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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors



Arshi PIPA (Photo: Patricia Nugee).

Arshi PIPA (Photo: Patricia Nugee).


Arshi PIPA


Writer and scholar, Arshi Pipa (1920-1997) was born in Shkodra where he attended school until 1938. His first poetry, composed in the late 1930s in Shkodra, was collected in the volume Lundërtarë, Tirana 1944 (Sailors). Pipa studied philosophy at the University of Florence, where he received the degree of "dottore in filosofia" in 1942 with a dissertation on Henri Bergson (1859-1941). He thereafter worked as a teacher in Shkodra and Tirana. In 1944, he was editor of the short-lived Tirana literary monthly Kritika (Criticism). Unwilling to conform after the radical transition of power at the end of the war, he was arrested in April 1946 and imprisoned for ten years. After his release in 1956, he escaped to Yugoslavia and emigrated to the United States two years later. He held teaching posts at various American universities and until his retirement was professor of Italian at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Pipa digested his ten years of horror in the prisons and labor camps of Durrës, Vloçisht, Gjirokastra and Burrel in Libri i burgut, Rome 1959 (The Prison Book), a 246-page collection of verse. He has published two other volumes of poetry in Gheg dialect: Rusha, Munich 1968 (Rusha), and Meridiana, Munich 1969 (Meridiana), the latter being a collection in the romantic and nostalgic vein of Giacomo Leopardi.

Of greater impact were Pipa's scholarly publications, in particular his literary criticism. Among such works are the three-volume literary study Trilogia albanica, Munich 1978, and a monograph on Montale and Dante, Minneapolis 1968. He also published a controversial sociolinguistic study on the formation of standard Albanian (gjuha letrare) as the official language of Albania, entitled The Politics of Language in Socialist Albania, New York 1989; a collection of fifteen political essays entitled Albanian Stalinism: Ideo-political Aspects, New York 1990; and a study on the Albanian literature of the socialist realist period, Contemporary Albanian literature, New York 1991. In later years, he edited the short-lived periodical Albanica in Washington, D.C., where he lived with his sister in retirement.