In the Italian language we repropose the preface of the novel "Dreams vanish in the morning" by Thanas Jorgji, published for the first time in 1997 and reprinted on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the exodus of August 1991.
Like every person, nations also live what the mystics call "the dark night of the soul". It also happened to ours and, apparently, a similar fortune will haunt us in the future. Not because the dark nights of the soul are harmful, but in our case they are part of a process that is experienced by all generations without real learning. Writing about this phenomenon in its religious aspect is a gift from a few saints such as Johnny della Croce, Teresa d'Avila and finally Mother Teresa, who were able to grasp the depth of the mysterious transformation of the soul above all because they lived the processes they write about with delicacy and respect. Commenting on the "truthfulness" of their stories is difficult and could be superb if you did not experience these experiences of the soul in person, the result of which is its purification to the point of becoming worthy of "prostrating" before God; it is difficult and almost impossible to understand and objectively interpret this transformative process as mysterious as it is also mystical.
Just as the aforementioned saints (who are not only found in Catholicism but also in other ramifications of Christianity and faiths such as Islam, particularly in the Sophist tradition), writers are in their essence scholars of the soul and its metamorphoses. Telling the transformations of a person's soul or a multitude of characters in literature is a challenge in itself; analyzing and becoming a spokesperson for the soul of a people and an entire nation is a commitment taken by many but successfully achieved by only a few. A similar talented writer, bold and successful in contemporary Albanian literature is Thanas Jorgji. His first novel "Dreams fade in the morning", published for the first time in the 1997, signals the arrival in Albanian literature of a pen as ambitious as it is original.
In this debut novel Jorgji leaves no doubt neither to the reader nor to the critic of the fact that he is seriously dealing with it. And rightly so.
Like the saints of the soul, the transformation Jorgji tells us is original in that it focuses on an event experienced in the first person: the exhausting exodus of ten thousand people on the ship "Vlora" in August 1991. But the author's goal is not to report his experience. "Dreams fade away in the morning" is not an autobiographical novel and direct testimony in such a shocking and symbolic event is masterfully used by the author to bring back with an original style an adventure as promising as it is disappointing, an exodus with biblical notes, a dream for which the brave desperate must be baptized with sea water while they are drowning risking their lives at the beginning and end of their ordeal.
The physical journey is a central theme of the novel but more important are the odyssey and the transformation of the individual and collective soul that the emigrants live. This is Jorgji's strength. As a blind Homer, the author subscribes his physical presence. He is omnipresent. It is every person in every corner of Albania when the flow of thousands of people begins, like an avalanche, with a dizzying speed they turn into an uncontainable magma. It is in every truck, taxi and train that has as its destination the port of Durres. He climbs the ship's rope as thousands of young and old have done, pregnant women and anonymous victims swallowed by the sea. Accompanies thousands of co-passengers at the stadium - cage of Bari but at the same time does not "abandon" the other half locked up in the port of the city that looks more like a zoo.Jorgji, the narrator who is everywhere, metamorphoses as Visar, Rubin, Tino, Helena, Nidha, Niska, Gac, Lazer and Sugar. He often "presents" himself as "we", which makes him identify with thousands of refugees and at the same time makes it possible to create empathy and sympathy in the reader for the countless hardships that migrants experience alone or together.
This way of positioning the narrator is an original finding also to match the reader to the emigrant.
Jorgji is inclined to see the person essentially as a positive being, but does not hesitate to bring forth even the most animalistic parts of humanity without mercy. Characters like Lad the Vampire, Pantera, Iena, Coda di straw, Rosso Al Capone, Testa di Porro or Pelo di Maiale are reported only with their nicknames; Jorgji takes away the right to these "veterans of crime" - as they are called by Visar, one of the protagonists - to have normal names. The author undoubtedly believes that good and bad exist next to each other, there are times when it seems that the bad person overwhelms everything and the concept of "civilization" becomes a meaningless word. The criminal acts and the macabre gestures of these people leave you baffled even after you finish the novel. For example Iena and Lad the vampire throw a young man into the sea just because he says there is no place to move, or the sexual violence of a woman and later Elena in the presence of so many witnesses in the stadium. For Jorgji an experience like that of the August exodus 1991 represents the nadir and the zenith of the human soul. The author believes that even if human courage fails temporarily due to the survival instinct, human beings are generally conscious and responsible. Unable to help victims of crime, especially women who have suffered sexual violence, men without honor escape like shadows to suffer in silence the condemnation with which they were punished for their moral impotence.
At the same time, the novel also records many acts of charity, perhaps not important and at first sight even ordinary, but nevertheless very significant: people are willing to contribute money to buy water and food for others from unscrupulous speculators, or divide the food for which they risk the skin when it is thrown without dignity to the port and the stadium.
Jorgji is aware that his novel is not "funny". Write about the exodus of August 1991 when the wounds, torments and memories are still alive and more than ever at a time when democracy in Albania appears as a prolonged and tiring "birth", so much so that sometimes it seems that it will be solved in an "abortion", so as to remind our people tired in their soul of the unsuccessful transition phase that seems to have no end, how much they suffered during and after the communist regime, it is not sadism but it is a proof of the author's intellectual courage and the confidence he has in his narrative abilities. This sad novel is above all a proof of Jorgji's trust in the regenerating power of the soul of the Albanian people, of the human being that resembles a phoenix that is reborn every time the flames of history burn its superhuman efforts to survive.
Optimism is the main leitmotiv in the book "Dreams Fade in the Morning", especially when the tragic is associated with the comic. With Jorgji Albanian literature has found a new master of humor. His is not simply fun, but fundamentally philosophical and therapeutic. Humor is present at almost every moment of the exodus and becomes the most faithful traveling companion of these unfortunate human beings who abandon themselves in the hands of an unknown destiny. The character of Nidha, for example, although he is not a central figure (this novel has as its main character ten thousand refugees) is perhaps one of the most comical protagonists of the last decades. It's hard not to laugh when you hear Nidha's big heart expressing herself about the passengers she charges in Tirana: "Let them come! So they will remember me in Italy. Let them say: up to Durres a driver from Korca brought us. Without money!"; or when he gradually recounts the innumerable digits of "Beet" Niske, that the main reason for his emigration is to become a "millionaire" working as a driver in Italy and then return to Korca to win the heart of the French teacher, Marjanka, daughter of Pavlina; or when he realizes that although he defines a rascal as a kid who rips a rug from the stadium's stand, then he himself does the same "sin" before returning by plane to Tirana: he takes the football cup of the Bari team from the stadium. "Eh: I was thinking of taking her to Korca. Given that "Skenderbeu" has no cup ", Nidha is annoyed.
Jorgji uses humor with fluency even when he describes the humiliation suffered by immigrants in the port and stadium of Bari by the Italian authorities. Like any great writer, Jorgji is outraged when he sees how human dignity is crushed in civilized Italy and part of the European Community.
He knows how to value and express gratitude for simple Italians like Carla and Domenico who are willing to help unlucky immigrants for what they can and in a dignified manner. But Jorgji's satire criticizes in no uncertain terms the authorities, the police, the Italian mass media and the state itself for the way in which immigrants are treated of the exodus of March and August. Rightly the author reminds Italians, sometimes with facts, sometimes with humor and sometimes with sarcasm that in the 1943 they were the parents of these poor immigrants who hosted and protected thousands of deserters from Mussolini's army from the Nazi army. Unlike the Italian State, which moves "to do something" for refugees, given that it is "ashamed" as a result of the sensational dissemination of the news of the exodus by the Italian media that has taken over the Albanian unfortunates from helicopters "until offense ", or because they want to avoid any" reproach "from the European Community.
At the beginning of the years 90 was the simple people in Greece and Italy who helped our "deserted" people while the Greek police and the Italian carabinieri followed the Albanian immigrants as the animals are hunted by the soulless hunters.
The pursuit by the police in the streets of Bari of the bus led by Nidha is one of the strongest tragi-comic scenes in contemporary Albanian literature, worthy of the pen of Cervantes. In free Europe dreamed of with the ingenuity of children, refugees are criminalized only because they dream of building a better life. This scene unmasks not only Italy and the European Community but also the West where the Albanians, still two decades after the exodus of the 1991, still do not enjoy the right to emigrate freely.
The moral failure of the West Jorgji represents it with mastery even with the return to Tirana of Italian authorities like Dante Calogero, who when the fascist Italy capitulated was welcomed in Albania where he also made a family.
Dante, or Dane, as the Albanians have dubbed it, suffers from the loss of memory following a war wound. The poor man does not know that his "Italians" are driving him away from his mother country where he dreamed of returning after about half a century. The kiss of the tiles in the main square of Tirana by Dante, who believes he has finally arrived in the hometown of Perugia, is one of the most found scenes of the dramatic irony I've ever read. This moment represents Dante's second abandonment by Italy and having become the son of the adopted homeland again.
Dante's amnesia is a sad blessing, while the Italian state's amnesia is morally condemnable. This idea is symbolized in the conversation made by the Bari Police Chief and Luigi, a former deserter protected by the Albanians in the 1943 who, unlike Dante, managed to return to Italy after the Second World War. Luigi has been trying for 50 years to "repay the debt" and for this reason he starts from his small town towards Bari when he learns from the TV how much is happening in the stadium - ghetto. When he sees that his argument has no effect on the police chief who, as a loyal robot of the Italian bureaucratic apparatus, reminds Luigi that the "rules" do not allow him to welcome the refugees, the veteran does not hesitate to remind him that if the laws of war had been respected fifty years earlier, he would have already died as a "soldier of our contracted army".
Jorgji is one of the most productive and original writers of the last decade. Through a style that sometimes reminds you of Kerouac's "kick-writing", in his first novel this author records in human prose the pain that is also seen in Picasso's "Guernica". "Dreams fade in the morning" is undoubtedly the best novel about the exodus of the Albanians at the end of the twentieth century. And not just Albanians. This novel represents the tragedy of millions of unfortunate people for whom hopeful emigration turns into an endless horror. Perhaps in the very near future this work will attract the attention of some directors to bring back on film one of the most painful tragedies of our times.
"Dreams fade in the morning" is an anti - Kadareian castle.
The "castellans" of Jorgji were driven out of Europe that they did not go to occupy. Their removal caused their dreams to vanish. But their wounded soul has become more alert and mature. They have understood, like all of us who have emigrated, that our "El Dorado" is our land that has been trodden more by us than by foreigners. Perhaps the Albanian political class will one day understand this bitter event. More than just readers, this Jorgji novel should be read by our Albanian politicians so that migrations like the August of 1991 are part of the story. We rely on hope.Published in the Albanian online section of Albania News on June 22 2010 . Original title "Thanas Jorgji dhe Emigrimi i Poshtërimit".
Translated by AlbaniaNews by Belina Sinani.