The Last Corsairs of Malta by Thomas Freller
The biggest problem with Freller’s book is that he never lets Leonhard Eisenschmied do the talking. Freller has translated Eisenschmied’s memoir and supplemented it with historical information. The historical information is invaluable for context, but Eisenschmied is never give a chance to shine, which is truly an injustice.
Even though eye witness accounts are often distorted and based more on perception and thought process than on reality, the observation of a person who was there during whatever event is always more fascinating than the retelling of that story through hearsay. It seems unlikely that Eisenschmied’s telling of his adventures lacked the details that are missing in Freller’s adaptation.
The title of the story is somewhat misleading in that it doesn’t just confine itself to the corsairs of Malta. Because Eisenschmied finds himself a slave on three separate occasions, shipwrecked for one longer incident and spending time on different ships as part of an escape plan that never really works out, the story only touches on life in Malta.
What it does say about the island’s history is that it had a quarantine area where everyone stayed for usually 40 days (thus the word “quarantine” from derived from the French for “forty”). It touches on how the corsairs did their business, who they fought against, and who was head of the island during Eisenschmied’s lifetime.
While the idea of a better version of Eisenschmied’s history detracts from this book, the Last Corsairs of Malta is still fascinating. It is well-researched and written in a style that allows for a quick pace of reading. People who like Robinson Crusoe will enjoy Freller’s work on this story.