By Bardhyl Maliqi
The Writer that Cracks up the Armature
of Arbitrary Values
With a difficult childhood, blooded-knees, mucky hoofs, full of yellowish flowers jam, lacerated pommels from blackberries, with pink eyes from the cold river “Pavel” from whose caves he fished trout and codfish, with seasoned limbs in sharply slants of rocks where he tracks pintails, Shefki Hysa got over the threshold of puberty and entered a problematic juvenility with a political convicted uncle, with his father dead on juvenility, with a family victim of the class war, a flock of children like a flock of sparrows swam in the compassion of destiny, was fed with seeds of plants like birds in the slabs of stones, always liable from trap, with their hand leather blackened from wild pears and riverside nuts fluid to extinguish hunger, always present, with a harsh drapery cheese-cloth, with books and copybooks of scholar , they mature and grow up.
And it came the day that the short young boy, with a heavy face, like a man went to Konispoli’s high school. He was skillful like a sable which smells, when he must and where he could, he clasps the good mark, but he was never estimated as he should, not because he didn’t deserve but because in his class were some beautiful faces of guys caressing from the political climate who necessarily must be the first of the class and even the studentship, the chosen stanza and the white necked maiden should be only for them.
Composed to coolness, worried face, seasoned on the atmosphere of a social nonchalance, without having the possibility to live his juvenility, deprived from the right to attend university, he was obliged to enter in the reclamation venture to be a Bulldozer. Inured with the petrol and grease smell, fattened with a driver dictionary, but very near to the nature virginity he began to sharpen the journalist’s and confessor’s pen to inlay a new profile of self-esteem. He was obsessed at the possibility to go to university at every cost, as a student of Tirana’s Philological University, owing to Dritëro Agolli goodwill for the new composers, in war with tarnishing biographies that never disunited to him. Thus, at hummer and tongs, owing to his ambitions to go onward , but also born educated like a contradictory reaction toward a vicious reality, he broke the armature of the dictatorship values system, to bill communicative ability and his reliability.
He is the author of phrases such as: “Turtledove and the boy” (Narrations), “Slave of Peace” (Novel), “The Cursed Heaven” (Novel), “Confessions of a Thief” (Novel) and also editor, chief editor and also redactor of “Eagle’s wing” magazine (which was established from the poet writer and the publicist: Bilal Xhaferri in USA), Shefki could attract the Albanians reader attention with his prominent individuality.
The admission of diversities and the observance of the real values of the writers and artists, regardless of their economical, political and social position, is a necessity that will condition the progress Albanian society. As one of the most talented and productive prose writers Shefki Hysa springs in literature with an abundance of motifs and themes that descend from the directly recognition of life as he was watered from its sources, in reservoirs and constructional brigades, in the school classes where he taught, in Saranda’s and Bulqiza’s precincts but also in down towns and capital cities where he worked as a journalist. Shefki’s prose has a deep realistic spirit because his individual evocations entwist with our communal biographical elements.
A scalene reference in the place names where narrating and Romanesque actions happen, or a chart of the protagonists would assure us that we have to do with an irreplaceable faint afflatus and a possibility for a detailed and persuasive demonstration of the settings and characters: Foinike, Dodona, Konispol, Saranda, Pandalejmon, Qafëbota, Qafëbualli, Bulqiza, Tirana, Chicago, Mileja, Mëllezi, the Holy Mountain, the Jinn Outfall, The Cross Crown, Epyr, Kosovo, Tchameri etc. This argument aggrandizes also the usage of well known and contemporary names as: Pirro of Epyr, Hasan Tahsini, Enver Hoxha, Niccita Hrushov, Dritëro Agolli, Ismail Kadare, Bilal Xhaferri or their Vilëza ( the same) , Ben Lleiz (Arben Iliazi), Ali Arkeologu ( Halil Shabani), Cifja (Josif Papagjoni), designer Gim (Agim Mato), etc. A concrete stratification consists of the symbolic names that are based in realistic events and characters: like Docent Ramushi, Nondë Kaçoli, Bill Burreci, Kapo Erosi, Kurrizo Hefesti, Ramush Kaleci, chief editor Kopani or denominations used as sobriquets based on epithets, vices as Babloku, the Reeve Maliq, Dullë Baxhaja ( taken from the H dossier), Xan Gungaçi, Çalamani, Capori Gungo, Satanai, Farmaku, Esmeralda, Lina, Lirika, Rozafa, Zemëria, Demona, Bardha, Eli, Turtullesha, Diella, Kumrija, Afërdita,Vejusha e Zezë, Princess Marsjana, Marsida, Kullumbria etc. This word of names is striking and significant and would serve as a tutorial target.
The rich language full of Phrase logical Phrases, dialects, jargons, which are functionalized especially in the character’s chamber, utters the realistic characteristics of Hysa’s prose. Beyond the inclinations of his prose we notice in it elements but even concepts of a real prose which being based on folk compositions and also contemporary literary techniques, appears to us as complex as rich in its apparently simple structures, but also excessively expressive. It must be pointed out that this wont has its basement in the dramatics of vital material dredged and picked by writer.
The narration “Didini” that has as a protagonist the so named character, a discrete nationalist, betrayed and shot, who isn’t at rest in his tomb and wonders like a squab in the old house’s relics, is an artistic model of the usage of the magic elements which are an utterance of the magic realism in our literature. In the same way the setting of the conversation I.Kadare and Pirro of Epyr, vivid dreams of the same protagonist etc, support the idea of magic realism in our literature is not imported from Italy or Latin America, from Dino Buxati or Garcia Marquez, or Isabel Aliende but is a contrivance of Albanian Folklore’s influence; a product of fantastic fairy tales that populate it, thus it is a lawsuit artistically natural and wrongful. The folklore’s influence is fairy-well obvious in the other magic narration “The Turtledove and the Demon”, where is operated with the same artistic means, in the transformation of the girl into a turtledove and the boy into a whisper. The umbra’s role, acting as umbrae characters or the umbra images in Hysa’s books for ex: the soul or the umbra of Didini speaks in benefit to the existence of magic realism in Albanian literature: “The soul stopped in abeyance on the roof of the old house” (“Confessions of a thief” pg.51).
In this sense art’s burden is not a naturalist reflection but an esthetic transformation of reality based on the main esthetic categories, where the beautiful becomes more beautiful (Rozafa, Afërdita, Esmeralda, Diella) and the ugly is disfigured (Kryeplaku, Babloku, Dudumi). Reddish face of Babloku, big and rounded, in a mash of deep wrinkles as impaled with knife… looked on you through hollows life, as two fresh wounds where two pupil eyes blanched like two breezes, stuck in reddish reeves’ nets (The Cursed Heaven pg.122).
Divinities and monsters bristles on this principle, the grandiose and the grotesque. Kryeplaku, Kapo Eros, Kurrizo Hefesti; Babloku and Dudumi; jackass president and the shit under the fez are just artistic embodiments where the reality is changed and transformed through the hyperbolical features, manners and attitudes, thus creating the grotesque image which has a more sensitive esthetic effect as an archetype of the hideous and the ridiculous. Embodiments of the evil with faces like red skinned indigenous, with the utterance sometimes of idiot innocence and sometimes of beast’s savagery which fences tooth, sometimes cynic and supercilious, sometimes rambling as caricatures, are symbols of Power and Violence or blind executives of this embodiment. Thus the author manages that through entwisting of naturalist and expressionist elements to fulfill in details the perverseness, the disdain that the characters awake, when they eat carrion like vulture animals, when they snore like pigs in slush and urinate under the table. Even their criminal deeds acted placidly and deliberately, are neatly motivated. Murders of Dardan, Albano, Rozafa and Jack witness this ghoulish attitude.
If greatest artistic figure existed like the one which are artistic in our case in literary opus, these are the figures of Bablok and Dudum, which should be considered together as representatives of Power and Violence. The author merit is the disposal of the two socio-political archetypes that have ruled Albania among all the time until the 20-th century. How many Chieftains, Majordomos, Reeves, constabulary commanders, cooperatives elders, commissioners, directors, deputies and ministers used to be part of us? Such has been thousands. Monsters with debonair faces, monsters with monstrous faces, tarnished souls and daring people that never forgot that ever and anon to pour ashes in our eyes by doing some public commonweal or in benefits of a dervish, a “common weal” for the sake of name. The naïve peasant used to say: “mister so and so does but good deeds too”. In the narration with same title, the reeve is the continuation of the same character with Bablok, but not of a socialist dad but that of the Albanian democracy (read this as anarchy). This character has evolved, but still awakes a grater disdain and a deep disappointment feeling for our vicious realities. Anyway, the deflection of the white and black colors and the emplacement of these characters in concrete situations make the artistically reliable.
Even Kapo Eros and Kurrizo Hefest are like two halves of one entire. The connotation and the hyperbolas that the author has used has crated two different characters not only in their physical appearance but also in their characters. As much beautiful and fascinating is Kapo Eros, as capable of absorbing like with a magnet and to seduce all the feminine beauty, as ugly and disdainful is Kurrizo Hefesti, a chase of whom is all the feminine world seduced but now by Kapo Eros who is incapable of fulfilling their sexual desires. This couplet also reminds Power and Violence (read Bablok and Dudum) but in an indirect sense. Women are seduced by the power of Eros and are restrained by Sword’s violence. This couplet that stigmatizes the moral aspects of nowadays society becomes unwillingly her portrait.
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Beside the literary language inside Shefki Hysa writings vivify even southern-northern dialectical forms, taken from the labors environment and due to the characters psychology. But actually the language of this narrator is characterized by the will and effort to produce new forms, often linguistic forms, produced with the dough of our linguistic treasury or the will to make use activate rear forms, which effect in the ideas expression, in portraitures and give to the artistic tableau a special emotional connotation. Some of them are: the hole entity was re-alarmed, flummery attitude, anxious expectancy, over –tiring, imperial twilight, ghoulish flip, head-idol of the empire, crouched in invisibility, lights constellation, ticklish laughter, crazy love, widow-hood fast, elderly solitude, the darkness of the stocking cave, pained body, greasy acridity, the spoons pitter pattering, winter souls, mysterious ruins, draggle-tailed snows, etc. Sometimes this linguistic attainments stipple around a name or around his form, in a word formation and in the lexical frames of the key word for example world-neck, dream-neck ,hope-neck, pig-neck, lost-neck; the dept-city, the city-dept; or I’m Dullë Baxhaja, the multi-hands, multi-animus, the multi-face, the very invisible, the very ubiquitous… and other new colloquialism acquire new-words with new-meanings in function of the ideas ex: the idea that we have to deal with an immoral human being is given by these words: ladies tracer, searcher, hidden gluttonous, his body pullulates for the amorous desire, devil orgasm, erotic battle. An ominous tiding is given by these means and other characterizations: the raven-phone, the ravish phone, cawed, portentous, the ominous tiding, the thunderclap- tiding etc. I doubt that these word-forming structures aren’t influenced by one of his literary idols, Ismail Kadare writer. But still the linguistic novelties artistry goes further when they serve to built up alliterations and harmonic sound organizations that create coherence to the realities essence, Ex: the blood traces hunter, love rendered him into an ox for Danana, carrion crows with black-calamity caws, a calculated hesitation from diabolic minds etc. These sounding organizations and the metaphoric, symbolic and metonymic language of the author bring up his prose near to poem, because we know that these are means and techniques of writing poems.
In order to establish stylistic effects the author uses densely functional suffixes, often diminished: slightingly, dully, bluntly, blindly, violently, furiously, cyclonically (as adverbs); geezer, dame, a saintly way, groom, little avenue, little town, squeaker, a small lawn, a small fez; (nouns): decrepit, grayish, wounded (adjectives) etc. Actually these morphological operations in word structure refresh it, make it meaningful and more though-conveyer and feeling conductor. To see their functional side we can give an illustration in a more concrete way. Ex: he considered himself grandee as Penelope, he took the little antenna with the top of his fingers and hold up the fez; …the walls were grizzled, the roof-tiles where livid, kissed the absorption like a small strawberry, with a singer tone… I was out-scarred etc.
The use of vulgarizations by this author, have an artistic function to justify the art democratization, the right of citizenship of speech, authenticity of circumstances etc. The possibility for another cause is not either excluded. Generally the writers and the artists aren’t the nature’s caressing nor are the power favorable. This kind of language puts them nearer to the mass of simple people, their real readers because they feel like real authors, people made of flesh and blood. And we can say this language is the expression of discontent, their inner revolt.
Let’s get to a new problem: it’s about the foreshadowed and impressionable tonality of the literary and artistic work or to the idea-emotional attitude of the author. We know that these tonalities and attitudes are reflective towards different socio-political, economic and cultural realities, but primarily they express the outlook and the evocation of the artist. He has a social origin, sources of a fortune, economic situation, political engagement, ideological convictions, and the psychology as an artist and as a human being. Being like this he can’t be immune from the politics’ influence but would be indisputable not to fall his pray.
Generally in his literary work Shefki escapes from this trap. He presents in that book an incubus commander who shoots with a bullet behind shoulders but to the other side he has a partisan nurse that feels sorry for human beings and moves heaven and earth to save their lives. The socialist realism is stigmatized there, but it is also spoken out in a delightful way for I.Kadare, D.Agolli, and Bilal Xhaferri as characters in the novel “Slave of Peace”. Occasionally like in the “Slave of Peace”, the hell scene, which actually is excessively episodic and has nothing to do with the main lines of the conflict’s development, where the writers of socialist realism don’t let each other to perk, is explained by the eternal envy of creators but even by the state politics to set them against each other and this has been real. Other scenes are justified by the symbolic burden of main characters. Still the author sometimes hasn’t purposely avoided the exaggeration. “Beasts’ junket, the lion grabs the haunch (Babloku), the wolf a part of the chest (Dudumi), Chippings some ribbings (some cadres of the party and power), and hyenas (some simple communists and distinguished miners) what is remained from the beasts’ junket. Ex: Dudum is described not as a lawman but as a gigantic police, a biped brute as an ignorant being and the wolf-herder of the human race of this city of the hell. Even the city itself is scaring, rolled with an old mountain pelisse, and a black cloud cap above the head, a city that consumes only peppers, whose paunch is empty and cant fill the miners’ punches either etc. It is to be mentioned that Bulqiza or Memaliaj of the 80s don’t differ much from this tableau. Even the fact that with the same vivid colors and the same grotesque scenes, are described Bablok and Dudum, as representatives and products of yesterday and Kryeplaku and Kumria as representatives and products of the present, assures that the author doesn’t see all in black and white, that the exaggeration is an artistic lawsuit and not a political playbill. In the roman “The Cursed Heaven”, in the ingoing scene the portraiture of the two harlequins, that among centuries have tried to destroy Albania, the scenes of the battle for the head-idols’ crown in the chapter for the Holy Mountain and especially in the narration
“The idols Empire” it is built the thought that idols are our national disgrace.
The author feels sorry for this country and every time he has the chance, he disinters his patriotic soul, his anguish for Tchame and for the Tchame’s issue, for Kosovo and Kosovo’s issue, for the whole Albania and for the Whole Albanian issue. Scenes of Pirro of Epyr, of Bilal Xhaferri, and of the massacre that Zerva committed in Tchamëri, of that of the Bota’s saddle, the scene with the two emigrants in America etc are the evidence that establish this kind of conviction. I wonder how many years will we wander as yellowish in desert.
Despite all this, optimism and hope, is not lacked by the author. The depiction of big-heart characters as uncle Miho, the lakes’ magic oldster, the presence of lovers who for the sake of great feelings as love is, sacrifice and underline this faith.
Another important artistic joint in the narrative composition of this author, in which his mellow values catch the eye distinctly, is undoubtedly a psychological rummage of characters, feelings, thoughts, manners and their attitude especially in the culminant and conflict moments. In “The Cursed Heaven” novel, when Jack is between two choices the battle of motivations is very long he finds very difficult to choose: loving Rozafa, not just because of affection, but for great true human feelings and sincere love, in this way bearing the vital privations and sacrifices or else lay in bad with Diella, the innocent ideal-beauty and who is also a victim of Bablok, in this way gaining a well ordered life in Tirana, in expectance of a important post but without human dignity. What triumphs in his soul is closely connected with the power of his character, when he discovers Rozafa was massacred to open way to the marriage of Diella. He doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice paying his disapproval with death, murder in the mountain, in cold, in darkness, in the wolf’s mouth. Even in the major narrations, especially in those in which the author doesn’t use catches but the vital juice is directly given, the psychological motivation is naturally found, it flows in their interiors, because of the action and the personality of the characters, is not an outer dishing to legalize characters’ variables. Lets recall certain narrations such as “Didini”, “Testimony”, “Maggie of the City” , “Olives”, “Qopeku” ,”The Oldster of the Lakes” etc.
Shefki Hysa’s compositions speak clearly of the fact that he has the ability to bake art works with dough from his own magic. There are writers who have created during their entire life but haven’t baked a single crumpet from their corn.
With his tireless job, with culture and passion he will always be able to mould and bake each time better his literary bread. His so far compositions allow us to hope so.
Translated by: Dr. Haim Reitan