Academics at the University of Malta's Department of Maltese have paid tribute to the late Oliver Friggieri, a literary giant who died on Saturday.

Friggieri led the department for 16 years. 

Colleagues said Friggieri was “a point of reference” as a dedicated lecturer and leading researcher, as well as a human being.

He was always available to students, his colleagues, and everyone else, they added. 

The department paid tribute to Friggieri's time at its helm, saying that apart from planning and teaching several subjects related to Maltese literature, he also published books on literary criticism and theory, more than 250 critical studies in books and academic journals, and presented his research at several international congresses.

He published specialised critical works on Malta’s national poet - Dun Karm Psaila -  and a dictionary of literary terms, which took him many years of work.

His several studies and critical conferences remained authoritative sources of research in Maltese literary idiom and a model of sophisticated academic articulation.

Friggieri's former colleagues in academia celebrated his literary accomplishments, noting that his works had been translated into English, Russian, Finnish, Arabic, Italian, Hungarian and Greek. Some of his works were adapted to the stage and television and some of his poems were included in important poetry recital events around Europe.

The Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century (1999) described him as "a main world literary figure of the 20th century".

He also translated to Maltese important works such as Orazio’s De Arte Poetica, the classical tragedies of  Sophocles and Euripides, theatrical works such as Karol Wojtyla’s The Jeweler’s Shop and narrative works such as Francis Ebejer’s In the Eye of the Sun and Ciril Kosmač’s A day in Spring.

The department said that throughout his "long, prolific and influential" career, Friggieri became a national and international authority and received several honours in Malta and abroad. In 1999, he became a member of the National Order of Merit and in 2012 an Ufficiale Al Merito della Repubblica Italiana

Friggieri was sought for his wisdom and was frequently invited to take part in discussions of national importance.

With his literary works, radio and television interviews and regular articles, he became, for many Maltese, "a voice that represents the nation" in its social, political and cultural sensibilities.

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