Eltjon Bida, born in Bashkim province of Fier, will talk to us about his autobiographical novel which is titled "Once upon a time there was a stowaway" published by Policromia (PubMe).
At the age of seventeen, Eltjon arrived in Italy on a rubber boat. One of the many dinghies we hear about every day on the various news programs. Even if the novel is set towards the end of the Nineties, a sign that immigration has always been and is not just a current phenomenon. Now Eltjon lives in Milan with his English wife and their two children.
Part of the proceeds will go to charity at the Caritas di Pane Quotidiano.
Eltjon, besides the difficult crossing, what else can you tell us about your book?
Just landed in Italy, Elty's adventures will be on the agenda: scenarios that will make your skin crawl, ironic, funny scenes, intriguing scenes of love, passion and eroticism. In this novel the diversity of traditions between Italy and Albania is compared, you can experience the real journey of the clandestine, the pact between the smugglers and the emigrants, how it feels to find yourself suddenly living in a completely foreign family.
Escaping the police, queuing and eating in Caritas, like having an abandoned train car as your home, what can happen to you if you get sick and you can't go to a doctor. And again, how to behave when you discover that your friends have become thieves in that city that you instead want to love and many other adventures yet.
The story of Elty is the testimony that with honesty and the desire to integrate, you can get far.
When you say "diversity of traditions", what do you mean?
Mind you, I'm talking about the years I lived in Albania. Today a lot of things have changed and fortunately almost all of them are positive. For example, at meals we drank grappa, while in Italy we drank wine.
We used to take off our shoes before entering the house, but here we enter with shoes.
Woe to you if you got sick in Albania! You had to have your wallet full of money when you set foot in a hospital, otherwise you weren't even visited. In Italy we know how healthcare works!
Here it is used to say "please" and "thank you", in the Nineties, we only heard words like "give me".
Although poor, unlike Italy, our bars were always full of people.
In this country, in twenty-three years, I was stopped three times by the traffic police. In Albania, doing Bashkim - Fier, they stopped you three times in a day and if you didn't give any money to the policeman, it would have made you pass. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.
You said that there are also stories of love and eroticism.
True. The book is not just about immigration, but there is also a love story with a girl I met during my first year in Abruzzo. It is a story of passion and tells how secretly Elty, sneaking through a window, lived overwhelming nights in the company of this young woman, while her parents slept upstairs. Then, towards the end of the book, Elty also knows another girl, but we'll find out in the next book.
So, there will be a "Once upon a time an 2 stowaway?"
Absolutely yes. I almost finished writing. Plus, I started another novel last year and I'm half way through it, then I also have some material to make a fun book.
For twelve years I worked as a receptionist in three different hotels and as the clientele experienced some funny episodes, I wrote them. Now the material will have to be re-read, reviewed and ready.
So, for the 2019 do we expect the release of three more books?
This is the plan, yes. But then, you know, it may be that you write less or maybe even more.
When is it that you started writing Once upon a time there was a stowaway?
Honestly, a decade ago! After three years of concentrated writing in my days off, I finished my book and asked my wife to read it. A week later, she told me: "It sucks. You could do much better. Clear everything and start from scratch. "I didn't do exactly as he told me. I mean, I didn't delete it, but yes, I rewrote it. And now here it is. Now when I reread what was written ten years ago, I say to myself: "For the poor, if my wife was right."
Why did you decide to write in Italian?
The goal was to have the book published in English. I never thought my Italian could match. But never say never. By dint of devouring one book after another, my Italian continued to improve and so did my book. To have a sincere, more objective opinion, in October last year, I wrote to a freelance editor found on google.
You know, friends maybe say "nice, beautiful", because they don't have the courage to tell you that it sucks. The editor contacted me five days later, telling me that the book was beautiful and that the publisher where he worked would be happy to publish it for me. I accepted immediately. This publishing house is precisely the Polychromy. Now my wife has finished translating it also into English and is revising it. So, it should soon be released in English too.
We know you speak six languages
Yes, besides the passion for reading, I also have that of foreign languages.
Part of the proceeds, they will go to Caritas di Pane Quotidiano.
They deserve it. When I arrived in Milan and didn't have a job, Caritas helped me, my brother, my friends, our fellow citizens and hundreds of poor people. And they still do it. Indeed, now the rows are longer than in the nineties.
Last time you were in Albania?
I was last year, along with my family. We have had some wonderful holidays and we will be back again this year. As I said before, Albania has changed a lot. Now it is really a beautiful country, there is respect, we eat well, there are breathtaking landscapes and prices are adequate. The negative aspect of this change is that, having built countless buildings, large cities lack green and there are not enough parks for children. If we could improve in this aspect, we would be at the top.
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