The 9 last October was presented in Tirana, in the concert hall of the Opera House, the volume "Nje italiane ne Tirane" (Albanian translation (signed by Jmmy Lazri), of the novel by Serena Luciani "Tirana earthquake", on the historical years of change, 1988 / 89 / 90, in which the author directed the Italian Cultural Institute. What more can an author want?
I left the September 23 by ferry from Brindisi with my new car, an Indian Tata, with petrol and gas, at the start a man of the crew joked "Tata? car for children! ", my Albanian friends who, almost unique, now do not have a car because they do not drive, feared that I would not find the gas, instead it is here in Italy that you have to jump through hoops to find it, even to Rome, in Albania you find it everywhere, a touch of modernity very useful to save, I would say. Crossing a flat sea, sleep without interruption in the multiple cabin, but empty, fortunately, is not a season. I must say, to tell the truth, that the return from Durres to the Adriatic is better, than to the first leg with the Greek Agoudimos.
At Vlora I live as dear friends in a beautiful house, of new ones, it's not like I love big buildings, or rather for nothing, but if you really have to make them, it's better in the city than to ruin the coast so beautiful.
The Albanians will make it where all have failed, Italy, France, Spain, all ex beautiful coasts distorted by heavy economic interests and by the madness of wanting all the beach house (look at Durres, it's worse than the outskirts of Bari, nice buildings, in itself and for itself, but who understands it more than Durres is a city of the sea?). Vlora, for now, is still saved. Indeed, if you climb high up on the hill above you can enjoy the sight of an extraordinary panorama: on the left on the gulf, embraced by the Karaburun promontory, on the right on the lagoon, a splendor of lights that are reflected between water and sky, we we saw at sunset from the terrace of a lady who invited us to come in, seeing us curious, and offered us small bunches of grapes and cool drinks, with that so sweet hospitality that still hasn't been lost, fortunately.
Among the bumpy roads appear houses that someone is restoring with love, respecting the stone, someone else wasting out of ignorance with unsuitable materials, like everywhere. Some ancient stone arches at the entrance are carved, in one case, with the moon and the sun. A place out of the world, but a German has already arrived! and bought a house. Lucky him! but I would prefer my beloved Vunò, maybe a hole in the house, but with a bit of earth to make a garden that I have been dreaming of for some time, a musical garden, a specialist told me that it does not exist in all of Europe, how nice it would be to do it in Albania, as long as the coast is saved, or even to help save it, why not? With my friend the pianist, a talented woman, beautiful and strong, outspoken, we spend (together with mother and mother-in-law, there are no carers here!) Almost a week by the sea, deserted beaches, between Vlora and Oricum (ancient Roman settlement) there are many and, incredible for a port! they are clean, well maintained, have excellent restaurants. In one of these the owner drives away a cow that dares on the shoreline, but we have time to take a picture that my friend Luigi Berliocchi, a garden scholar, would like to take, who loved Albanian goats on the seashore, as there was a weather in Abruzzo. Luigi unfortunately if he took away a cancer at 45 years, he had written a magnificent book on orchids, always published and reprinted by my publisher, Stampa Alternativa, another on painting and the Mediterranean landscape together with an art historian for Motta, one on the gardens that disappeared in Rome, he had one on his head on the spontaneous plants among the ruins of Rome ... in short, we ate and drank to his health, first, as always, arrived the appetizers, delicious bruschetta with excellent oil, now the Albanian oil is competitive in terms of quality on the world market, perhaps too expensive. Then fish soup, fresh seafood, clams, prawns and mussels that tasted of the sea (and not of sewage, as often in Rome) in a sauté made to perfection, we did not have time to express the desire to cleanse the mouth with some fruit that miraculously appeared as a platter with pretty slices of peaches, melon, apples. it must be said that the service in Albania is superior, even in the conditions of a country that is still very contrasting in its structures: the ashtray is removed and a clean one is brought often, for example. The city of Vlora suffers as the capital the same chaotic urbanization of the last ten years, in addition, without those infrastructures to lighten the whole that I will find then in Tirana (well-kept gardens, roads redone etc.). What is good is that, my friends tell me, their building is earthquake-proof, resting on a swinging platform. A system used by the Japanese, I think, that are at the forefront of the field. One day we pushed with the Tata to Apollonia, always beautiful, there are spouses to take pictures in the background of the theater and a beautiful girl in a long red dress will stand out in my photo against the background of the Orthodox church, the one that appears in my novel with its capitals, one of which with the famous DOUBLE-TAIL SIREN that has a very significant role in my story.
When we arrive in Gjirokastra the Festival is almost over, but inside the castle we will still have time to listen and see so many groups perform. Finally! it is the first time for me since I know Albania.
I like many, but especially that of Dibra, (where I have never been) but does not win prizes: the dance of the man who looks like a fish with his hands in the air fascinates me.
My friend and I are going around during the day in the less beaten streets of the beautiful city sung by Kadarè, now rather worn out compared to the era of communism, but at restoration, at least, hopefully, even if yards see little of it , at the moment.
Girellando we discover a tiny garden very, very well cared for. Immediately a thin gentleman invites us to enter the courtyard above, and offers us a raki. He jokes with superfluous irony, like many Albanians do, not only those from Skodra, who have the reputation. He tells us a grotesque story: as I well know, during communism it was forbidden to have relations with foreigners, he exchanged stamps and books with an Italian, but the Italian sent too many, he risked making the "controllers" suspicious, so with another calligraphy made him write that he, Tajar, was dead! The sending of letters ceased and with it the danger. Once communism was over, he hastened to write that no, it was not true, he was alive and resumed the exchange of correspondence with his pen pal. And here destiny has signed us: they replied that now it was his Italian friend who died, but this time for real. We all laughed uncontrollably and seemingly cruel. "Write it, since you are a writer, this story." All of Albania is full of stories, because it is a land of contrasts, and the contrasts move the narrative. He gave us his little book of Aphorisms and Sentences, some I understood without help and they really enjoyed me. When she showed us her family tree at home, curiously made up of only male names, my friend had already understood what a well-known family she belonged to, our chemistry professor full of humor and a sense of beauty.
I obviously don't.
So when he said: "I'm waiting for the visit of the American Ambassador, but I was happier to receive the two of you who are so nice today", I thought that on one side it was a compliment from an old southern gentleman and on the other an attack of grandeur not infrequent in the Albanians.
Not at all, how wrong I was.
I understood it immediately after, when my friend explained to me that he was the cousin of a woman of whom we had seen the statue in the square, founder in the post-war era of a social democratic party, who had asked for the support of the Americans without obtaining it. Conclusion: 37 people, including two of his brothers, involved
i had been killed in that party and she had been in prison for years. The Americans had not intervened, the world was divided into two, everyone did their crap in his field, without disturbing each other.
We were already in Tirana when we read the articles on the reparatory visit of the American Ambassador to Tajar, after sixty years.
That meeting with someone so special made us euphoric and all the more because it happened casually, as I like it.
We greet before leaving for Tirana the lady of the shop of finely embroidered linen and from good "artists" we buy for me two curtains, beautiful but ... of different length! too taken by their beauty, we didn't realize it, so that now it will end up in my Roman house like in that Sicilian house of the Prince of Palagonia, where everything was wrong, including the legs of the chairs. It will be the subject for the criticism of tidy friends. Even the criticisms, however annoying, produce stories. Even the gossip, therefore I must sooner or later learn to become familiar with it. I'm still a little behind, at my age I'm still bored.
On the way back I wanted to visit the ruins of Byllis once again, but without the imaginary archaeologist of my novel it is impossible to see the magnificent mosaics. It is equally exciting.
In Tirana it seems that nothing is yet ready to present my book, not even the book itself.
As at the time when, in 89, I organized the First Exhibition of the Italian Book at the National Historical Museum. But while at the time I did not yet know the Albanians well, now yes and therefore I do not worry at all. The date of the October 9 is established and the place: the Opera House, which is basically the protagonist of my novel, the real House in which the protagonist always feels at ease, where she meets the Master, who will remain forever his friend. And that Theater has been running it for years now, succeeding, with very few totally inadequate resources, in making the billboard at European level. He works from morning at 8 until the evening at half past ten, and with him Frida, an intelligent and efficient secretary that any manager would like to have with him, and Luigi, the stage manager to whom nothing escapes, but also the workers, the technicians , which work inversely proportional to the smallness of the salary.
When the Italians come they are amazed by so much dedication and pride of belonging. The results of so much love and competence are evident, and my friend Zhani is now the most loved person in Albania, wherever we go someone greets us with affection and respect or offers a toast.
While waiting for the 9 I can hear three concerts of very pleasant young people. Between the Opera, the Conservatory and the Radiotelevision Orchestra, good music never fails in Tirana.
Two days before I go to the presentation of the third volume of the memoirs of the former President of the Republic, Moissiu, the room is full, everything lasts 45 minutes. And the day comes 9: in the room I recognize writers, critics, old friends, directors, painters, musicians. A poet with a long tail of dark hair hands me a bouquet of cyclamens gathered in a meadow. Immediately after the editor, Irene Toci of Toena, speaks Master Zhani Ciko, then the former Minister of Culture Suzana Turku, the famous writer Diana Culi, and finally the excellent translator, Jmmy Lazri. In conclusion I speak. All this lasts a little too long, perhaps, nevertheless journalists and television operators resist fearlessly. As soon as it ends, they assail me: ten articles will appear in the main newspapers, of which three are double-page interviews. And five or six on TV, from 5 to even 20 minutes in the news, an overwhelming success at a level higher than my expectations. Thanks to those who have organized everything so well, but also thanks to the reciprocal affection of the Albanians. There are no Italian "officialities", I know, diplomats of my Embassy or the colleague of the Institute of Culture, who are obviously employed elsewhere, but in the end this unjustified little rudeness, (at least in terms of good education, if not the tasks institutional), it will prove to be a good thing, when I read in a newspaper that the artists and writers of the various "weeks of culture" (Spanish, Austrian, Italian) are considered as recommended that they "are not on the market".
My novel is "on the market", with no official recommendations whatsoever, (good or bad that readers decide), and it will always remain a precious documentation of a vanished era.
Years pass, we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but there is always some zealous official, to the west like a time in the east, totally devoid of sense of humor, ready to give up some censorship. And that will never be! When I worked at Rai in the '71 ("Incontri a tre", a transmission about the school) I remember that they censored us half an hour before going on air. And since there was the pentapartite, they did it in bursts, from the least powerful up, up to the DC that was at the top of the dome. We, naive, thought that the viewer would have noticed, because of the coarse cuts made and quickly recomposed. Not at all, he doesn't notice anything, the viewer. I stayed one more week to attend the premiere of Porgy and Bess, a completely new event for Albania, which had a remarkable success for nothing. For me it was a pleasure to witness, as always, the trials, difficulties, work and harmony that grow. I took the opportunity to see old friends and walk around Tirana to take pictures of the old and the new. I have always eaten very well, in every restaurant, except, I must say, to the too famous Taivan, the octopus-shaped monster. But from Oda an orgy of delicacies, all the regional specialties of foods and rosoli and Albanian grappa, now almost rare, supplanted by the prevailing Italian cuisine, by Rozafà excellent fresh fish well cooked, and others. The atmosphere, as you will have understood, was very affectionate on the Albanian side, two days after the presentation the novel was in all the bookstores, even in the supermarkets, and there the young assistant was already reading it. Everywhere, after so many passages on TV, they recognized me and asked me, curious. As Manzoni wrote in his essay on the historical novel, and I quote it from memory, "anyone who even writes a single historical novel will not be able to avoid the question: but what did you write is true or did you invent it?" for me, but for all writers of historical novels, there is a principle: "everything that appears unlikely is real, everything that appears real is invented".
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