Arben Shehi writer, architect and aesthetician was born in Shkodra in September 1954. During 1972 – 1977 he studied architecture at the University of Tirana and from 1979 till 1992 he dedicated himself to architectural planning and academic engagements as lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture (1984-1993). His published works are: Rikthimi drejt gjërave që i kam dashur (Return to Things I have Loved), Gjysma e heshtjes (Half of Silence), Kohë për askund (Time for Nowhere), Jeta, kjo mrekulli pa vlerë (Life, this Worthless Wonder). Additionally, some of his poems have been translated into many other languages, such as English, Italian, French, German, Rumanian, Greek etc. The publications in long prose followed at some later stage with two novels which were received well by the public and literary reviews: Gryka e posit (The Brim of Well) and Viti i qenve (Year of the Dogs). These novels are parts of the first triptych of prose titled Vitet e kolerës (Years of Cholera).
Title: Viti i Qenve (Year of the Dogs)
Place of Publication: Tirana
Year of Publication: 2013
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The plot: The events in the novel go back to the distant year 1967, when the communist regime was setting up its next madness. Narrated from the viewpoint of a 13-year old boy, the novel depicts the most shocking atmosphere of that madness in the biggest northern city, the absurd hysteria against religious beliefs, the elimination of which would ultimately separate Albania from the rest of civilized world. Faik Goga, a veterinarian with many years of experience is suddenly involved in a very unpleasant occurrence due to his profession, something rather embarrassing for the second most important person of the Party in the city. It is about the incident with his own dog. While at the beginning he thinks that everything will end due to his professional solution, the opposite happens with the high-ranking official, who seems to be the originator of a disgusting plan in executing the anti-religion madness. At once, in Dulos’ famous pothouse and later on in the whole city rumours spread regarding the expectable dangers of an epidemic originating from stray dogs, the task of wart against which will be assigned for execution to none other than him, the decent man, Faik Goga. Although he feels that this is nothing else but part of a diabolical deliberated plan, Faik is determined to keep that story as much as possible away from his family: his daughter Flora and his second wife Gjyzepina, the choir conductor of the city’s Franciscan church.
The bells of the Franciscan church which were struck precisely ten times, even though feeble and without that former sounding, looked rather like a pious prayer than a Sunday’s joyful bearer of a message.
It was so strange how he had lost recently the common understanding of normal things, reaching to the point of not perceiving even the absence of his wife in the warm bed sheets. As usually it happened to him in the Sunday morning, the femininity scent of her body nestled gently to his body made him feel high on the still sleepy nakedness to let her also for some while half sleepy in the sheets.
In the contrary, today half awakened, without that permanent sense of the reviving real, he was trying to refresh in his memory the last dream he had obviously not yet bowed out. But this was impossible, in spite of his rather unnatural attempts by which he was intending to build up the shortly before preceding film plastic tape. What was vivid and movable in front of his eyes for a few seconds, even so close to be uttered loudly, was swiftly erased all of the sudden as done by someone by hand. The only thing he could remember and already recall with open eyes was that his disappeared creation (not to say stolen) had many dogs. More than anything else, his memory recalled their rackets, painful wailing of gelding dogs without ceasing.
This tiny interlude was enough for Faik to definitely detach himself from the surreal part of the night. The day, albeit cold and likely to expect some snowing, was however touchable and dreamless. He just remembered that Gjystina at the meantime could be preparing the breakfast for the three of them in the dining room and he hurried to get dressed. He would like to wake up together with her and as usual, after her caresses to watch her in silence as she dressed slowly and with no rush in front of him. In her absence and of that whole short and quite intimate show, which once used to elate him the beginning of Sunday, he thought not without pain that apparently this was gnawing at him. Moreover, right now he had the firm impression that the cause for this was just him, a stupid day-waster with no farsightedness. Being unable to figure it out he had turned into a deaf and speechless tool of ordering monsters. In a roundabout way she had told him everything, in the highest-minded way ever. The maternity inside her was tempting, which obviously had been influencing on her inalienable sensuality and femininity as nobody else in the city.
The extract is translated from the Albanian by Nevila Hoxha