Ropa, Laurent (25.12.1891-29.3.1967)


Ropa was born in Xaghra, but emigrated to Bone, Algiers with his parents at the age of two. There he studied at the Ecole Normale and eventually became a school teacher. An error in formal papers changed his name from Rapa to Ropa. In 1913 he obtained French nationality and later served as an officer in World War I and was wounded in battle. It was then that he met his wife, Marguerite, who was carrying out duties as a volunteer nurse. After the war the Ropas took up residence in Paris and he was appointed head of the village school of Sille-le-Guillaume. He never returned to his island home.

Ropa's great literary achievement was the promotion of Maltese literature in France. His sense of Maltese nationalism helped him to study Malta's literary potentiality and make it available in French. In the thirties he was the editor of a literary publication, Melita, which published Maltese poems translated into French together with critical studies on Maltese works. He published Poetes Maltais (1937), an anthology of 31 Maltese poems which he had translated into French. His introduction delineates some of the merits and qualities of Maltese writing. Another similar anthology appeared posthumously, Suite Maltaise (1970).

Ropa was a prolific writer. In 1932 the Anthologie des Poetas Neo-Classiques published six of his poems and this seems to have encouraged him greatly. From 1932 till his death he published three novels and three books of poems. In all his work he reflected a deep love for Malta and its people. His three novels are Le Chant de la Noria (1932 which was translated into Maltese as L-Ghanja tas-Sienja by Guz Aquilina), Kaline (1936), and Bou-Ras (1960), while his poetry books are Jardin de l'Allelik (1950), La Priere a Hippone (1953), and Notre-Dame-de-la-Vie (1968).

Le Chant de la Noria is largely autobiographical and it gained him the Prix de la Societe Nationale d'Encouragement au Bien. It deals with the tribulations of his emigrant parents and the family they wanted to raise. The novel reveals most of his attitudes and perceptions. In Jardin de l'Allelik, he expresses his emotions in poetic form as he reflects upon his life. It is quite evident from his literary output that he considered himself to be the gentle exile who never feels any resentment or sense of rebellion.

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

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