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.
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
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.
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