Author says aversion to reading is embedded in Maltese culture

Xtra on TVM | Author and lecturer Kit Azzopardi says Malta’s aversion to books and reading is culturally embedded despite positive statistics showing an increase in lending of books from libraries

Author and lecturer Kit Azzopardi
Author and lecturer Kit Azzopardi

The challenges the Maltese language is facing stem from the attitudes of people towards reading and literature, lecturer Kit Azzopardi said on Monday.

“While the authorities and various institutions, such as the Malta Book Council and Maltese libraries, attempt to address these concerns, the solution cannot come from them alone,” Azzopardi said on TVM’s Xtra on Monday.

The author and lecturer emphasised that persistent illiteracy issues are coming from all directions, necessitating a collective acknowledgement and solution.

One glimmer of hope amidst the prevailing gloom, according to Azzopardi, is the latest statistics showing an increase in people lending books from libraries.

However, Azzopardi cautioned that despite such data, Malta remains a country that does not read.

“It is disheartening to realise that we consistently rank at the bottom of the literacy rankings,” he added.

Azzopardi further lamented the prevailing culture in Malta, where reading and books are not only disregarded but despised.

He argued that this attitude is prevalent even in the highest institutions of the country, including parliament, where it is rare to see politicians enter with a book or quote from one.

The lecturer cited the rare examples of Franco Debono entering with his book of poems and Godfrey Farrugia engaging in a dialogue with Oliver Friggieri's book, “Fil-parlament ma jikbrux fjuri,” (Flowers don’t grow in parliament).

Azzopardi said the prevailing culture of dismissing books and writing was epitomised by the statement first dished out by Dom Mintoff: ‘Whoever has nothing to do, writes a book.’

It was a statement recently repeated by Prime Minister Robert Abela when dismissing a book on Pilatus Bank published by Repubblika President Robert Aquilina. 

Mintoff’s statement had prompted renowned author Oliver Friggieri to write Fil-Parlament Ma Jikbrux Fjuri.

Tragically, Azzopardi explained, this contemptuous attitude towards books is being absorbed by the younger generation, perpetuating the cycle of illiteracy in the Maltese language.