Ġużè Stagno was born in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk on the 21st of September 1976. Following a stint with a parastatal company, Stagno returned to his studies. He currently works as an interpreter for the European institutions in Brussels, where he has now lived for several years.

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Stagno credits his journey into writing to his English teacher, Henry Holland, also a poet in his own right. In 2001, he debuted with his novel, Inbid ta’ kuljum (“Our daily wine”), followed two years later by Xemx wisq sabiħa (“Such a beautiful sun”). Both novels were published by the now-defunct Minima Press. The novels sparked controversy due to their use of coarse language, a rarity in Maltese literature at the time. The uproar was further fueled by Stagno’s portrayal of himself as a rebellious writer, the enfant terrible of Maltese literature, who is unafraid to criticise other authors and their works.

Stagno’s body of work is largely autobiographical, drawing inspiration from settings and characters that mirror his own life. It reflects his personal experiences, such as the challenges and frustrations of being intellectually gifted in the Maltese working class. Stagno avoids romanticising his working class background, recognising that the overall situation is due to both birth circumstances and the decisions made along the way. This is why Stagno appreciates the work of Italian actor and writer Paolo Villaggio, whose picaresque depiction of the working class is both comedic and satirical.

Combined with his keen attention to detail, Stagno’s stories serve as a snapshot of a particular period in time, allowing others of his generation to easily relate. For instance, in Ramon u ż-Żerbinotti (“Ramon and his buddies”), Stagno provides a remarkably accurate portrayal of a Maltese teenager in the nineties, incorporating specific brand names and pop culture references from that era.

Stagno reached the zenith of his career with What happens in Brussels stays in Brussels (2013). The novel is a sociopolitical satire, revolving around Gustav, a cynical journalist who joins a group of tourists on a visit to the Belgian capital organised by a local political party. Brussels is a modern take on Juann Mamo’s Ulied in-Nanna Venut fl-Amerka (“Grandma Venut’s children in America”, 1930-31), which follows a group of working class Maltese citizens seeking their fortunes in America. Very much like Mamo, Stagno pulls no punches in exposing the crippling insularity, opportunism and conservatism at the heart of their struggles. Stagno meticulously captures the vernacular, mindset and behaviour of his characters. Much of his underlying criticism lies in the false promise that Malta’s accession to the European Union would somehow alter the entrenched mentality of the Maltese people. Gustav’s journey is not redemptive or transformative; he becomes more aware of his psychological constraints but ultimately takes no action to change them.

At the moment, Stagno is on an extended self-imposed sabbatical from writing and is immersed in another passion of his: collecting and photographing Japanese tokusatsu and kaijū toys.

Biography written by Noel Tanti



Supported by

Arts Council Malta

Creative Industries Platform

Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi

With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt

Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul

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