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Oliver Friggieri: L-Gidba (The Lie)

This novel is about village life in Malta and the harmful effect of gossip and the requirement that everyone adhere to old-fashioned standards and morals, during a period when morals were starting to change. Natan is married to Anna and it is not a happy marriage. Natan looks back to happier times when they got on but now she constantly screams at him. Damn you and damn the day I met you! It was an evil day. are the opening sentences of the book and ones repeated several times. It doesn’t get any better. He had been kicked out of his father’s house and, while waiting for a bus, had met Anna. They had dated and married but things had soon gone downhill. As the village they lived in was small, everyone in the neighbourhood knew what was going on, as they heard Anna’s screams. The priest was brought in and tried to speak to both of them, both individually and together, but got nowhere. One day they had a fight and Anna faked an injury and blamed Natan.

Natan had three escapes from Anna. The first was a man, a widower, who lived alone in a hovel on the outskirts of the village. He was very poor and struggled to make a living. He had lost his wife in a bomb attack during the war, though Natan is suspicious that he might have killed her. He remains loyal to his late wife and is friendly to Natan though with no-one else. Natan is also very attached to his dog. Finally, Natan has an affair with Rebekka, a woman in a nearby village. Her sister has married and her mother has gone to live with the sister and her husband, leaving Rebekka to live on her own in the family house, hoping that she will find a nice husband. Instead she starts an affair with Natan

Natan leaves Anna after the fake injury incident and moves in with Rebekka but, of course, he is no better off. First the neighbours and then Rebekka’s mother and sister get involved and condemn her for having an affair with a married man. It is never going to work out. But at least his dog is faithful to him. Friggieri’s tale is well told (though fairly sexist) and the effect of being entrapped within a narrow society is forcefully brought out.

Publishing history

First published in 1977 by Publishers Enterprises Group
First published in English in 2007 by Allied Publications
Translated by Charles Briffa