There are many Albanian first-generation authors - part of the so-called migrant literature - who have decided to tell and talk about themselves in their adopted language: Italian.
Most of them tell stories related to Albania, its uses, customs and traditions. However, there are also tales of the life of immigrants in Italy, of the difficulties they find, of the great humanity and welcome of Italy and the Italians. In many cases the stories told contain autobiographical elements, thus helping to build the building of multiculturalism and turning these authors into worthy ambassadors of Albanian culture and literature in the world.
Diversity between cultures is something to be valued. Telling these differences helps us to understand the incredible variety of uses and customs of human cultures, which can sometimes seem absurd if observed from the outside, but which remain hopelessly fascinating.
The need of these authors to narrate in Italian, in my opinion, stems from the need to tell without the filter of translation, which though minimal, could cast some shadow on the true narrative spirit of the authors. At the same time, writing in the language of adoption is a natural path for these writers and poets, who have spent most of their lives in Italy.
There are also many Albanian authors translated into Italian and into other languages. The list is long but I would stop at five books by Albanian authors that struck me particularly and for which I would suggest reading.
"The General of the Dead Army", by Ismail Kadare
The first, written by Ismail Kadare It is entitled "The general of the dead army" (Longanesi 1970, 2009, Corbaccio 2004), was first published in Tirana in 1963 when the author had only 26 years. Languages have been translated into 36 and a film in Albanian and another of Italian-French co-production has been taken from the novel.
At 17 I read the Albanian version of the novel, entitled "Gjenerali i ushtrisë së vdekur" and 25 years later, the one in Italian. It is one of those books that should be read several times in life. And every time you taste it more.
The novel tells the story of a general and a priest, both Italians, who arrived in Albania with a mission: to bring back to Italy the bodies of soldiers who fell during the Second World War. A task that is not at all easy, that breaks against the rocks of a hostile climate and the coldness of a proud and different people for uses and customs, meaning of life, death and honor.
Born in Gjirokastra in 1936, Ismail Kadare is considered one of the greatest writers and intellectuals of the 20th century. He graduated from the Faculty of History and Philology at the University of Tirana and studied world literature at the Gorky Institute in Moscow for two years. In the 1990 he requested and obtained political asylum in France. He has won many literary awards, including the Mediterranean Award for Foreigners, Herder Award, Man Booker International Prize, Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature etc. Nominated several times for the Nobel Prize and member of honor at the French Academy.
"Sworn Virgin", by Elvira Dones
The second is the beautiful novel by Elvira Dones, Sworn Virgin (Feltrinelli 2007). The same year, the book was published in Albania with the title "Hana". I read it all in one go in the 2016, after the release of the film of the same name, taken freely from his story. A delicate writing and a very successful literary effort by the author, who wrote this book directly in Italian; the first after a period of linguistic gestation starting from the use of translated Albanian.
With the story of Hana, the Dones brings back a tradition handed down from father to son through a customary Albanian code of the Middle Ages, the Kanun. Hana, an orphaned young girl, is bound by an oath to escape an arranged marriage. Become burrneshë, thus saving the honor of the family. A forced choice that has nothing personal about it. The story of Hana is the story of an Albanian woman who sacrifices her femininity to be free. Until one day the woman who became Mark finds the courage to betray the oath and flee to America to discover lost femininity.
Elvira Dones was born in Durres in the 1960. She is a writer, journalist and screenwriter. He currently lives in the United States after spending many years in Switzerland. He published "Senza luggages" (Besa, 1998), "Sun burned" (Feltrinelli, 2001), "White day offended" (Interline, 2004), "The seas everywhere" (Interline, 2007), "Little perfect war" ( Einaudi, 2011). "Virgin sworn" was translated into England as "Sworn Virgin" with an introduction by Ismail Kadare. Laura Bispuri's film was made at the Berlin 2015 festival.
"Your name is a promise," by Anilda Ibrahimi
Your name is a promise , (Einaudi, 2017) is the latest novel by Anilda Ibrahimi. Simply beautiful! The time taken into account in the narration goes from the '30 years up to the 90 years.
In the Albania of King Zog many Jewish families found a safe haven. Among these are the Rossens, with their two daughters: Abigail and Esther.
Abigail is captured by the Germans and taken to the Dachau concentration camp. It will be the daughter of Ester, Rebecca, who arrived in Tirana in the 90 years to try to compose the story and the missing pieces of the family. This novel tells a piece of history that must never be forgotten.
Anilda Ibrahimi was born in Vlora in the 1972. He studied literature in Tirana. In 1994 he left Albania, moving first to Switzerland and then, from the 1997, to Italy. His first novel "Rosso come una sposa" (Einaudi, 2008) won the Edoardo Kihlgren - City of Milan, Corrado Alvaro, Città di Penne, Giuseppe Antonio Arena awards. For Einaudi he has also published his second novel "Love and the rags of time" (2009 and 2011), of which the film rights have been optioned, Paralup Prize of the Nuto Revelli Foundation. His novels are translated into six countries. In the 2012 he has published, again for Einaudi, "No sweetness" and, in 2017, "Your name is a promise".
"In the absence of words", by Irma Kurti
The book by the writer and poet Irma Kurti, In the absence of words , is the last one I read. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting the Kurti at the Turin Book Fair in the 2017. I found myself very much in many episodes narrated by the author of this novel. I was struck by the fact that it is a true story that took shape after the author had a very special diary in her hand: her father's. There are also invented facts but most of them are true.
The story told speaks of a family of Albanian origins, who left their homeland to live in Italy. The family is made up of two spouses already advanced in age, Sotir and Luisa, and their three daughters. Everyone carries on the struggle of life with the difficulties of work, of the new families that have been built, of problems derived from the new language. It is a story that moves and makes us reflect.
Irma Kurti is a poet and writer of Albanian origin. In the 1980 he is honored with the National First Prize on the occasion of the 35 anniversary of the magazine "Pionieri". The Albanian public is also known as the author of the lyrics of many successful songs; he wrote about a hundred song lyrics. He has won numerous prizes and literary awards in Italy and in Italian Switzerland. She was awarded the International "Universum Donna" Award IX Edition - 2013 for Literature and the lifetime nomination of "Ambassador of Peace" by the University of Peace of Italian Switzerland. He has published fifteen books in Albanian, nine in Italian and three in English. He collaborates with various Albanian newspapers.
"From your terrace you can see my house", by Elvis Malaj
The last, but no less important, is the debut book of short stories From your terrace you can see my house (Racconti Edizioni, 2017), by Elvis Malaj, one of the 12 semifinalist books of the LXXII Edition of Strega Award. the book is written in Italian, a bit original in some passages.
There are twelve stories in this book, very different from each other: stories of everyday life, even a bit cruel, self-deprecating, which contain various types of stereotypes, alternating stories set in Italy with tales set in Albania and memories of childhood author.
The title "From your terrace you see my house" is the phrase that an Albanian boy says to an Italian girl in the last story.
"I live on the other side of the square, you can see my house from your terrace"
Veronica looked at him for a moment without understanding.
"We are the Albanian family who moved here a few years ago, they all know us in the neighborhood"
"Should the fact that you are Albanian reassure me?"
"But are you racist?"
"Give me some racist, but if I find myself in the house an Albanian armed with a knife I certainly don't think he is a benefactor"
Elvis Malaj (Malësi and Madhe, Albania) class 1990, is the first Italian author published by Racconti. Albanian by birth, at fifteen he moved to Alexandria with his family. Today he lives and works in Padua. He was a finalist in the 8 × 8 competition, and has published stories on effe and in the press review of Oblique. "From your terrace you can see my house" is his debut.