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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors



Xhevahir SPAHIU, 1992 (Photo: Robert Elsie).

Xhevahir SPAHIU, 1992
(Photo: Robert Elsie).


Xhevahir SPAHIU


The region of Skrapar at the foot of lofty Mount Tomorr, the legendary Father Tomorr of Albanian mythology, is also the home of Xhevahir Spahiu (b. 1945), one of the most forceful, vociferous and talented poets of modern Albania, a voice of survival. During the 1973 Purge of the Liberals, dictator Enver Hoxha referred to Spahiu by name for having composed the poem Jetë (Life). This poem contained the lines Jam ai se s’kam qenë, do të jem ai që nuk jam (I am who I have not been, I shall be who I am not), which were reminiscent, though by pure coincidence, of a line by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Although the poet had never had the opportunity of enjoying the forbidden fruits of the late French philosopher (as had the Albanian dictator obviously), he was condemned as an existentialist which was tantamount to high treason. He survived only by the skin of his teeth, by channelling his passions into appropriate revolutionary fervour. After a few years he was allowed to publish once again. Now that the red tide has receded, Spahiu goes about his poet’s business and is quite content to do so. He is also currently head of the Albanian Writers’ Union, or what remains of it.