authors’ map > albania
Wrongland tells about the life of Karl (named by his communist father after Karl Marx) from the town of Ters (which means ‘unlucky’ or ‘wrong’), a stereotypical Albanian town described with a kind of exasperated affection – as a character remarks towards the close, it is a town ‘that has never done any harm except to itself.’
Karl has had to grow away from Ters, following a conflicted relationship with his father. As the novel begins, he returns home to his father’s funeral, where he encounters his brother Frederick, a doctor who has remained in Ters, and a conservative patriot who accuses Karl of having deserted his homeland. Karl’s story is told in retrospect, interspersed with the thoughts of Frederick on the social upheavals that Albania is experiencing, and on his brother’s travelling life. Describing Frederick’s conservative mentality with imaginative sympathy, the relationship between the two brothers is psychologically compelling.
Karl leaves first for student life in Tirana, where he takes part in the student demonstrations that bring down communism, and then goes as a migrant to Greece. We read of the sufferings of Albanians crossing the border, and the exploitation they encounter in Greece. Karl has two love affairs, first with an older woman who employs him as a gardener, and secondly with a left-wing intellectual, with whom he quarrels over politics — her communism reminds Karl of his father.
Eventually Karl forges a career as a writer in Greece but is repelled by his adoptive country when his blog attracts xenophobic attacks. He moves to the United States, where his arrival is closely followed by the rise of Donald Trump.
Crisp and vigorous, the novel’s style is panoramic and fast-moving, full of life and of interesting reflections on Albanian society, its abrupt move from totalitarianism to capitalism. Kapplani continues his exploration of post-communist Albania, migrant life and the theme of identity.
39,000 words ca. – Rights Sold: French (Intervalles, 2019), Greek (Epikentro, 2018) – Original language: Albanian (Albas, 2018)
A Short Border Handbook
‘It is not a recognized mental illness like agoraphobia or depression… It’s largely a matter of luck whether one suffers from border syndrome: it depends where you were born. I was born in Albania.’
After spending his childhood and school years in Albania, imagining that the miniskirts and quiz shows of Italian state TV were the reality of life in the West, and fantasizing accordingly about living on the other side of the border, the death of Hoxha at last enables Gazmend Kapllani to make his escape. However, on arriving in the Promised Land, he finds neither lots of willing leggy lovelies nor a warm welcome from his long-lost Greek cousins. Instead, he gets banged up in a detention centre in a small border town. Both detached and involved, ironic and emotional, Kapllani interweaves the story of his experience with meditations upon ‘border syndrome’ – a mental state, as much as a geographical experience – to create a brilliantly observed, amusing and perceptive debut.
144 pages – Rights Sold: German (Edition CONVERSO, 2020), English (Portobello Books), New Europe Books (USA), Italian (Del Vecchio), French (Intervalles), Polish (Czarne), Danish (Pressto), Albanian (Neraida) – Original language: Greek (Livanis Publishing. 2009; Epikentro 2018)
Fragment of an interview with the author: The new book is something like a sequel to the first. I use several basic elements of the first book, even direct quotes from Little Border Handbook to make the connection. At the same time, it’s something completely autonomous and new. The hero of the first book, nameless, exactly like the first book, returns to Albania in the year 2041. A relatively rich country now, part of the united states of Europe, filled with unauthorized buildings, luxurious cars, air pollution. A country that immigrants from Asia and Africa now regard as “the promised land”. Locked in a hotel room for three entire days, the hero reflects on his youth, his beginning in Greece, his love with Europe – a girl he met at the university- his first contact with the Greek reality. This fictional narrative is interweaved with true stories of immigrants, from and towards Greece. The book structure gives the reader a constant push, a feeling of travelling and wonder. Writing about a language that is not his own the hero ends up talking about Athens, unknown Greek words, the Albanian language and sex cinemas in Omonia, the Balkans and Agia Sophia.
343 pages – Rights Sold: French (Intervalles) – Original Language: Greek (Livanis, 2011; Epikentro 2019)
The Last Page
Spring 1943. The city of Thessaloniki is under Nazi Occupation. Three members of a Greek Jewish family change their names and identities in order to escape prosecution and flee to neighbouring Albania. They will never be able to leave the country again: immediately after WWII, the Albanian rebels who seize power will seal the borders of the country for the next forty five years. In order to survive, the three Greek Jews will have to bury their past, re-change their names and redefine their identities. The family’s only son, Albert, will grow up to become Ali, the paradigm of the “good Albanian”, in a communist country where he will meet and marry the lovely Bora and work as the head of the Forbidden Books Section in the Tirana National Library.
192 pages – Rights Sold: French (Intervalles) – Original language: Greek (Livanis Publishing, 2013; Epikentro 2019)
Nëntëdhjeteshtata (False Apocalypse)
Tirana, 1997: after the world’s most isolated country emerged from a Stalinist dictatorship and opened to capitalism, many people fell prey to fraudsters who invited them to invest in so-called ‘pyramid schemes’. At the start of 1997, these pyramids crumbled one after another causing wide-spread demonstrations and protests. The conflict became increasingly violent, leading to the collapse of the state and of the country’s institutions. Prisons were opened, crowds stormed arms depots, and the country was abandoned to anarchy and gang rule.
Lubonja has chosen to tell this incredible story through a narrative technique that operates on
two levels: a third-person narrator, who describes the large-scale events that made international
headlines, and the narrative of Fatos Qorri, the author’s alter ego, who describes his own dramatic experiences in a personal diary. The book begins with the synopsis of a novel entitled The Sugar Boat that Fatos Qorri intends to write about the spread of a small pyramid scheme luring people to invest supposedly in a sugar business. However, as the major pyramids collapse, real events overtake anything he has imagined and Fatos Qorri finds himself in the midst of a real-life tragedy.
260 Pages – Rights Sold: English (Istros Books) – Original language: Albanian