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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors

 

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Parid TEFERIÇI

Parid TEFERIÇI

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Parid TEFERIÇI

 

In Obot, While Waiting

In Obot, as he waited for the ferry to take them over to Bar, Gjergj Nikolla decided to while away the time by cheering up his twelve-year-old son (it was the first time the lad had been away from Shkodra). He took a stone, flung it across the Buna and invited him to outdo him if he could. The son smiled at the unexpected challenge from his father, chose a stone with great care and clambered down to the riverside.
Clasping the stone to throw it farther than his father's and perhaps even to the other bank, he felt a sharp pain in the palm of his hand. His wish was simply to hurl the stone and the pain as far away as he could. But he did not outdo his father, and he still has the pain to this day.

[Në Obot, duke pritur, from the volume Meqenëse sytë, Tirana 2003, p. 20. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

In Perspective

...sarebbe stato il più leggiadro e capriccioso ingegno
che avesse avuto da Giotto in qua l'arte della pittura,
se egli si fusse affaticatò tanto nelle figure ed animali,
quanto egli si affaticò e perse tempo nelle cose di prospettiva.
VASARI

DONATELLO
Carts in perspective roll on one wheel;
Horses hide behind their tails; trees - beneath the grass,
And people have no hands to greet one another.
What remains of us beyond our visual perception?

PAOLO UCCELLO
Man, in perspective, is his visual perception.
Our strongest point, our ultimate strength,
Is the fact that we appear when seen from a distance.
Levers of light, with it and only with it,
Succeed in exalting us to our dignity.

DONATELLO
Distance is the wall which separates us
From the truth, from forms.

PAOLO
It is the wall where truth casts its shadow
And we can draw forms.

DONATELLO
But there, the light, thought bright, is not enough.
How can our visual perception ever suffice?

PAOLO
Do not confuse visual perception with light,
As death confuses the farmer with his fields.

DONETELLO
Exactly, in perspective, we are dead.

PAOLO
We are our visual perception. Death - a form.

[Në perspektivë, from the volume Meqenëse sytë, Tirana 2003, p. 42-43. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

"Woman Holding a Balance" by Vermeer

She is pregnant, and impatience is silently ruminating her lust for unseasonable fruit (the spherical impatience of light).

The equanimity of the weighing! The squirming concentration!
Seasick from such a balancing act!

From the left, light floods in over a jewelled scale. On the side of the weights, one might have added a portion from the painting "The Last Judgment." But it hangs, hovering on the waxen wall - the condemned, the saved, Christ in a swollen gland, all of them preoccupied with Righteousness.

Then suddenly, serenity - a shaft parallel to the table, to the frame of the "Judgment."

Yet, the pensive smile of the lady is veiled in oblique rays,

Of the lady who cherishes deep within her the bubble of the spirit level.

["Peshuesja e perlave", Vermeer, from the volume Meqenëse sytë, Tirana: Aleph 2003, p. 44. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Poet

They shoot at me where I am not to be found.

It comes to pass that they raise my hand from the table
To see if I am not hiding there.
It comes to pass that I must give way
To someone hastening by in search of me.
It comes to pass that they set me on fire
To look for me in the darkness.

However much I stand with my back against the wall
They do not shoot me.

[Poeti, from the volume Meqenëse sytë, Tirana: Aleph 2003, p. 50. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

First Prayer

The virgin R hesitates to undo the first button

Can a blossom veil its own fragrance?
How can a zebra hide in one black stripe,
Or a cat in a fa diesis meow?
Or an epic journey
In some cheap souvenir?
Can time take refuge
In a suitcase, big though it may be?
How, indeed, could a day,
On a strict schedule,
Conceal itself in a closet
And play hide-and-seek with life?

Can the heavens hide in a breath of air,
Wounds in scabs, the sea in a wave?
Could one of us ever
Hide in the two of us?
How, then, can you hide
In my love for you?

[Lutja e parë, from the volume Meqenëse sytë, Tirana: Aleph 2003, p. 67. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

In a Country as Small as This One

The Albanian Leviathan is a sardine. The sitting rooms where men gather are tins of sardines. Truth, in order to find space there, has to be folded in two and then folded again.

In a country as small as this, so small that you could easily draw it on a one-to-one scale on this packet of cigarettes, you don't know where and how to sit or support yourself: on the throat of your neighbour, or on the buttocks of the other fellow's wife.
Seated, huddled around the coffee table, how can you greet anyone without jabbing someone else with your elbow? How can you pay a compliment without deafening someone?
We can see one another in our spoons, and we are warped.

[Në një vend të vogël si ky, from the volume Meqenëse sytë, Tirana: Aleph 2003, p. 76. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Index

What point is there in my showing you 'mongst the crowds
What sort of person I am,
Or the turn in the road you must take to find
My house, where the quince tree is aging in the yard?
Index fingers are the roots that feed
That trunk which offers no leaves, nor fruit, nor shade.

[Index, from the volume Meqenëse sytë, Tirana: Aleph 2003, p. 87. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]