Title: Pëshpërimat e kryeqytetit të shurdhuar… (The Whispers of the Deaf Capital…)
Author: Besim Fusha
Place of publication: Tirana
Year of publication: 2005
Publisher: Ombra GVG
Genre: City Essayistics
© All rights reserved to the author and illustrator, 2005: firstname.lastname@example.org
The plot: “The Whispers of the Deaf Capital…” are remarks from the heart, without masks and delivered freely, by the disoriented citizens of Tirana, during the days and nights of October-November 1990, when Ismail Kadare left the country. The act of the great writer freed the chained souls of Albanians, especially those who lived in the capital. For the first time, one event was the talk of the city for a really long time, for many, many days. Some people expressed bursts of joy and others vented rage. The event broke the communist pressure and it dissipated the fear. THE WHISPERS grew and became louder and then the city transformed it into a clamor. These are remarks full of rage or humor by about 130 characters, real people, and they were handpicked for this book. The whisper that lingered turned into a clamor in its thirst for change. In the Annual Competition of nationwide literature, which is organized by the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports (MCYS) of Albania, “The Whispers …” received the second prize, “The Silver Pen”, for the selected narration genre of 2005.
Time elapsed. Berat became “something of the past” and what happened there, remained there. We had relocated to Tirana. Ismail [Kadare] who was the main one, together with Elena [Kadare], and me, moving around to another press space (another “geography” – as we put it), away from Berat. I tried to stay away from the work or concerns of the Kadares. After some time, Elena was appointed as an editor in “November 8” Publishing House. And so, because we were employed in areas which were on opposite ends of the Ring Road, we saw one-another rarely. I would bump into Ismail more often though. He would cross Scanderbeg Square, usually after eleven in the morning, just before lunch, moving from his house to the Writers’ Guild building or vice-versa, a fifteen-minute trip more or less. He was usually alone. He was usually in deep thoughts. I already knew that he was always creating in his heart of hearts – where there was a clash of demons, angels, and monsters… where the manly struggle… needed its arena, not just his heart, but the big field of the world as well. I knew it and I felt it, … this struggle of struggles had to be weaved well to attract the souls of people. He wanted to change the world with the masterful power of literature. This was not an easy feat, especially without squeezing the creative genius within himself… something which could be noticed even from outside. I believed that Kadare was the linking bridge between the souls of the earth and heaven… of life and death, that he was a lonely demon who created and collected world wonders between the monstrous complications and, through the bridge of thoughts, he bravely, simply and easily moved the world wonders to a believable paradise…. He carried a mountain of concerns… and he did not need other useless small concerns. Therefore, what is one of my principles – not to rush to talk first to bosses or to special people, without being talked first – gained priority. I did not talk to him and he did not talk to me. I did not even want him to talk to me. I wanted him to make better use of time… Such a complexity made me lower my head. I pretended I did not see him. When I noticed him from afar, I would change my direction and sidewalk. I don’t know why exactly I did this and why I thought this… I was regretting the fact that I had been like a chatter-box in Berat, and now suddenly, without a good reason, I had self-destroyed this image… I did not worry if I had entered his world in a weird and strange way…. I did not suffer because of this and I did not even care to fix this…. This was a very small detail before what I really wanted: to leave him in his deep thoughts. I did not care about anything else but to leave him in peace, in his struggle with demons or UFOs. Who the hell knows how he fought with them! My jokes which I used to use to break the ice, when he and Elena were in Berat, remained there, and I just wanted to be forgotten now. That humor was of no use anymore, especially to Ismail. To me, he was living in another universe, thinking about other things, which I expected him to put down in black and white. I was happy that I was in this period of waiting and staying aside, and even of being forgotten…. Some time passed and I thought that I had been forgotten completely…. But on a sunny morning, when the clouds had just dispersed before noon, in a corner close to the Mosque, in front of the Clock Tower, I bumped into Ismail, who this time was taking it easy and was smiling and being social once again after a long time…
-B., how are you? – he asked – how is Silvi… and the little one, Albesi… What is he doing? Is he growing up?(!)
Somewhat surprised about what he said, I don’t remember exactly what I said or what I asked him. I did not ask him about Gresa [Kadare’s daughter] or Elena that time. I remember that I congratulated him on his books, “The Siege” and “Chronicle in Stone.”
– Even though I read the “Chronicle” a long time ago, it does “appear” to me to have… strange illustrations: children playing with stamps of countries; Godfather with his hand-rolled cigarette; Kako Pino; Gossips about the virginity of the bride of Argyro; the bride of Shano, a perfect woman who never complained about a thing; wow, what illustrations! But what you have published belongs to readers now. What else are you planning to give to us?
– I just finished another novel.
– I hope it’s even better than the “Chronicle.” Congrats! And if you ever need me for anything, for any help, don’t hesitate to let me know.
– If it’s not a problem to you, that would be nice. I may need help for publishing in France.
And we arranged a meeting at home. What had happened during the time when we did not talk was a cramp, similar to a different one which had happened to Ll. (Llambi B.). But the cramp had been overcome now, and I found the key that unlocked such gloominess. I found it at that moment when Ismail asked me about my sons: Silvi and Albesi. I don’t remember ever mentioning their names to him in my past conversations.
(From page 118 in the Albanian version)
* * *
An old man from Tirana talking…
– He used to write books…?! But, did he get any money for it?
-Eh, don’t worry about him at all. He has five million in the bank…
-How much? Five million? Get out of here. He needs a good beating, you know. If the Albanian can put a piece of bread on the table, and his kids are not crying… Nay, it’s impossible. Why, was that man not in a cooperative too? Like everybody else in Albania… (?!) And I know that it’s the state that sells the books. Nay, nay, you’re messing with me… One can buy the world with that much money….
…. It’s impossible… (!?) What’s with the books that this Smol Kadarja [Ismail Kadare] is writing? Are they washed in gold then…!? One cannot even count five million. Even Albania does not have that much…. I’m sure Tirana does not have that much. Only in the clan-land… and only if you are the ring leader of thieves of that clan…
-Yeah, yeah, dear. Don’t worry too much about him… Watch your baggy trousers… You’re spending your life washing-and-drying them… waiting to buy some new ones….
(From page 50 in the Albanian version)
* * *
After a cup of coffee, before breaking up:
A.S. – … I said this to my wife last night: STFU, enough with this Ismail… you bitch… (!) are you stalking him now…
(From page 83 in the Albanian version)
* * *
A moment from a chat among Qerim F., Ze. Lu., and me.
Qerim F.: – Long live the occasion, as they put it nowadays… They say all kinds of things. They talk about something that happened to the son of Thanas Nano, to Fatos Nano [who went on to become Prime Minister], the economist, who works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A journalist asked him: “What do you think about the six thousand Albanians who left the country?…” “What can I say? We have put them in the list of dead people…” “What about Kadare?” “The general left together with the dead… [a reference to Kadare’s ‘General of the Dead Army,’]” he replied.
Ze. Lu.: – I have heard this story somewhere else as well, but it’s hard to believe it. A journalist asked him, some say … The journalist does not ask questions just to fill an empty sack, but to fill newspapers… Therefore, you do not have the ending right. Other people say that Fatos responded this way: “the dead needed to have their general with them…” All this is pointless, just for fun… I know Tosi [Fatos Nano] is an excellent lad. He does not joke around like this. He works as an advisor to the Prime Minister and not at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kadare did not migrate… He left with a mission… In the same way as… wait (!) what’s the name of that devil (?!) Anyway…! He is the father of violinist Tedi Papavrami, who was accompanied to the airport by the main benefiter of the Block [ex-communist area in Tirana]… Sokol Hoxha himself [one of the two sons of ex-dictator Enver Hoxha]. And the whisperers say that Kadare left… with Tedi… who is said to move the world to tears… with his effing violin…! Bullshit! Someone who is still wearing pampers does not get exiled… no. There are some tricks that people do not know… But the people do not change their silly ways… they just like to believe nonsense…
Me: – The people are not to blame, for sure. If you sent him yourself and then squirm… that means you are lying… Why?! You are creating an alibi or making up a… a so-called mission… (?!) a fake one or a forced one. Was this created by someone, or he did it on his own… well, it does not matter how you put it. I say that he created this mission on his own, but you may have a different view. Anyway, what does it matter (?!) Ismail Kadare left the country. This is the truth. The truth is that many souls were freed by this mission and its message… Albanians now believe what they see, and this is what serves them… And, whoever squirms left and right because of his act of leaving… (?!) is the one in the wrong… Why? Because… if you are a real man (!) you must clarify things to the people, like the world does. So they grow wiser.
(From page 66 in the Albanian version)
The extract is translated by Shpetim Lezi