Borg was born in 1949, in Ħal Balzan. He pursued his studies at the University of Malta and institutions in Germany and Italy, specializing in Engineering Design. Borg returned to Malta as the technical manager for MetalFit. He is currently a teacher of Physics, and lectures on Traditional Trades and Crafts at the University of Malta. He has won various literary awards, including the Bugelli Prize for dal-lejl ġie alla (God visited last night, 1984), and the National Book Prize for his fictional Ċikku Fenech, il-bidwi Malti (Ċikku Fenech, the Maltese Farmer, 1999) and Demgħat (Tears, 2003), as well as for research with Kelinu Vella Haber u l-Moviment tal-Malti (Kelinu Vella Haber and the Maltese Movement, 2003).
His first publications Bejn mara u qassis (Between a Woman and a Priest, 1984) and dallejl ġie alla [together with its 2007 sequel rajt ’l alla jibki (I saw God cry)], were controversial in the way they probed the actions of humanity in dealing with self, sexuality, religion and the environment. Borg’s work thrives on seeking to balance one’s identity as affected by the forces of circumstance and society. For Borg the writer is one who cannot but think, cannot but feel. He becomes a reflection of society as he ruminates on its qualms and interprets the raw physical world in terms of emotion. Borg cannot but lament the state of our being and our environment, delving into ethnography and preservation. Reaching out and recording the authentic old man and woman for the benefit of posterity is how Snajja’ u xogħol il-Maltin (Maltese Trades and Crafts) Vol. 1 (2000) and Vol. 2 (2002) as well as Nismagħhom jgħidu (I Hear them Say) Vol. 1 (2007) and Vol. 2 (2012) were written. In 2011, he was awarded the National Award for Ethnographic Research and Studies by the Maltese Ministry of Trade and Commerce.
Borg expresses his understanding of the different roles upheld in society; the intermingling of these roles is what he comes to terms with in his writing on our relationship with the environment. To love our environment is Il-Kmandament Numru Ħdax (Commandment Number Eleven) Vol. 1 (2016) and Vol. 2 (2017), in which the protagonist feels that in the absence of an explicit divine commandment, violence becomes the only way to preserve the environment which people remain adamant on destroying. Borg tackles such issues in his short story collection Stejjer minn Wied Għarbiel (Stories from Wied Għarbiel, 2006) and Tales from Malta (2009), noting that our cultural identity is also an issue here.
Experience and memory serve as inspiration and come to shape Borg’s work; the beauty of fiction lies in how the paths of fact and imagination become blurred as one becomes the other. Borg muses on the notion of Self – the “I” engaged in a conscious internal debate “bejni u bejn ruħi” (between me and myself). The reader can appreciate this most particularly in the trilogy Beżgħat (Fears, 1986), Demgħat (Tears, 2002) and Weġgħat (Wounds, 2019), which deal with how we relate to the ‘I’ and ‘Other’ – literature as an expression of existence.
Borg’s latest work focuses on our unseen realities; Belgħa Te (A Cup of Tea, 2022), is a novel exposing the pain and cruelty endured in asylums, along with society’s apathy when it comes to acknowledging the truth, preferring to sweep problems under the carpet. Oliver Friggieri u jien (Oliver Friggieri and I) will be the first in a series on his relationship with celebrated literary figures.
There is a common thread in Borg’s work, and that is the reminder that it is only love, of and for one another and Mother Nature, that will enable us to build the respect and empathy needed to rescue us from ourselves.
Biography written by Ruth Bezzina
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