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Barbara, Valentin Vinc. (29.3.1920-)

Translator and poet

Barbara was born at Cospicua and he attended the Lyceum. He also studied philosophy (1937-39) and theology (1939-43) at St Thomas Aquinas College, Rabat. He was ordained priest in 1942. He then studied sacred music at the Istituto Pontificio di Musica Sacra (Rome) (1946-48) from where he received a Bachelor's degree in Gregorian chant (Mus. S. Bacc. Vat.).

Barbara taught Maltese at St Albert the Great College in Valletta (1948-64). In 1961 he was elected chaplain of St Joseph's Institute, Zabbar. He emigrated to Australia in 1974, left the priesthood and in 1976 married Agnes Leong.

Barbara started writing poetry in 1943 - being a friend of Ruzar Briffa might have helped. He often entered literary competitions and managed to finish in the first three places. In 1944 he became an academic member of the Akkademja tal-Malti and was regularly elected to the council. In 1953 he became the editor of the Dominican publication, Ir-Ruzarju, while in Australia he had a literary programme in Maltese on the Maltese Radio 2EA (Sydney). He combined poetry with music when he composed the Maltese lyrics to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. In 1993 he was awarded the 1993 Cultural Prize by the Maltese Cultural Society of NSW.

Barbara collected his poems in two unpublished anthologies Intietef and Intietef Ohra. Most of these poems can be found in various Maltese magazines and some of them were translated into Italian by V. M. Pellegrini. His poetry, written in the traditionalist style, is characterized by great thematic elaboration and metrical skill that give a pleasant soothing feeling.

Barbara distinguished himself, however, in translation. He was a member of the commission chosen by the Ghaqda Biblika Maltija to translate the Scripture from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek versions. Then he became member of the Liturgical Commission of the Maltese ecclesiastical province and for many years was the official translator of new liturgical books from Latin into Maltese. This earned him the Pro Ecclesia et Pontefice (P.E.P.) decoration from Pope Paul VI in 1974. He was one of the official translators of the Department of Health in New South Wales.

Barbara's contribution in translating the Bible included the story of Daniel and the minor prophets, the Song of Songs (from Hebrew and Aramaic), the four Gospels, the letters of St John and St James, and the Apocalypse (from Greek). He carried out a considerable amount of translation work from Latin - G. Frachet's Vitae Fratrum (1968), edifying passages from the biography and thought of Dominicans - Fuq il-Formazzjoni Sacerdotali (1969), Vatican Council II's degree Optatum Totius - Fuq il-Ministeru u l-Hajja tas-Sacerdoti (1969), Vatican Council II's degree Presbyterorum Ordinis - the liturgical books published by the Liturgical Commission - Ghaqda fl-Imhabba (1970), the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Matrimony (co-authored with Fr. Gwann Frendo) - Liturgija tas-Sighat (1988) - L-Istqarrijiet (1989), St Augustine's Confessions - Innijiet Liturgici (1990) for use in Malaysia - L-Ewwel Zminijiet ta' l-Ordni tal-Predikaturi (1991) - six volumes of Innijiet Liturgici (1992) for use in Australia.

Barbara carried out other translations from modern languages. These include M.V.Woodgate's Lacordaire (1955), Shakespeare's Gulju Cesri (1970), H. Ibsen's Dar ta' Pupa (1990), and Id-Djabete (1984), the latter for the Australian Commission of Ethnic Affairs and the Health Department. From Italian he translated the works by G. Schryvers' Il-Habib Divin (1964), Ommi Marija (1965), Aghtini Ruhek (1966), Erwieh ta' Fiducja (1969), and Il-Hajja ta' S. Martin de Porres (1969). He also translated Silvio Pellico's Ghaxar Snin Habs (1965), Carlo Goldoni's Il-Lukandiera (1992), and St Augustine's The City of God (1996). From French he translated M. Philippon's Fis-Skiet Quddiem Alla, and from Spanish J.M. Escriva de Balaguer's It-Triq (1971) and M. Descalzo's Aghtini x-Xita. He published Min Kienu (1997).

Source: Maltese Biographies of the Twentieth Century (1997), editors Michael J. Schiavone and Louis J. Scerri


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