Oliver Friggieri, one of Malta’s most respected writers and literary critics, died on Saturday aged 73.
His death was announced by his family on Facebook.
Friggieri was pivotal in promoting Maltese literature and the use of the Maltese language and was among the co-founders of popular children’s magazine Is-Sagħtar, as well as local publishing house Klabb Kotba Maltin.
An educator by training, he taught Maltese within secondary schools before moving on to tertiary education. He was appointed head of the University of Malta's Department of Maltese in 1988 and continued to lead the department until 2002.
He published a wide variety of books, ranging from works of literary criticism to poetry, as well as 10 novels and a collection of sketches. His works have been translated into English, French, German, Italian and Greek.
Among his most famous works was his 1986 novel Fil-Parlament Ma Jikbrux Fjuri, which sparked controversy at the time of its release for its frank depiction of political tribalism within Malta.
Friggieri was honoured with a gold medal in the Ġieħ l-Akkademja tal-Malti' in 2016 and won various editions of the National Book Prize.
In a 2008 interview, he described books as his greatest extravagance.
"A book is timeless and involves more than it can ever cost," he said. "A book is a patient partner."
In one of his last interviews, published by Times of Malta last June, he mused on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It all provides an unprecedented lesson in humility. The universe is theocentric and not homocentric,” he had said.
In a statement, the government paid tribute to Friggieri as "one of this country's greatest-ever writers" and said his writing had helped foster a sense of national unity.
"His love for the arts, research and philosophy inspired one generation after the other," the statement noted.
Both the Labour and Nationalist parties also issued statements paying tribute to Friggieri and offering his family its condolences.
In its statement, the PN noted that Friggieri had been instrumental in establishing its newspapers In-Nazzjon and Il-Mument and had been a contributor to them for almost 50 years since their creation in 1970.