Author and former National Book Council chairman Mark Camilleri has written his first novel – a satire about the Maltese Ġaħan made infamous by former justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis.

The novel Ġaħan fl-Aqwa Żmien is a “satirical novel which represents ‘Ġaħanism’ and the political decadence of our times,” said Camilleri. “It is a story about Ġaħan in a Ġaħan country.”

Based on the allegory of the popular literary character Ġaħan – a village idiot type character who ends up in absurd situations – the novel was conceived as a response to the reference made last year by Zammit Lewis.

He had described Labour constituents as “Ġaħan” in a WhatsApp message sent to Yorgen Fenech, the suspect in the murder of the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The news was revealed by Camilleri in November 2021, who published transcripts of chats between Fenech and Zammit Lewis in a blog post entitled ‘Beware of pigs bearing gifts’. 

The front cover of ‘Ġaħan fl-Aqwa Żmien’ by Mark Camilleri.The front cover of ‘Ġaħan fl-Aqwa Żmien’ by Mark Camilleri.

Camilleri is also currently facing libel proceedings brought against him by former parliamentary secretary Rosianne Cutajar over Camilleri’s claims she was in a relationship with Fenech while she defended him from corruption allegations.

“This novel presents a renewed Ġaħan who today is named Dustin,” says Camilleri.

“There are various factors which make Dustin Ġaħan. He is loose, lazy, alienated, comical and a bit ignorant, although today’s Ġaħan is rather more intelligent.”

Ġaħan’s favourite activity is eating, and his ultimate aim in life is consumption

The Ġaħan figure in Camilleri’s novel is also construed as a representation of the country itself, which the author says has itself evolved since the character first gained popularity through the literary works of Francis Ebejer. Like the reinvented Ġaħan of the contemporary novel, the author says that today’s Malta has gained in intelligence but has also become a danger to itself.

“Stories of Ġaħan are metaphorical because the character is inherently servile,” says the author. “In fact, Ġaħan’s favourite activity is eating, and his ultimate aim in life is consumption as he struggles to have a higher purpose in life.”

The title of the book is also reminiscent of Labour's 2017 election slogan L-Aqwa Żmien.

Camilleri, a former member of the Labour Party, is the author of A Rent Seeker’s Paradise, a publication unveiling alleged corruption and bad governance by the Labour government. Ġaħan fl-Aqwa Żmien will be available in all bookshops on July 19.

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