Joe Friggieri was born in Lija on the 20th of March 1946. Friggieri is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Malta. He holds two doctorates in philosophy, one from the University of Milan and another from the University of Oxford. One of his doctoral theses discussed the British philosopher J. L. Austin, about whom he eventually published two books.

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Friggieri is also a poet, playwright, theatre director, lyricist and short story writer, among other things. He served on several committees, including The Manoel Theatre Management Committee and the Broadcasting Authority, and was chairman of the Arts Council. He was also the editor of a number of magazines and newspapers, such as Arti, Illum and Kultura 21.

Driven by his love for the stage, he penned and directed plays, including several by Shakespeare. Friggieri’s own original plays were translated into English and French. He directed a number of operas and  wrote the libretto for the first opera in Maltese, “Il-Wegħda” (“The Promise”), composed by Charles Camilleri.

Nevertheless, what Friggieri is possibly best known for is the creation of the much-loved character Ronnie. L-Istejjer tar-Ronnie (“Ronnie’s Misadventures”, 1992) and its sequel, Aktar Stejjer tar-Ronnie (“Further Misadventures of Ronnie”, 2007), were local bestsellers. Initially published as a series of short stories by the newspaper “Il-Ġens” between 1989 and 1991, these tales revolve around Ronnie, an ordinary middle-aged man with a wife and four children – what is known as ‘the average Joe’. These tales were so popular that they were eventually adapted into a television series.

Friggieri employs Ronnie to showcase, critique, problematise and satirise a society that is often overly absorbed by itself, occasionally forgetting the humanity that comprises it. Particularly noteworthy are Friggieri’s reflections on politics and the tribalism prevalent on the island. Published in the aftermath of the political upheavals of the 80s, Friggieri skilfully uses Ronnie’s mishaps to portray the island’s recent history. Through stories like “Bojkot” (“Boycott”) and “Bla Ilma” (“Out of Water”), he vividly illustrates the absurd extremes fueled by political fanaticism in society.

Nevertheless, what stands out is the ease with which one can find humour in Ronnie’s predicaments, as he emerges as a victim of circumstance rather than a shining star. Forever bullied by the world, including his own family, Ronnie lacks the self-awareness needed for personal improvement. This endows the narrative with a bitter undertone as the mistreatment extends not only to the shifty realms of power but also to one’s family life and close friendships. One of the greatest tragedies unfolds not so much as a consequence of Ronnie’s being a victim of circumstance as in his obliviousness to this very fact.

Friggieri’s skill and versatility shines through his diverse creations. The sharp societal critique, humour and profound insight of his work, as well as his massive contribution to academia, the arts and public debate can hardly be overstated.

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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