The ones who continue to flee in the snow,
leaving behind them shrunken skies,
fragile, trembling walls,
are at the mercy of an unknown home
and the night’s pale moon.
Why are they driven to obliterate memories
and give up their nostalgia?
And the ashes of the dead, the altars,
what will they come to?
Turn toward recollection, bless
the trampled flowers, the water of the wells
from which you have drunk,
they will protect you through the exile you have undertaken:
among enchanted woods
and pitiless seasons.
Notes on this poem
Gëzim Hajdari’s many poetic works range from the sparse, at times lapidary, lyric, to the dramatic monologue (Maldiluna, ‘Moonsick’), to the epic (Nur: Besa ed eresia, ‘Nur: Oath and Heresy’), to contemporary translations of traditional oral forms (I canti dei nizàm, ‘Songs of the Nizam’) and the expansive poem-denunciation (Poema dell’esilio, ‘Poem of Exile’). The arc of Hajdari’s career demonstrates the courage with which he has held tight to his own voice, however at odds with contemporary trends in Italian literature. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Hajdari’s work is its complete dedication to renewing poetry’s task of speaking as the voice of its time. As he tends the memory of a people’s past, Hajdari documents the existential condition of the exile and migrant and calls his readers to an encounter with other worlds.
An outspoken critic of both the Communist and postCommunist political class in Albania, Hajdari has collected accounts of the innumerable literary figures persecuted under Hoxha’s regime in his Gjëmë: Genocidi i poezisë shqipe (Funeral Lament: The Genocide of Albanian Poetry). Indeed, his entire output can be read as a struggle to restore a voice to the voiceless, whether those suppressed by a brutal dictatorship, those who have been forced to abandon their homelands, or the others left behind to suffer poverty and violence. The following poems are characterized by a movement across borders (cultural, political, linguistic) and between present and past, looking back from Hajdari’s current home in Italy to the landscape, language and legends of the Albanian province of Darsìa. Hajdari’s great gift to Italian literature lies in his having brought to bear in his contemporary poems in Italian the richness of an ancient Balkan, and, more specifically, northern Albanian, epic tradition.