Although Albanian literature dates back to the 1500s, creative prose in that nation is very much a twentieth-century phenomenon; and much as the early literature in Albanian was interrupted by Ottoman rule--and oppression--its later emergence was stymied and stunted by Stalinist politics and propaganda. What this volume documents is, then, a literature at once venerable and nascent, a tradition in the making, however deep its roots. In these stories representing the last three decades of Albanian writing--especially the burst of creativity in the newfound freedom of the 1990s--readers will encounter work that reflects the literary paradox of Eastern Europe in the late twentieth century: the startling originality of the new uneasily coupled with the strains of history; the sophistication and self-consciousness of late (or post-) modernity married to the simplicity of a literature first finding its voice; a refusal of political influence and pressure expressed through frankly political subject matter.
Albania's more established writers (including Dritëro Agolli, Ismail Kadare, Teodor Laço, and Eqrem Basha) appear here alongside newer talents (such as Ylljet Aliçka, Mimoza Ahmeti, Elivra Dones, Lindita Arapi, and Kim Mehmeti), providing English-speaking readers with an elucidating and entertaining overview of the recent history, and the future, of the nation's literature.
With these words, a challenge is laid down in this new volume of Albanian poetry. Albania, however, has a dynamic tradition of literature. Lightning from the Depths is the first English collection to present the full range of Albanian verse.
Albanian literature has had many lives. The early Christian traditions disappeared as Islam and the Ottoman Empire took over. Muslim literature, too, withered when the nation strove to become an independent European country. The beginnings of a modern tradition were quashed by the Stalinists. All along this rocky path, poets have turned the political strife, poverty, and isolation their nation has often experienced into culture, both celebrating and questioning the society in which they live. Lightning from the Depths opens readers’ eyes to a new political and cultural world populated artists who can spin despair into poetry.