Friggieri was born on the 27th of March 1947 in Floriana. He studied at the Archbishop’s Minor Seminary and later in the Major Seminary where he then enrolled to become a priest. He never entered the priesthood, realising instead that his true calling was the study of the Maltese language.
Friggieri maintained that literature and philosophy are intimately linked and that no writer could produce anything of consequence unless they tackled the fundamental issues that have preoccupied humanity for many moons. He believed that the journey of a writer and thinker is a lonely one, fraught with doubt, anxiety and ambiguity.
These themes are discussed in his poem “Barrani”, where he describes life as an essentially solitary ordeal with no fixed itinerary or destination. Nevertheless, the journey seems to point to some sort of meaning, but even this is elusive and requires one to divest oneself of nationality, family and identity. Friggieri’s persona dwells in an existential limbo, inhabiting a reality that he finds alienating. It’s not clear whether he’s a helpless participant or a willing agent; but it is this uncertainty that seems to determine the pattern of his existence.
In “Lejn il-Patibolu”, Friggieri frames his loneliness in terms of a forced estrangement brought about by a world that is hostile, foreign and malicious. He is caught between a rock and a hard place, burdened by social expectations that demand of him an active and participatory role in an environment that he finds volatile and transient. His relationship with the past is severed and what was meant to keep him grounded and give him direction, overwhelms him and makes him doubt his very own thoughts.
In “Sikta tal-Ħarifa”, Friggieri laments the steady disintegration of his accomplishments and abilities, likening it to the cyclical natural decay that accompanies autumn. The poet dejectedly describes the breakdown and the dissolution of his most treasured possession: words. He is now a “poeta mutu” – a poet with no words, robbed of the means with which to express his thoughts and feelings.
Friggieri’s tireless scrutiny of the human condition also tackled Maltese politics. The local political scene has always been extremely divisive, with the considerable influence of the two major political parties splitting the population into two rival factions. This is the theme of Friggieri’s 1986 novel, Fil-Parlament ma jikbrux fjuri (No flowers grow in Parliament, Mireva Publications) which revolves around a man, called Karlu Manju, who is free from political affiliations and the tribal antagonism that these engender. The book was published during a particularly turbulent time in Maltese history and the title captured the public imagination, appearing in newspapers, referred to in mass meetings and discussed in parliament.
However, despite his bleak outlook, Friggieri harbored an unwavering faith in the human spirit. In his work there can be sensed an undercurrent of genuine compassion for those people battling against the absurdity of life.
Written by Noel Tanti
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul