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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors





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The Essence, Existence

They exist without existence,
They are the sparks of life without essence,
Some are truths that resemble none...
In them are neither time nor space,
In them ply neither good nor evil,
There exists a senseless dread of the dark,
There exists an amorphous spirit of abandon,
There exists an absurd fear of death.

There exists apprehension, concern for the morrow,
There exists mistrust of Man for mankind,
There exists asphyxia in the Man-beast's mind,
That rages and robs of its ration
The being that wants more than it had before.
Is Man the beast, or is the beast Man?

There exists desire, a longing for the unknown,
There exists the absurdity of a life of deception,
There exists inertia, arid sloth like straw,
There exist hopes that are silly and vain.

There exists longing for exchanges of old,
Like the senseless transfer of cold to hot,
Like the conversion of heat to cold.
There exist thoughts, foolish and shallow,
That sow thorns in a soft, unripe conscience,
There exists a desire to speak without thinking,
Like ashes remaining when fires are quenched,
There exists an accord of the thieving consciousness,
And there exists the word deprived of its meaning.

There exists the mighty flash of a lightning bolt,
Wantonly withering the heart of the lonely,
There exists the ruthless savagery of climate
That burns or dehydrates the seeds of the plant,
Turning to dust the sweat of our labour.

There exists a contagious fever of endeavour.
And the multidimensional anguish of profit..

All these are links in the chain of attraction,
All these are disruptions in the laws of nature
All these are nightmares that rise before death,
Like shadows that cast themselves upon mirrors,
Devoid of logic...

Yet these determine the existence of mankind.

[Esensa ekzistenca. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


The Conflicts of Fate

I have a word, like a fishbone stuck
In my lungs, in the midst of my windpipe,
I cannot expel it by vomiting bile.
Nothing can free me from the yoke
That weighs on my neck like a punishment,
I cannot digest it, send it on to my liver,
To serve my gallbladder as a reserve.
Should I emit it with the phlegm of patience,
Spitting it into evil Lake Michigan,
The flora and fauna within it would perish.
The strongest poison is that of the living.
The conflict between life and ideals
Is the cross we bear up to Calvary mountain,
Only the weak find solace in repentance.
Pain is the daughter of despair,
Floating on the surface of the river of life,
The conflict of thought with reality,
The conflict of reality with appearance,
The conflict of appearance with hope,
The conflict of hope with faith,
The conflict of faith with illusion,
The conflict of illusion with ideals,
The conflict of ideals with dreams,
The conflict of dreams with disillusion,
The conflict of disillusion with resignation,
The conflict of resignation with death,
The conflict of death with oblivion,
Such are the conflicts that cause the pain.
Civilisations come and go,
The flow of the centuries takes its toll.

[Konflikte fatidike. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



Freed from the serfdom of memory,
Crows and ravens, lizards and cuckoos
Peck at the paths of the seasons of life,
To torment and torture the poor soul,
And evaporate, releasing me of my burden,
Like grass freed of the heavy dew.
When the sun spreads its warmth for a new day rising,
I become the boon companion of trust,
And they fly off like the swallows, my dreams and my hopes.
In the ether of Nirvana I find peace and quiet,

Will, resolve, and strength of decision.

Freed from the anguish caused by death,
The man of the future
Wanders in space, without finding his identity,
The dead man has not died,
For the death of the Lord of the mystics
Is but a temporary absence,
Only here does Endeavour have meaning.

In a timeless, universal night
The beacons of the past duel with one another,
The little lights try to focus on the paths
They have taken and the paths they will take,
New directions like the awesome foreboding
Of an unknown and fearsome dawn.
Faith says to the soul: Why be so careful?
You are immortal.

The darkness ever curious
Afraid that dawn approaches,
Hides in the bitter intuitions
Of Schopenhauer, Sartre, Heidegger,
Who come and go with blind demands,
Who scream: the world is the absurd
Activity of a senseless mind,
The thirsty dream of an undefined wish,
A void without foundation
That enters where it cannot leave,
Headlong into a tunnel,
Bereft of goals, laws, dimensions,
Like existence and being in purposeless existence.
He who has not tasted of its condemned absurdity
Cannot comprehend it.

Ideas that are immortal
Stem from the minds of unknown thinkers,
Like the air that receives no warmth from the sun,
And returns no heat to the planet.
Ideals, should they find no acceptable framework,
Flow in vain, like headwaters borne by a river to the sea,
No connection among them.
Like irreversible heat,
Like water, like the magnate,
Electricity and the sea,
They continue their journey through space and time,
Through light, through darkness,
Hoping one day to shine
Where they are not expected or suspected,
Beyond evil, beyond good.

Fatally one day,
Unsuspected, unexpected,
Their chain will break,
This void becomes the absence
Of true meaning,
To turn the magnate into light.
This is the torture of the whole drama,
Played out by the leader of the desert caravan
On the road which the martyr of Calvary left him.

Few and rare are the Dreamers,
That they lose direction on their journey,
Therefore mankind never understood them,
They lacked the COMPASS to find their way.
Those who do not learn, enjoy no memories,
Which are the simple blossoms
Of life amidst smiles and tears,
Of the fiery eye that sees beyond time,
Where justice mysteriously hides,
Where doubts assail the thirsting and curious soul.
So awful and bitter is the TRUTH.

Perhaps one fine day
The world will come to understand itself,
From start to finish,
From rough experience,
From dawn to dusk,
And will be able to save itself.
The mysterious magnate will grow,
In comprehensible light,
Will solve the equations of the heavens,
Will unbolt the gates of the Mystery.
Digging and seeking and finding
The light of the beginning, the cause of the ending.
Mankind will find the path of truth.
Perhaps it will be the Resurrection
Of which saints and prophets
With mystic imagination have spoken.
The starry pilgrims
Will be baptized, be understood,
And be embraced.

Alas, it will be too late for them.

It is no longer their age, it is no longer our age.

Thus ideas, those martyrs,
Are born, live, suffer and perish.

[Nirvana, from the volume Gloria e çmendjes, Tirana: Alta 1995, p. 67-73. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]