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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 6,124 4,695 4,100 109
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,740 1,380 1,340 120
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Albania

Update No: 160 - (27/09/10)

There could be scarcely two more different people than Enver Hoxha, Albania's communist dictator for more than thirty years until 1985, and Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 at the age of 87, already beatified by the Papacy for her good works and surely due for sanctification soon. The former followed Marx, the latter Christ. Both were pledged to help the poor; who succeeded best?

When Hoxha died Albania was the poorest country in Europe. When Mother Teresa died India was still a poor country, but better for many good works for her presence.

Mother Teresa
Albanian Catholics wearing traditional folk costumes, along with school children, nuns and bishops filled the courtyard of a cathedral named after Mother Teresa on August 26 for a Mass commemorating the centenary of her birth. Albanians are proud of the Albanian origins of Mother Teresa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. The country's airport, main hospital and a square in the capital, Tirana, are named after her. Statues of her stand in the National Museum and in front of Tirana University.

Ceremonies were also held in Macedonia, where Mother Teresa was born. Parliament held a special session and a Mass was held at the main Roman Catholic cathedral in Skopje, the country's capital.

"Mother Teresa was the epitome of love and charity and we hope her light will shine forever for her native Macedonia and Skopje," said Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanovski.

Macedonia and Albania have been engaged for years in a dispute over the national identity of Mother Teresa, who born in 1910 in Skopje to an ethnic Albanian family.

"She says it herself: 'By blood, I am Albanian,'" said Mark Nikolli, a young Albanian in his 20s, referring to Mother Teresa's official biography on the Vatican website.

About two thirds of Albania's 3.2 million people are Muslim, and the country has a sizable Christian Orthodox minority. Catholics are believed to make up about 10-15 per cent of the population. Exact figures are not available as the last census on religious affiliation was carried out before World War II.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Parliament Speaker Jozefina Topalli and other senior officials attended the Mass in Vau i Dejes, a town 110 kilometres (nearly 70 miles) north Tirana, laying bouquets of flowers before a statue of the Nobel laureate before the ceremony. Mother Teresa was "a mother, a woman that gave honour more than any one else to the Albanian nation," Berisha said.

Born as Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, Mother Teresa went to Calcutta, India, in 1929, and dedicated herself to serving the poor and infirm. She died Sept. 5, 1997 at the age of 87.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003, putting her on the road to possible sainthood for her life's work building shelters, orphanages and clinics around the world. "She is here with us poor people, every day. She is alive and to be remembered generation after generation," said Nikolle Jaku, 47.

Post offices in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia will issue a joint stamp of Mother Teresa to mark the centenary of her birth, and the national museum in Tirana, the Albanian capital, has opened a pavilion dedicated to her life.

A thirdster
A third star in the Albanian firmament is Ismail Kadare, the writer and Nobel laureate. The following is an interview with him by Luke Sampson, undertaken on August 30, 2010:-

Born in Gjirokastra, Albania, in 1936, Ismail Kadare was originally known for his poems, the first of which was published when he was 12 years old. In 1963, his debut novel, The General of The Dead Army, was published. The Palace of Dreams (1981), a thinly veiled critique of the communist regime, was immediately banned upon its release. Kadare later claimed political asylum in France (1990) after issuing statements in favour of democratisation. His books have been translated into over 30 languages. He divides his time between France and Albania.

Who is your perfect reader?
A reader who likes Dante Alighieri but who doesn’t let that get in the way of enjoying Don Quixote – just as reading Shakespeare doesn’t prevent one from reading Kafka. What do you snack on when you write?

I only start writing after breakfast, around 10am. As I don’t work for more than two hours a day, I have coffee, but nothing else.

What are you most proud of writing?
The Palace of Dreams. It was written in 1980 and published a year later, during the blackest period of Albanian tyranny. It was a book opposed to that tyranny.

What are you scared of?
I have created a body of literary work during the time of two diametrically opposed political systems: a tyranny that lasted for 35 years (1955-1990), and 20 years of liberty. In both cases, the thing that could destroy literature is the same: self-censorship.

What books are on your bedside table?
Books that I don’t actually open, but whose presence alone radiates something. Often this feeling is quite different from the experience of reading them, which I may do some other time. But it is the feeling that I need.

Do you have a writing routine?
Between 10am and noon, every day. In Paris, I always work at the same café. In Tirana this is impossible, because of people’s curiosity.

What book changed your life?
Macbeth. I read it when I was 11. Although I couldn’t understand everything, I loved it enough that I began to copy it by hand. A year later, I wanted to do the same with Hamlet, which, however, was even more incomprehensible to me.

How do you relax?
I walk. In Paris, I walk in the Luxembourg Gardens, which are just opposite my home. In Albania, in summer, at the seashore.

Who are your literary influences?
The three peninsulas of Europe: the Apennines, with Dante; the Balkans, with Greek tragedies and medieval Albanian ballads; and the Iberian Peninsula, with Don Quixote. The British Isles (Shakespeare). Russian and central European literature (Kafka).

When did you know you were going to be a writer?
When I was 12. Since what I wrote was without value, it was easy to think of oneself as an important writer. Later, it was the other way around.


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