Viola Isufaj

Viola IsufajViola Isufaj is a writer and a professor of Contemporary Albanian Literature in the Department of Literature, Faculty of History and Philology, University of Tirana.

She is the author of several books (research, university texts and literary fiction as well as poetry), many scientific papers, and a number of monographs. Her first novel, To Mr. M. a letter (2004) traits the lost of nowadays human communication. This novel was introduced by Ismail Kadare, the well-known Albanian writer who described the novel as a “sweet, sober and luxurious fever”.She was a teenager when the totalitarian regime collapsed and metaphorically expressed these events in her second novel The Snake Saga, (2005).

The third novel Nobody’s days (2008) is followed by the publication of several cycles in poetry and the latest book of poetry Adamah, (2015).She was born in 1980 in the ancient city of Durres (Durrahchium) and she lives and works  in Tirana.



saga e gjarprit (1)Tittle:Saga e gjarprit (Snake Saga)

Place of the publication:Tirana

Year of the publication:2005




© all rights reserved to the author:




The plot: By a dream, which hides more than the secrets of a soul disturbed by love, Isolta slowly descents into historical and mythical time to discover the traumatic events carried by her as part of the collective memory.

The journey to the underground is a symbolic-allegorical descend to the depth of the unconscious, the deportation to some dark spot of the brains. The underground is also connected with death, the reincarnation, the darkness of the mysteries. Isolta, and her ever husband, the dictator, are constantly reincarnated, sometimes identical, and sometimes as shadows of themselves. Her much loved -often called by his mythical name Snake (Illyrios),- is a dualist character: cruel and brave in the same time.

The Snake (serpent stylized with spiral S) denotes the underground life, it denotes a love object, with which the narrator is emotionally connected since childhood. Sometimes it transforms into a mythical-biblical symbol, where the snake is the Satan (the initial S is again the same) urging the original man towards sin. However it is mostly represented by the evil which puts in jeopardy a nation or an ethnic. The mistake flows almost genetically in his veins. But he also shows himself good and righteous in several cases.

The narrator, Isolta, experiences the past, the present and future; he changes his skin but his soul and all of its evil remains the same as in a snake saga.

At last, he is identified with the nation itself. Illyrios (according to modern philology is coiled in the mouth as a snake) gave the name to albanian ancestors. Isolta feels a slave of her national ancestry. The ‘genetic’ love for her nation and the accompanying fear too, make her hopelessly wander in painful memories.

The novel ends with Isolta confessing that dream to the psychoanalyst. Her present mate is not sure anymore about her mental health. But he is about to marry her, however. Half woken up she surprisingly hears about the snake/Illyrios coming back and the threat of the history repetition starts to echo again in her mind. Taken to the brink of madness, she becomes conscious about her inner strength and perceives other dimensions of the existence.






I believe it all started because of a dream…

The previous day I had agreed to a marriage, from which there was no place to hide. In a way, it felt right it happened so suddenly, violently even, because if it were up to me, I would have never made my mind up about it.

Actually, the emotional state I was in was rather odd, just like the weather is at times.

I fell asleep almost at peace and dreamt of being in Snake’s house. The house looked like mine, same layout (it really felt familiar), not lacking in comfort or luxury, a bit messy, but lots of light.

I had sneaked in, unaware of exactly what I was doing there. I think I heard a noise and froze.

Someone was knocking at the door. I felt afraid and anxious.

He was about to find me in there, like a thief who had broken in. What could I do? What could I tell him?

I can’t recall, was it him who opened the door, or was it me? Well, I can imagine both of us doing it, but in the end it was me, I think. I stood there terrified, he looked surprised and annoyed, but only for a second.

We found ourselves on the sofa in his room surrounded by that mess.

He began… not caring what I would think about it all.

He went faster as if he knew his time was running out, as if he knew I could wake up.

I got up and pushed him away, he reacted even harder.

Then I, frail as I was, started explaining I could not go through with it as I was about to get married.

He was about say “so what?”, but got lost watching my face hurting, my voice showing sadness. He remained motionless, as if he were hypnotized. His face, like mine filled with despair.

Still hurting, I kept insisting that I could not go through with it, I could not. I had a strong reason: marriage.

That dream never left me.

I woke up not realizing I had dreamt it. As far as I am concerned I could have had other dreams after that, or maybe not.

I was told I had been uneasy throughout the night, screaming. They had tried to wake me, but could not. They asked me whether I was sick. I told them no, but that the nightmare would never end…

What nightmare? – they asked and then the dream came back to me, becoming clear again, the whole of it.

Walking round the room, ill at ease, I simply could not stay still.

All I could think about that day was him. I felt lost and cursed. I uttered – “Oh, that man is back even after all these years, oh, through eternity.”

I burst into tears.






It was all over the news, I came across it accidentally, but it did not raise any interest or wonder in me.

I even changed the channel, but it was the same everywhere.

There was more; interviews, opinions, exclusives, all about the strange new thing.

Is there anything left? – I thought – they get tired of peace and quiet and will come up with anything… phhh… people who are willing to stay in some sort of prison, underground…

The experiment: Volunteers sent to a cold, distant region as inmates… the ad continued

The location of the prison: under the mountain C.

The length of stay: nine months.

The Prize: something big, very big, given after release.

They’ll never find enough fools willing to go to the back of beyond, – I thought to myself.

People seemed confused, but to my surprise there were some supporting the experiment…

Surely they have been paid to say this – I said to myself.

Meanwhile the number of those signing up was growing at a incredible rate.

– It’s my ticket away from all this madness, – said a teenage girl. I have been tired of this world for sometime now.

-I have been wanting to die and be born again. No one, nothing, could make this happen, except for that place, – replied a philosophy student.

-The prize is huge, why not? – said an unemployed man while stroking his chin.

-I have been to prison many times, I have a gift of making friends both with criminals and guards, and frankly, it wasn’t all that bad, but this, getting paid for it… it’s like going on vacation.

–I’m tired of all this, I want to get out of here. I’m not sure whether I will want to come back if I go, but I want to give it a try, – said someone else.

-I wonder what’s it like, – squinted at the camera an old man, – I don’t want to hear other people’s rubbish, I want to try it for myself.

Dear God! I started picturing that place, underground. Well, it could not have been a real old fashioned prison. It was an experiment after all, like in movies.

Eventually the required number of inmates would be recruited, and they would be taken there.

It would be a new experience for me, and most importantly it was a good place for me to hide from my fast approaching marriage, what more could I ask for?



The extract is translated  from Albanian by Erald Ylli & Tadeuz Jones