Books on Albania
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.
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
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
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
"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
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,"
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 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
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
I only start writing after breakfast,
around 10am. As I don’t work for more than
two hours a day, I have coffee, but
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:
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
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
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.