Only last January/February (2019), I have completed reading the book: Voices from Chernobyl, a masterpiece on Chernobyl nuclear disaster, written by Svetlana Alexievich, who was awarded Nobel Prize for her great works in literature. The book still haunts me!
The second European writer I met in Dhaka during April this year and she is Albana Shala. She was born and brought up in Albania and later moved to her work station at Amsterdam (the Netherlands), where she is staying now. Usually, she writes poems and short stories in her native (Albanian) language, but only one book she has written of different genre based on her conversations with early life friends, which has been produced in English version from Amsterdam in 2017. Of course, she has produced the same book in Albanian version as well. This was my opportunity that I received the book (in the English version) signed by the writer during her visit in Dhaka in last April.
For me reading Albana Shala after Alexievich is a continued experience of reading two (female) European writers, although they are not similar in their subject and the styles. However there are a few commonalities between the two: both of them are low-toned, somewhere even whisper –they kept their proses as soft and sublime as possible. They are quite detailed but symbolic, using small sentences with brief pauses they at once captivate the readers. Also they maintain the high quality of style and articulation which is omnipresent in all the works of European masters.
In her new book, Albana has told the stories of 10 of her friends with whom she has shared the beautiful parts of her life-the childhood, the period of upbringing and the study period of youth in Albania. In fact, in conversation with Albana Shala, her friends have told their own stories.
Those were the stories about their beloved families, fiancé, and friends, their struggle for existence amidst the autocratic regime and their aspirations for better lives. Those stories reflected their own experiences of the past, their present state of mind/feeling, attitude towards God/Faith and how do they now look at the future. Since they came from the multilevel professions of the society their stories, experiences and attitudes are different. We find those friends in a versatile manner but those are arranged in a very tactical way. Among those friends who told their stories, we find a housewife of a diplomat, an Engineer, a music teacher, a radio celebrity, a commentator on sports, a writer, and an entrepreneur for promoting tourism in Balkan region. Some are believers, some have no faith, and some are confused.
Among the story-tellers, most of them are immigrants, but some of them are very much settled in their own country. In such a diversity, they are equally sensitized and unified to the issues of freedom from the political repression and the aspiration to have a free society where conditions of wellbeing are assured for the citizens. Such an aspiration and dream keep all of them alive and unified; be they are immigrants or the dwellers at home. The immigrants feel for their root and want to come back to a free and prosperous land and the citizens at home do not want to go out due to sheer love to their country/root. An invisible chord ties them in one single tune.
Is it patriotism, is it the self-identity they are constantly concentrating on? Is it not the universal spirit that compels one to be ever-inclined, ever-grateful to the motherland? The human race carries this spirit through ages. Possibly, this is the soul of the book. And through the stories of the friends, the writer touched everyone’s soul.
Thanks, Albana Shala to give me the opportunity to go through the layers of the Albanian society, geography, the culture, language and the people’s dreams and aspirations- they are so common and diverse; seems to appear to me as a colored mosaic. Thanks to that the book has been produced in the English version!