International Napoleonic Society.[3]

Sammut ended his career in education as a Head of School, though from 1996 to 1998 he was Cultural Consultant to the Prime Minister of Malta. He has been married to Catherine Cachia and they have two sons, Mark and Jean-Pierre.

Frans Sammut holding Vassalli's collection of Maltese proverbs. December 2006.

He published numerous works, including the best-selling novels Il-Gaġġa (The Cage), which was the basis of Gaġġa the 1971 film directed by Mario Philip Azzopardi,[4] Samuraj, which won the Rothmans Prize,[1] Paceville, which won the Government's Literary Medal.[1] and Il-Holma Maltija (The Maltese Dream), about which literary critic Norbert Ellul-Vincenti wrote, "there is nothing of its magnitude in Maltese literature."[5] Former Prime Minister and playwright Alfred Sant considered it Sammut's "masterpiece",[6] and British author and poet Marjorie Boulton called it "a colossal work".[7]

Sammut also published collections of short stories: Labirint (Labyrinth), Newbiet (Seasons), and Hrejjef Zminijietna (Tales of Our Times).

His non-fiction works include Ir-Rivoluzzjoni Franciza: il-Grajja u t-Tifsira (The French Revolution: History and Meaning), Bonaparti f'Malta (Bonaparte in Malta), of which a French translation, Bonaparte à Malte, was published in 2008, and On The Da Vinci Code (2006), a bilingual (English and Maltese) commentary on the international bestseller. He also edited Mikiel Anton Vassalli's Lexicon. Vassalli (d. 1829) is considered the Father of the Maltese Language. In 2006, Sammut's translation of Vassalli's Motti, Aforismi e Proverbii Maltesi was published as Ghajdun il-Ghaqal, Kliem il-Gherf u Qwiel Maltin. In 2007, his Il-Holma Maltija in translation (as La Malta Revo) represented Malta in the Esperanto collection of classic literary works published by Mondial Books of New York. In 2008, his Il-Gagga was published for the fifth time. In 2009, Sammut presented a revolutionary reinterpretation of Pietru Caxaro's poem "Xidew il-qada" (also known as "Il Cantilena"), the oldest written document in the Maltese language.[8]

Sammut translated important works for theatre: Racine's Phedre (Fedra) (1978) and Maxim Gorki's The Lower Depths, both represented at the Manoel Theatre, under the direction of poet Mario Azzopardi.[9]

Fedra, 1978.
Frans Sammut in the late 1970s

Former University of Malta Rector, Professor of Philosophy and foremost Maltese intellectual Peter Serracino Inglott said:

The genius of Sammut was in his ability as of a Voltairian jester to transform a historical character into a sort of carnivalesque vector of an ironically larger than life mask. The reader is made to enjoy the obverse side of personalities usually regarded with unmitigated solemnity. One smiles like an accomplice in their doubts, slippings and tergiversations. The stylistic shift from historical narrative to fictional is perhaps the biggest challenge to be faced by any kind of translator.[10]

Professor Henry Frendo said this of Frans Sammut:

Warm and forthright, a worthy son of Ħaż-Żebbuġ, an ardent Francophile, and a potentially acid polemicist in his own right, a patriot, passionate as always, Frans had a command of English as much as of Maltese and he did not hold back any punches if he felt that he or someone else was being wronged.[11]


Frans Sammut's famous last words were: “My wife and I should be going to Jerusalem, but it seems plans have changed. I am now going to the Heavenly Jerusalem."[12]

Serracino Inglott reacted thus to these words: "I realised then that sometimes tears and laughter are interchangeable."[10]

National Prize[edit]

In May 2014, the Maltese Ministry of Education launched the Frans Sammut Prize for the Maltese Language.


  • Labirint u Stejjer Oħra [Labyrinth and Other Stories] (short stories) 1968
  • Il-Gaġġa [The Cage] 5 editions (novel) 1971 – made into a film, Gaġġa [Cage], directed by Mario Philip Azzopardi 1971
  • Logħba Bejn Erbgħa [A Game Between Four People] (long short story) 1972
  • Samuraj [Samurai] 3 editions (novel) 1975
  • Kristu fil-Poeżija Maltija 1913-1973 [Christ in Maltese Poetry 1913-1973] (unpublished dissertation, University of Malta) 1977
  • Fedra [Racine's Phèdre] 1978
  • Il-Qtil fi Sqaq il-Ħorr [Murder in Honest Alley] (long short story) 1979
  • Il-Proċess Vassalli [The Vassalli Trial] (play) 1980
  • Il-Mara tat-Tifel [Translation of D.H. Lawrence's Daughter in Law] (play) 1980
  • Il-Mixja tal-Ħaddiem lejn il-Ħelsien [The Worker's March Towards Freedom] (political analysis) 1982
  • Ir-Rivoluzzjoni Franċiża: il-Ġrajja u t-Tifsira [The French Revolution: History and Meaning] (history) 1989
  • Paceville (novel) 1991
  • Letteratura [Literature] (ed. Toni Cortis) (literary criticism) 1992
  • Il-Ħakma ta' Monroj [Monroy's Rule] (folk opera, libretto) 1993
  • Il-Ħolma Maltija [The Maltese Dream] (novel) 1994, 2012[13] translated into Esperanto as La Malta Revo, published in New York, 2007
  • Mannarinu! (folk opera, libretto) 1994
  • L-Atti tal-Appostli [The Acts of the Apostles] (folk opera, libretto) 1995
  • Bonaparti f’Malta [Bonaparte in Malta] (history) 1997, translated into French as Bonaparte à Malte, with an introduction by Dr Paul Borg Olivier, 2008
  • Newbiet [Seasons] (short stories) 1998 (Illustrations: Giovanni Caselli)
  • Ħrejjef Żminijietna [Tales of Our Times] (short stories) 2000 (Illustrations: Giovanni Caselli)
  • Dun Ġorġ: Il-Bniedem tal-Poplu [Father George: a man of the people] (historical and religious theme) 2001
  • Ġrajjet Ħaż-Żebbuġ [A History of Haz-Zebbug] (history) (translation of Dun Salv Ciappara's original) 2001
  • Lexicon (by Mikiel Anton Vassalli) 2002
  • Għala Le għall-UE [Why No to the EU] (political analysis) 2003
  • Ħarsa mill-qrib lejn ħajjet San Filep u l-Kult tiegħu [A Close Look at St Philip: His Life and the Devotion Towards Him](historical and religious theme) 2004
  • Ġrajjet it-Tagħlim f'Malta, Vol. 1 [The History of Education in Malta] (historical) 2004
  • On The Da Vinci Code/Dwar The Da Vinci Code (literary criticism) 2006[14]
  • Għajdun il-Għaqal, Kliem il-Għerf u Qwiel Maltin [Maltese Axioms, Aphorisms and Proverbs] (translation of Mikiel Anton Vassalli's original) 2006
  • Alfred Sant: Il-Viżjoni għall-Bidla [Alfred Sant: a vision for change][15] (political analysis) 2008
  • Introduction to Baron Vincenzo Azopardi's dictionary in which he analyses Caxaro's "Cantilena" (literary criticism, linguistics) 2009


  1. ^ a b c d Attard, Elaine (2011-05-05). "Frans Sammut passes away". The Malta Independent. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  2. ^ Le Petit Futé, 9th Ed, 2009-2010, Paris, p. 70.
  3. ^ "maltastory". 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  4. ^ Aquilina, Sandra (12 March 2007). "Portrait of the artist", The Malta Independent. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  5. ^ Ellul Vincenti, Norbert (11 May 1994): "Vassalli's Maltese Dream", The Sunday Times (Malta), p. 20.
  6. ^ Sant, Alfred (4 May 2001). "Frans Sammut: A Man of Courage", Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  7. ^ Maltese works in Esperanto, The Malta Independent, 2 September 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2001.
  8. ^ New interpretation to oldest written document in Maltese, Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  9. ^ Azzopardi, Mario: "In Memoriam: Frans tal-Gagga u Gerusalemm l-ohra" in In-Nazzjon 14 June 2011.
  10. ^ a b Serracino Inglott, Peter (15 May 2011). "Inheritance of icons", The Sunday Times (Malta). Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  11. ^ Henry Frendo (10 May 2011). [1], The Times (Malta). Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  12. ^ Sammut, Mark (15 May 2011). "Frans Sammut", The Sunday Times (Malta). Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Plain Speaking - The Malta Independent". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 

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