EN,  Fiction

Lekura e qenit by Fatos Kongoli

Albania! The second country in my alphabetical list of countries is not much handier for literary exploration than the first one: although there is (allegedly) quite a wide Albanian literary scene, not much of it is translated.

What do I know about Albania? It is a country close to Greece but in my mind it belongs more to eastern Europe than to southern Europe. An image search for Albania shows picturesque white sand beaches, crystal clear water, green forests and fields. Maybe I should consider going there for vacation some time.

My search for an Albanian book let me to the Wikipedia article about Albanian writers (not very helpful), some book blogs that have also done readings around the world (slightly helpful, but with nothing that sparked my interest), and a travel forum about Albania with a short thread about Albanian literature, where I finally found the book I was going to read. The book I chose was Lekura e qenit (Dog Skin) by Fatos Kongoli, first published in 2003, and available in German translation (not in English).

Lekura e qenit tells the life story of Krist Trapi, a man, who, according to himself, is not worthy of any of the love he has received during his life. And love he has received! Looking back at his life as an old man, he remembers how women and fulfilled and unfulfilled desires accompanied him through the years. This very animalistic view of human nature is embedded in a politically fragile and precarious society, and, as much as that sounds like a contrast difficult to overcome, Kongoli makes it work beautifully.

I enjoyed the first half of the book, focused on Krist’s childhood, a lot more than the second half, which at times gets rather vulgar. There were a lot of allusions to Albanian culture and the dictatorship that are maybe not necessary to follow along, but made me feel like I am missing an in-depth understanding of the story. All in all, it was a great read though that I would not normally have picked up, but I am very glad I did so.

Lekura e qenit by Fatos Kongoli
Title of German translation: Hundehaut

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