Ridvan Dibra was born in Shkodra on 9 January 1959. He was raised and educated in his hometown. He graduated in Albanian Language and Literature from Luigj Gurakuqi University of Shkodra. He worked as a teacher in Kukes (1982-1987) and as a journalist in Shkodra (1988-1994). Currently, he is a professor of foreign literature at the University of Shkodra. He is the author of over twenty books in prose and poetry. He has written many essays and has conducted many studies. Among the most important works of the writer, are: Thjesht (Simple), Eklipsi i shpirtit (Eclipse of the Soul), Prostituta e virgjër (The Virgin Prostitute), Nudo (Nudes),Stina e ujkut (The Season of the Wolf), Franc Kafka i shkruan të birit (Franz Kafka Wrote to his Son), Triumfi i Gjergj Elez Alisë (Gjergj Elez Alia’s Triumph) and Triumfi i dytë i Gjergj Elez Alisë (Gjergj Elez Alia’s Second Triumph). Parts of this work have been included in six anthologies nationwide and abroad, and have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Bosnian, etc. His work has been rewarded with several national and international prizes. His latest work, The Legend of Loneliness, was awarded the Rexhai Surroi Prize as the best novel of the year in the Albanian territory.
Title: Legjenda e Vetmisë (The Legend of Loneliness)
Place of publication: Tirana
Year of publication: 2011
© all rights reserved to the author and “Onufri” Publishing House
The plot: The novel The Legend of Loneliness is based on the motives of an old Albanian folk song, but the folk material is utilized and transformed in accordance with the intentions of the author’s aesthetic goals. The events of the novel are placed in an undefined area somewhere in the north of Albania, on purpose. The main character of the novel, who serves as the connecting node of fable, is called Bala. At a young age, Bala witnesses a serious misfortune: his father’s death. According to the official version, which is supported by Bala’s mother, his father committed accidental suicide while hunting. Bala, despite his young age, is full of doubts. At a certain moment, he is convinced that his father was murdered and the killer was his father’s best friend, the neighbour living closest to their house. The reason for the killing was the secret love affair between the neighbour and his mother. The discovery of this truth shocks and disorientates Bala the teenager. As a result, he undergoes a deep change. He used to have a sensitive character and possess a soul of outstanding artistic taste; after this, he turns into an introverted individual who doubts everything. Then, the moment comes and he sets himself the one goal alone: revenge. In this way, a triangle is built: the neighbour (the killer) – mother (adulterous) – and Bala (thirsting for revenge). Thus, with his doubts and dilemmas, Bala reminds us somehow of Prince Hamlet, as well as the tragical Orestes. Bala’s plans for taking vengeance fail. After the plan fails, the neighbour and his mother blind Bala and call it an accident. Finally, the mother marries the murderous neighbour. Bala the Blind is forced to participate at the wedding. The old friends accept Bala in his present state. The society accepts the individual, but only when he goes blind. In this sense, the new novel is defined by contemporary symbolism and interpreted by new interpretations and angles of reading. In conclusion, we can say that the novel The Legend of Loneliness is essentially both Albanian and of the Balkans, just as much as it is universally human.
“The mother blinded her own son,
just to marry her husband’s killer”.
(From an Ancient Legend)
Bala always stays alone.
Even if dislikes loneliness.
Because he is only 18 years old.
Oftentimes, he sits and hides behind the Black Rock. A huge Rock, as big as Bala’s house. And a rock for which the old men swear that “it has fallen from the sky.” There hides Bala. And sits and watches how kids of his age play silly games on the grass and the flowers of the Blue Eye Meadow. Kall call it thus: “Blue Eye Meadow. Because in the midst of it, exactly at the middle, there is a very small lake. With a water that is always blue and limpid. Thus, if you climb somewhere higher, let’s say at the Mountaintop of Egoboka, and gaze down (something that Bala has done tens and hundreds of times), the Meadow will appear exactly as a huge human eye with pines – eyebrows on the sides and the lake – as an iris in the middle. Or so it seems to him, to Bala, that is.
Bala feels secure in the place where he is sitting. Because the Black Rock has a very bad reputation, all around and nobody dares approach it. Except for the girls, that to Bala’s surprise, often happens to get closer to that Rock. Without any concern for ‘the bad reputation. ”Or just because the Black Rock has that kind of reputation. Who could figure out the girls! Save that in such cases, once they get closer to the Rock, Bala has behind his back the forest. The forest where he disappears once he senses that danger.
His coevals improvise all sorts of plays there on the Meadow… these seem like new and strange games that ten years ago, nobody played. Then, when Bala could join his coevals. Or may have been played even then by older kids.
“Because every age has its own plays.” chats Bala with the Black Rock, his only friend for the past ten years.
“Not only every age, but every era too” answers the friend.
This seems to Bala to be the same thing. However, he does not understand the meaning of these new and strange games that are played in front of his own eyes. Or to be more precise, those games that are played in the front of one of the eyes (the left eye). Because, the other, just to feel secure, he keeps it hidden behind the Black Rock. No, no, Bala does not comprehend those games. Even if he thinks about them quite a bit. The reason must be the distance; from where he is hidden, up to the Meadow where his equals are having fun, the distance may be about hundred yards. or so.
“Yes, the distance is the problem” says Bala to the Black Rock.
The Rock does not answer. Which means that it thinks differently from his friend. In beginning Bala is annoyed. However, after a few moments pass, and once he becomes honest with his own self, admits that the distance is not guilty at all. It is hidden somewhere else, the guilt that is: how could you understand games that you yourself have never played?
Because, even from that distance, he could see his coevals dresses.
Because he can distinguish boys from girls.
The girls! Even when they are just getting closer to the Meadow, Bala feels their presence. Entirely different from anything else. Neither with the smells that rise from underneath the soil. Nor like the smells that drip from above the sky. The smell of the girls, that, is. It happens quite often that, after they have bathed at the Lake in the middle of the Meadow, girls approach to the Black Rock .However, by then, Bala dissipates as a shadow in the forest behind the back. He has chosen a big tree and sits couched behind its huge trunk, while the girls laugh. Laugh and play with words and hands with each-other. Then they undress, naked. And hang their clothes to dry on the Black rock.
Bala, then, without living his days and a crazy imagination lowers his pants and touches with hands his own thing.
The livid trunk of the pine slimes
As if there just passed a humongous snail.
The extract is translated from the Albanian by Shinasi Rama.