Virion Graci was born in Gjirokastra in 1968. He studied Language and Literature. In 1992, he started working in the Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA). Later he became a lecturer at the University of Gjirokastra, where he has been working for 16 years. By now, he is a researcher in the Department of Contemporary Literature at the Centre of Albanological Studies. At the age of 24, he wrote Të çmendur në parajsë (Madmen in Paradise), his first novel. The novel was translated and published in France and Greece. Other works by this author are: San Valentino (Saint Valentine’s), Shpata e ndryshkur (The Rusty Sword), Bijtë e Zotit majmun (Children of the Monkey God), Babai në shi (Dad in the Rain), Zonja pa emër (The Nameless Lady), Litari dhe lamtumira (The Hangman’s Noose and The Farewell), Stina e hijeve (The Season of Shadows).
The novel The Season of the Shadows is the best novel of 2014 and the winner of the Reverend Father Zef Pllumi National Prize.
Place of publication: Tirana
Year of publication: 2014
Publisher: Pika pa Sipërfaqe
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The plot: The Season of Shadows is a present day journey of the living, side by side with the dead, a journey in the border between the two worlds. It is also a reviving of the dead brother ballad, bringing this ballad back in our everyday life the story of no longer as something of the past but as something of the present. The novel is based on a true story. It is Elona’s story, a young woman suffering from an incurable illness, who, in order to survive, was treated illegally in Greece, using her cousin’s documents. Sickness rules; she and her loved ones struggle hard to face it. The approaching of death destroys the harmony and balances between the people she loves, turns their dreams upside-down and forces them to face many dilemmas. In the fourth chapter, the grotesque narration rules. The moral degradation of high State structures, from Athens to Tirana, forces a father to start the most desperate journey of his life. In order to escape Greek authorities, he travels following at a certain distance the car that is taking his dead daughter back home, while she sits as if she were alive. The storyteller assigns to a well-known former actor of the Albanian National Theatre the task of accompanying dead Elona, to drive her corpse back home; there’s “no need for the death certificate”, an expensive “lifeless passport”. It is a terrifying trip, not anymore for the dead, but for the one who is journeying with the “living death”, a taxi-driver who confesses his disillusions to a dead body. In the end, he succeeds to fulfil the wish of a grieving father by bringing back home ‘safe and sound’ the corpse of his beloved daughter, since to the Albanian the dead is ‘something’ more strongly trusted than the living.
“Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, perhaps I’ll be at home, to my mother” Elona said. “After so many months of useless and torturing wanderings, I’ll stay with the youngest sister. They must have grown up more than I think. We girls, grow up as if someone is pulling us up by hair, they say. Don’t we Artan”?
I remained silent. Elona had heard the trot of the shadowy horse coming to get her. Elona didn’t seem lifeless in her face. After a quick look taken by one like us who are not knowledgeable at medicine, her parameters seemed normal: the white skin of her face slightly rose-coloured in the cheekbones, the blue eyes with the same permeating luminosity, the thick, tense lips, showing no tremble, nervous ticks or irrepressible emotions. Considering her outer look, it was impossible for her to be on the verge of catching the reins of the dark horse of death.
“If she..If she has already decided to commit suicide…, I supposed unsure of myself, ready to cry out the repudiating pain while trotting at a gallop with my horse of doubts and rejections…the girl’s suicidal horse should be stalled…she must remain..here…in this life. She is like a sea-gull, a swallow, a sky-lark that goes off flying all over the blue skies..It is so pointless to let her fall in the eternal sleep, it is pointless to let her leave and never move on earth….
If you listen closely to the heart of the night when the shadows have vanished waiting for the dawn, the sun, the light, the trot of the dark horse hits even for us who consider ourselves healthy and long-lived. The trot that kept Elona away of me as a man and away of her inner desires as a woman, the deceiving trot of the shadowy horse that intermingles with the wretched shadows of the day, to mess with chaps like me, like Arizi, like Aleko, could incite Elona to make the next folly. I said: “If I gave you a charged pistol, can you kill a criminal? A rapist? A pedophile? A serial killer?”.
“No, I can’t,” she said with eyes wide open with wonder, “I can’t, I can’t kill anyone,” she said again, by turning the head slightly away. She got it; she got the meaning of my words and laughed: “The least I can think of is killing a person that resembles me. Artan! Don’t even think that I can kill anyone,” she said.
I sighed relieved. I accompanied her until the apartment where they lived. We didn’t speak. We didn’t embrace each other and didn’t become sentimental although both of us knew that it was the last time that we were staying side by side. I was sure that after a few hours, or days, she would travel back to her mother in Fier, with dignity, by a car or taxi, like every privileged traveller. I knew that a few moments later I would be at the bet-club, drinking iced ouzo, observing through the window glasses, girls who move outside with a haste that is above the average.
Reluctantly, we shook hands according to the ritual of good manners: we were parting “Good night, Artan,” she said with a resounding voice. “Good night, Elona,” I replied.
Our hands, our palms, fingers were separated. A shadow tore itself off a stool somewhere near. The shadow pursued the traces of Elona who was already transformed into a shadow herself, she was transformed into an eternal shadow for my eyes.
A chap like those illegal Albanian taxi-drivers pulled up to my feet. “Get out of here” I shouted, “Drive off! Dismiss!”
I turned my head to see Elona, but she had disappeared in the huge mouth of the multi-floor apartment. I was confused. I was not confident, having a slight tremble of hands, arrhythmic breathing, I was not in my planet anymore. I was the first inhabitant in uninhabited planet or the last inhabitant of a vanishing planet. I had lost there where loss was unjustifiable; I had lost there where there can be no winners.
I had been unsure whether I had loved extraordinarily a lot Elona, I had been unsure whether it was a mutual love that indispensable need we had to drink coffee, water, refreshments, together, regularly; I can’t be sure that when we were together we nourished deep feelings of spiritual friendship and mental and physiologic well-understanding for each other. Now, separated from her, I was sure, undoubtedly: I felt violated by her, hit by her, smashed by her in thousands of flesh and spirit atoms which would never remake together again.
The extract is translated from the Albanian from Granit Zela
 Fier, a town in South of Albania.