Mintoff biographer ‘showed no restraint’ on Labour premier’s indiscretions

Mark Montebello explains in full his discoveries about Dom Mintoff’s relation to various women, including his wife and daughters, but also quite some others

Dom Mintoff
Dom Mintoff

Dom Mintoff biographer Mark Montebello has said that the memoirs published by the former Labour prime minister’s family, Mintoff: Malta, Mediterra: My Youth had had over two-thirds of the original manuscript purged from the final publication.

Fr Montebello, whose newly-published biography The Tail that Wagged the Dog is published by Sensiela Kotba Soċjalisti, said Mintoff began writing his autobiography in 1993 at the age of 77.

“Mintoff had previously vacillated in doing so until he spasmodically began to fill sheaves of rough paper, every corner of them, with his tiny flowing neat calligraphy, writing exclusively in English.

“When Mintoff’s nephew, David Mainwaring, published the official version of Mintoff’s memoirs in October 2018, 66% had being purged from it,” Montebello said. “Presumably for practical and sometimes for discreet reasons.”

Fr Mark Montebello
Fr Mark Montebello

Montebello said the public was given the impression that the published autobiography was unabridged, and that the years it covered of Mintoff’s life, namely, 1916−1943, was a first instalment.

“Dom’s original and unabridged document contains well over 600,000 words, amounting to more than 2,500 printed pages. Eventually only 34% of Dom’s original was published,” Montebello said, who was given a copy of Mintoff’s full original document by Yana Mintoff Bland, Mintoff’s younger daughter right after her father’s death in August 2012.

“Mintoff seems to have intended his narrative to point up his proper place in history’s grand design. It is ironic,” Montebello said, “how [in this way] the entire structure to an architect’s work had been compromised.”

While copies of the original unabridged version of Mintoff’s memoirs can now be consulted at the National Library of Malta and the Public Library of Gozo, full use of this version was made by Montebello in his biography.

“Mintoff’s memoirs were precious to me in writing this biography,” Montebello said. “When penning down his narrative, Mintoff must have kept in mind that the work would be published posthumously, and perhaps that is why he decided to be uncharacteristically forthright and blunt.”

Mintoff’s incomplete auto-biography is just one of the thousands of original primary-source documentation that Montebello consults for the biography. “Professionally speaking, one cannot take an autobiography, be it Mintoff’s or whoever’s, to necessarily tell the complete truth. For this reason, though prized by a researcher, an autobiography must always be corroborated by independent sources, and that is what I do in my work.”

Far from imposing much restraint when dealing with data concerning Mintoff’s personal life, Montebello explains in full his discoveries about Mintoff’s relation to various women, including his wife and daughters, but also quite some others.

“A biography such as this,” Montebello shared, “cannot be content with half-measures. In working on it for seven whole years, three of them actually writing it, I was conscious of Mintoff’s standing within Maltese society, but also, technically, that this biography will be the first serious attempt at documenting his life, and for this reason I needed to be thorough and uncompromising with first-hand material.”

The Tail that Wagged the Dog: The Life and Struggles of Dom Mintoff. 1916−2012 is Montebello’s 34th publication. The Dominican friar, also a major biographer of the early 20th century radical Manwel Dimech, has published works of philosophy, local history, biographies, and social criticism.