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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors








Mihal Hanxhari (1930-1999) was born in Kentucky in the United States where his father had emigrated in 1907. In 1931, the family returned to Albania and settled in Tirana. Mihal began writing and publishing short stories at secondary school. He studied history and geography in Budapest and, after graduation in 1954, returned to Albania to teach secondary school in Korça and Tirana. In 1960, he was appointed director of the Library of the University of Tirana, a job which gave him rare access to the world of literature and literary culture. He was fired from this job for political reasons in 1975, being denounced as a liberal and a spreader of bourgeois culture, and was transferred to a modest post at a local library branch where he worked in 1990. In 1993-1995, he taught Albanian at the Ecole des Langues Orientales in Paris and died on 3 June 1999.

It is only since his death that Mihal Hanxhari has been discovered as a writer. His poetic world, now greatly admired, is unusual for Albanian literature. We find in him the reminiscence of Cavafy and poignant glimpses of nature not unlike Japanese haiku. He would seem to have been entirely uninfluenced by the heavy-handed doctrine of socialist realism which held sway in Albania until 1990. Hanxhari published nothing during his lifetime. Among his posthumous collections of verse are: Se sytë e mi kështu e shohin botën, Tirana 2000 (For thus my eyes see the world); Na ishte njëherë, Tirana 2000 (Once upon a time); Ti vdekja ime mbushur me jetë, Tirana 2001 (You my death filled with life); and Gdhend një statujë, Tirana 2005 (Carve a statue).