Dissident Editions


poems of the month

orpheus in soho

a seriously sexy man


measuring my face

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

wine and roses

confession from belgrade

gloss on rilke's
ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic






good riddance to mankind

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400 revolutionary maxims

nice men and
  suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper




the three bears

three albanian tales

a little creation story



one not one

home, sweet home no longer

the ivory palace

helen's tower

extortion through e-bay

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

never a pygmy

against money

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

a note on the cathars


londons of the mind
& dealing death to the caspian


a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope

in britain & america

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

a holy dog
& a dog-headed saint

fools for nothingness

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

houses for the dead

ireland & the phallic continuum

the sheela-na-gig conundrum

french megaliths

a small town in france


western values


the problems of translating poetry

an albanian ikon ?

albanian donkeys

the bektashi dervishes

poems by ujko BYK

albanian love-poems

albanian poems of dissidence

albanian poems of exile

recent albanian poems

beyond the albanian experience


horatio morpurgo's albanian trip

albanian short stories

map of albania

the dictator's library







Shpirti i Shqiperisë

a canadian-albanian film
about the
"sworn virgins" of northern albania

Albania, O Albania, please work out what you are !
Once you were The Eagles' Realm - now you're a stolen car.


by Trifon Xhagjika, Gazmend Elezi,
Namik Mane,
Bilal Xhaferri, Ismail Kadare
and others

To read this page properly, please ensure that the character encoding
of your browser is not set to the default 'Unicode'.




translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

I can't,
I can't,
I can't.

I saw my fatherland
alone and friendless
trying to cut a laurel-crown
from the glory of centuries.

My fatherland was not a child
But he was so small
He couldn't cut the branch.

I took him by the hand
To grow him in my heart.

If you are looking for him
I have him here.

Help me to be happy.
My fatherland is naked.



Trifon Xhagjika (pronounced 'Dzajika') came from 'humble origins' in the village of Zagoria near Gjirokastër. Under the communist régime he was able to get to university in Tirana, and went on from there to an administrative job in the army. He was arrested in 1963 together with members of a Communist youth group and was executed by firing-squad. Although poetry was his passion, very little of his work was published, and much has been lost. Some were published in 1994 under the title ATDHEU ESHTË LAKURIQ (My Fatherland is Naked). Here is the Albanian version of the title-poem:


Nuk mundem,
nuk mundem,
nuk mundem.

E pashë Atdheun lakuriq,
(vetëm, pa miq e shokë)
mundohej te kepuste nje dege dafine
nga lavdia e shekujve.

Atdheun e dija te rritur,
Por sa i vogel qenka !
As nje dege nuk e kepustë dot.

E mora për dore
ta rrit ne zemren time...
Po e kerkuat Atdheun,
e kam unë.
Ndihmomeni te qesh.
Ndihmomeni te gezoj.
Atdheu eshtë lakuriq!




[born in Elbesan, southern Albania, ]

translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir



It is so perfect
it seems unreachable -
that dream-material
we spend our lives desiring to be real.

So much hope !
Such disappointment !
Such denying !

Always right beside us,
it seems so far away
it brushes past us
briefly - then vanishes.





Kaq e perkryer,
sa na duket e pa arritur.
Kaq shumë e enderruar,
sa qe një jetë kalojme duke e pritur

Sa shume njerez presin,
qe një ditë ta takojnë.
Po aq te tjere zhgenjehen,
dhe per te s'duan te degjojnë.

Sa afer është ajo,
por sa larg ajo na duket.
Afrohet, na prek pak
por pastaj zhduket




born in 1942 in Koskë (Çamërisë), close to the Greek border,
he was "interned" by the Hoxha régime in 1968.
He now lives in Italy.

translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

Kliko këtu për versionin shqip.


Was there ever a camp without the desire to have wings
The wish to be wind
To break through barbed-wire
And cut through the bars ?

Ten thousand square miles fenced in and patrolled
Thousands of bleeding hands and hearts
Held behind wire
The seasons silent

Ideals crushed
By the blood-soiled boots of dictatorship
And you, people, silent

People, I'm broken
I'm laying my body out under your feet

Step on me!
Step on me!



My friends have gathered in groups
Killing the time with their love-songs
Making me think of you
My love
I started to write you a letter
Then the Security Alert sounded
I didn't know what to do first
I gathered up my things
And you in my blank letter



So you want the sacred song of triumph -
You still have a tatter of hope left, but
Don't you see what we have in our hands ?
Don't you see what we've lost
Awaiting the dark dawn ?

Waiting for tomorrow to come
To let the cold iron out of our hearts
We are devastated

Hands bleeding
Hearts bleeding
Night has hidden in its maw
All our dreams of happiness.



I don't chew people with the jaws of loneliness -
I hug and kiss them in my solitude
And I caress them with my pure human breath.
Solitude's my stalwart friend
My lullaby of comfort.
Dreams disappear.

Loneliness changes
Reality to fantasy
And the unreal to the real.


Having written these poems during his internment, Namik Mane buried them. Most of his friends (in the Communist Youth Group) were arrested and killed under the Hoxha régime.
Now, working as a coffee-machine technician in Durrës, he has dug them up again.

Albania was in reality on a war-footing during much of the paranoid Hoxha period, because it was isolated, estranged from post-Stalinist, 'revisionist' Russia and the Soviet Satellites, estranged from even-more-revisionist Yugoslavia which virtually surrounded it (and had tried to gobble it up just after the Second World War), and of course totally apprehensive of the old enemy Greece, a member of NATO, which had already swallowed up and ethnically cleansed half its territory. The borders, especially near Greece, were wired and patrolled, the waters of the Straits of Corfu swept nightly with searchlights to deter or find defectors. Security Alerts (an excellent method of terror) were almost a daily occurrence, and when the dreaded sirens sounded, everyone had to drop everything and assemble in designated spots.

The whole society was riven by fear. Albania's old feudal system had been crudely replaced by a dictatorship in which half the people spied on the other half. A repeated, half-heard joke - or even a grudge - was enough to send someone for years to a prison camp - or to oblivion. Because Albania is such a tiny, truncated country, such a dictatorship was utterly devastating - and it will take at least a generation for its people to recover from the trauma. Hoxha was one of a select group of Ultra-dictators whose membership includes the utterly-malignant Josip Stalin, Adolf Hitler, 'Papa Doc' Duvalier, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Georghiu Ceauçescu and Juán Batista of Cuba - plus various South American mass-murdering presidents backed or even put into power by the United States.

Namik Mane's poems speak for the victims of all these - and some 'democratic' - régimes where people are held without trial or any recourse to uncorrupt (or any) legal defence.




Në cilin kamp nuk lindi dëshira për të fluturuar
për t'u matur me erërat
për t'u mbatur me telat me gjemba
për të keputur hekurat e rënda?

Njëzete e tetë mijë kilometra katëror mbërthyer me tela
me mijra plagë në duar, ne zemra.
Thellë telave të klonit
heshtin edhe stinët...
U groposën idealet e shenjta
nga gjurmët e ndotura të prijsave të sotëm
dhe ti hesht, popull!
Kam dhëmbje, o popull!
Po shtroj trupin tim nën këmbët e tua.
Shkel mbi mua!
Shkel mbi mua!


Shokët janë mbledhur në grupe:
Vrasin merzinë, dashurisë i këndojnë...

Me solli tek ti kënga e tyre.

E dashur ta nisa një leter.
Befas u dëgjua: Alarm!
Nuk dija ç'të bëja më parë...
Mblodha pajimet e mia
dhe ty në letrën e bardhë.


Doni këngën e shenjtë të triumfit.
Ju ka mbetur një grimë shprese ende në shpirt?
S'e shikoni seç kemi në duar
S'e shikoni seç kemi humbur
prisni ende agimin e nxirë?!

Prisni që nesër të vijë ndonjë tjeter
hekurin e ftohtë nga zemra të na heqe?

Më vjen keq!

Plagë kemi duart
plagë kemi zemrat
dhe nata ka fshehur në terrin e saj
gjithë ëndërrat.


Unë nuk pertyp njerëz me nofullat e vetmisë
në vetmi përqafohem dhe puthem me ta
dhe i perkëdhel me frymën më të pastër njerzore.
Vetmia është i vetmi krahëror
që më ngroh, me nanurit
në krah ënderrash qiellore.

Ne vetmi trajta reale me merr fantazia
irealen reale ma bën vec ajo.


The landscape of Çamërisë, Southern Albania





translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

Kliko këtu për versionin shqip.


Small nation
Little time
Tiny ration
Enormous shadow
Great fear
Great want

And throughout the land
Shrieks and cries
Like owls in the night



Distant station in a field:
I hear the dismal engine wail,
and from my roof the owl replies,
bird of ill-omen.

Who am I hoping for tonight ?
Who would set out in the dark
hunching through the driving rain
to visit this bleak exile ?

Uselessly I think again
of those that loved me.
Tonight I think once more in vain
of those I loved.

In this rain
no-one will come.
The road is mud.
In this black night
nobody will come.

Thus, far from those that loved me,
far from those that I loved,
life oozes on.



Like a shroud
the first September mists
cover my homeland.
So soon the landscape vanishes!
So fast the fog's obliteration!

The glistening stars
are beads of sweat upon its brow;
round its body thorns and barbs
a frontier of grief.

I fled it like a lover
and set out on the road
to where I do not know...
When will I return ?

My poems were as golden gifts
I made for it from love -
but now my iron heart
is turned by tears to rust.

The glistening stars
are beads of sweat upon its brow;
round its body thorns and barbs
a frontier of grief.

I fled it like a lover
and set out on the road
to where I do not know...
When will I return ?



Come, sadness

Come slowly
Like leaves drifting from branches

Come slowly
Like rain dripping from leaves

Come, sadness

Come like nearing thunder in the night
Come like the thumping of an anguished heart

Come, sadness

O you my beloved who has never abandoned me
My only shelter
And dream

Come, sadness

Sadness, come.

Born near Konispol (Çamërisë), close to the Greek border, Bilal Xhaferri was interned in 1968 for criticising one of Ismail Kadare's books (The Wedding). He escaped to Greece in 1969, and then went to the USA.
He was an Albanian activist in Chicago, where he was killed by Sigurimi (Security Police) in 1987:
i.e. after the death of Enver Hoxha.




Vend i vogël
Kohë e vogël
Rracion i vogël.

Errësirë e madhe
Frikë e madhe
Mjerim i madh.

Dhe rrugëve të atdheut
Si kukuvajka nën hënë
Leh e ulërin.



Në stacionin e largët në fushë,
Klithi sirena e trenit të fundit.
Mbi çatinë time, si jehonë iu përgjigj kukuvajka.

Kë pres unë sonte?
Kush mori rrugën në errësirë
Dhe i kërrusur përmes shiut,
U nis për tek unë.

Më kot më shkon mendja
Tek ata që më deshën.
Më kot kujtoj sonte
Ata që i desha.

S'do shkundë pika shiu
Në pragun e derës sime këtë natë.
Rrugën e ka mbuluar
Balta dhe nata
Dhe në errësirë
Askush nuk do niset për tek unë...

Ja, kështu do më rrjedhë tërë jeta,
Larg atyre që më deshën,
Larg atyre që i desha



E para mjegull e Shtatorit
Porsi qefini të mbuloi
Sa shpejt nga sytë Atdhe më humbe
Sa shpejte errësira të gllabëroje.

Si djerse të ftohta ndrinin natën
Mbi ballin tënd të argjentë yj'
Me tel me gjemba gjoksi yt
I lidhur mbeti në kufi.

Ashtu të lashe i shtrenjti vend
Dhe rrugën morra për ketej
Ku vallë më con kjo rrugë e largët ?
Kur vallë sërish tek ti do të kthej ?

Floriri i vargjeve të mia
U shkri për ty me dhëmbshuri
Tani si hekur shpirti im
Me lot u ndryshk dhe u nxi.

Si djersë të ftohta ndrinin natën
Mbi ballin tënd te argjente yj
Me tel më gjemba gjoksi yt
I lidhur mbeti në kufi.

Ashtu të lashe i shtrenjti vend
Dhe rrugën morra për këtej
Ku vallë më con kjo rrugë e largët ?
Kur vallë sërish tek ti do të kthej ?



Eja, trishtim

Eja me hapa fletësh qe bien nga degët
Eja me hapa shiu që keputër nga fletët...

Eja, trishtim

Eja me hapa tingujsh qe dridhen në mbrëmje
Eja me hapa zemrash qe rrahin me dhëmbje...

Eja, trishtim

O preher i embël që nuk më braktise kurrë
O strehë e qetësisë sime
O ëndërrime të mija
O gji i shpresës sime.

Eja, trishtim

Trishtim, eja.




translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

Kliko këtu për versionin shqip.


Flying off, they form
the only letter that they know:
the glorious V.

They've left something behind.
They've taken something, too.
Thank you, geese,
for what you've done for us.

With just one letter
in the illimitable sky
you express our yearning
more than a thousand books.





E krijuan gërmën
E vetme që dinë:
V-në superbe
Dhe u nisën për fluturim.

Diçka lënë pas
Diçka marrin mbi re.
Faleminderit, pata,
Për aq sa bëtë per ne.

Me një gërmë të vetme
Ne qiellin e madh
Sa një raft librash
Na zgjuat mall.




[no biographical information so far available,
but she seems to be living now in Italy.]


translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

I asked the moon for help,
and it slid into darkness;
I asked the stars for help,
and they gave no answer;
I asked the sea for help,
and it kept on crashing into the sand;
I asked the wind for help,
and it blew off into the mist;
I asked the whole word for help,
and the world just sniggered;
I asked my heart for help,
and we wept as one.





I kërkova ndihmë hënës,
Por ajo u fsheh në errësirë;
U kërkova ndihmë yjeve,
Por ata nuk m'u përgjigjen.
I kërkova ndihmë detit,
Por ai valët përplasi në breg;
I kërkova ndihmë erës,
Por ajo shfryu fort, e u zhduk në mjegull.
I kërkova ndihmë gjithë botës,
Por bota qeshi me mua;
I kërkova ndihmë zemrës.
Dhe zemra qau bashkë me mua.






translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

Birthdays changed
through wilfulness
Deathdays changed
and the night was called day
in wilfulness

The castles of the castles,
the temples of the temples
were erected and torn down
by wilfulness.

In wilfulness
the demolitions were demolished
the burnings were burnt down
the visages of stone emerged
the busts of bronze were cast
from wilfulness.

Through wilfulness
the sky turned black
the sea was drowned
the world was burned
the fantasy became a scream
of wilfulness…





Nga kokëfortësia
Ndërruan datëlindjet
Ndërruan datëvdekjet
Edhe natës i thonë ditë
Nga kokëfortësia...

Nga kokëfortësia
Ngrihen e shëmben
Kështjellat e kështjellave
Faltoret e faltoreve
Nga kokëfortësia...

Nga kokëfortësia
Shëmben të shëmburat
Digjen të djegurat
Pollën figura prej guri
Pollën buste prej bronxi
Nga kokëfortësia

Nga kokëfortësia
Vranë qiellin
Mbytën detin
Dogjën njeriun
Fantazmë në klithje
Nga kokëfortësia.




For some idea of the fraught existence of Albanians under Enver Hoxha, see:

LA VIE, JEU ET MORT DE LUL MAZREK by Ismail Kadare (Fayard, Paris, 2002).
ISBN 2 213 61328 1
Translated from the Albanian by
Tedi Papavrami.
Albanian title: Jeta, loja dhe vdekja e Lul Mazrekut.

Kadare is very much a stylist and master of a vast vocabulary, who translates very well into French. Unfortunately the books of his that appear in English - apart from one, the excellent Three Elegies for Kosova - are translated from the French translations - which will probably be the fate of this book, too, unless Kadare wins the Nobel Prize.

The word Jeu in its French title is pretty well untranslatable into English, because the word can mean sport or show or execution of a performance as well as game. In Albanian it can also mean interpretation or joke. The rich tapestry of this story concerns a young man whose first name means Flower and who has ambitions to be an actor in the National Theatre in Tirana, but is called up for National Service and sent to Frontier Duties at Saranda, the best posting in Albania. Here, he is caught up by the amorous attentions of his recently-acquired girl-friend from Tirana who has come to Saranda to be near him -and of his Commandant who is attracted by his extremely good looks.

The girl-friend in turn is pursued by her immediate boss - a member of a security service - because in order to get to Saranda she had to get herself employed in the tower-block Butrinti Hotel as a kind of prostitute who will sniff out possible defectors to Corfu, little more than a stone's throw across the straits. The protagonist's surname is that of a highland village near Kukës in NE Albania, as remote as possible from Saranda.

Overshadowing this story of misdirected love are the Iliad and the Æneid - particularly the story of Hector slain outside the walls of his home-town Troy, and the shameful dragging of his corpse around the city by the loathsome Achilles. For Butrint, just south of Saranda, was reputedly founded by refugees from Troy, was modelled on Troy, and is exactly half-way between Troy and Rome. In antique times people fled to Albania, whereas during the Communist period its doughtier inhabitants were trying to flee from it. Enver Hoxha's régime is obsessed by preventing all escapes, not least because successful escapees are paraded on Greek television. There are more historical references - such as Mussolini's visit to Butrint, the Italian financing of excavations and restoration there to the greater glory of fascist Rome, and the financing of further (and continuing) excavations and restoration during Hoxha's rule by the Rothschild Foundation of London.

One of the big problems with escapees who had to evade the searchlights which every night swept over the beaches and water of SW Albania was that the bodies of those who were successfully machine-gunned were rarely found. The régime wanted to display evidence of the impossibility of escape. So Lul Mazrek is caught up in the paranoia of Hoxha (there is a fine set-piece describing the sheer terror of an audience with The Great Leader), the terror of his underlings and the blackmail of his Commandant - and ends up in his only successful acting rôle: as a convincingly blood-spattered corpse displayed to the inhabitants of the south-west coast as evidence of the impossibility of escape to Corfu - though he himself had harboured such ambitions.

During the short, chaotic and corrupt Berisha period, one of the Enquiries into the crimes of the Communist era concerned itself with this episode, and most of the characters still living give evidence. Lul is exonerated because he was blackmailed and, as a member of the armed forces, had to obey orders. But shortly afterwards he is shot, Chicago-style, at point-blank range outside his local café - by the Commandant who had given him his only star billing in life, and has had his guilty homosexual secret put on record.

This book comes at a time when the Albanian authorities are trying, in vain, to stop the vile trade in young people of both sexes who are smuggled from the same area of the country to Italy: for prostitution - some of them not even landed, but thrown into the water to swim ashore as illegal immigrants to rich Fortress-Europe: a different, and not a better, kind of Looking-Glass World.




The following poems anguish over the state of Albania today.


Born in the Rugova Mountains of Kosova, he became director of the Kosova Film Studios in Prishtina,
and published many books of poems. He is considered by critics to be an "intellectual" poet
- by which they presumably mean a serious poet.


translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

I wept for you
I am not ashamed
of my weeping, but I am ashamed
that I could do no more than weep.
From shame I wept tonight.





qava sonte për ty
Nuk me vjen turp
pse qava
m ë vjen turp pse s'munda
të bëj tjetër.
Nga turpi qava.




translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir


You dug me up
or else I did it for myself
- only to be buried
in another grave.



When we talked
we talked so much
We didn't know what we were talking about
Pathetic the talkers
Pathetic those who listened.



If my light is not your darkness
Why then
Your darkness has to be my light.





Më zhvarrosin
ose zhvarros vetveten
për t'u varrosur
në një varr tjetër


Kur flisnim
aq shumë flisnim
dikur nuk dinim ç'flisnim
mjerë ne që flisnim
mjerë ata që na dëgjonin


Nëse drita ime nuk është terri yt
pse atëherë
terri yt duhet të jetë drita ime



Now Head of the Department of Culture
in the Albanian Ministry of Culture

translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir

(March 1994)

He knocked on my bathroom door
And shouted :
"Come quickly - The Revolution has begun!"
"Go to hell" I said.
"Leave me to enjoy in peace
this miraculous act of evacuation."

Leaving the bathroom
I forgot to flush the toilet.

The city was full of shit.




Ai trokiti në derën e nevojtores
dhe thirri:
"Eja shpejt. Revolucioni filloi."
"Vafsh në djall," ja ktheva
"Lermë të shijoj në paqe,
aktin e mrekullueshëm të jashtëqitjes."

Dola nga nevojtorja
dhe harrova ta lëshoj ujin.

Qyteti qelbej nga të pëgërat.



>>> New Albanian Poets >>>

>>> Two non-dissident Albanian poems >>>

>>> Albanian poems of Exile >>>

>>> Mitrush Kuteli and Albanian Dirt: problems of translation >>>


Albanian Ottoman Architecture
click on this image to go to
an Albanian Ottoman Architecture


Filmi kanadezo-shqiptar, Gruaja pa krahë'

sapo ka fituar çmimin e argjendtë ‘Remi Award',
si pjesëmarrës në ‘Houston Worldfest 2003' në Teksas.

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