Salman Rushdie and my last Malta Book Festival

I am not shocked by the attack on Salman Rushdie, although I am deeply sorry for him and I hope he gets well soon. Salman was as old enough to be very close as to have lived a life without suffering any violent attacks, but it was not to be. The Islamists finally got him. Fuck them. May Salman live another day.

The foreign special guest at my last Malta Book Festival, before I was dishonourably discharged by my employer after failing to fire me three times in a row, was Salman Rushdie. The Book Festival (previously the Book Fair) was held online for the first time due to Covid restrictions. Still, it was a breakthrough year for local book sales.

Salman Rushdie was invited for the obvious reasons: he is a towering champion of free speech in the world of literature. He was in conversation with our main local guest who in the previous year had won the National Book Prize’s Lifetime Achievement Award: Alfred Sant. Sant merited his award for his contribution to the book industry throughout his life, even though I had to remain patient with his idiotic views on free speech which he expressed with Salman to our embarrassment. Alfred Sant said something on the lines that authors should know the limits, but Salman being the polite and gentle man he was, and knowing also that the people listening to him did not agree with Sant’s remark, moved on by ignoring his stupid remark.

Having Salman Rushdie at the Book Festival was also part of my holistic vision to help foster a culture of free speech and criticism in what is a very highly conservative, complacent and even rent-seeking local intelligentsia.

Unfortunately, today my legacy at the National Book Council is being dismantled with a pro-Joseph Muscat supporter as its head who encourages people in public to taunt me about “my exile”.

I had made out of the National Book Council an autonomous public entity which effectively helps the local publishing industry and represents its interests. Today, they have undone a large part of my legacy and turned the Book Council into just another Labour shop for pro-government propaganda and corruption, not mention to the gross incompetence and idiocy of the new leadership.

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