Luan Rama (Albania)
Luan Rama, born in Tirana, Albania, in 1952, is a scholar, filmmaker, editor and writer. He graduated in journalism from the Faculty of Political and Juridical Sciences, University of Tirana, and subsequently specialized in filmmaking and communication in France, at Paris VII Denis Diderot University. His career spans more than fourteen years as a screenwriter of award-winning feature films, documentaries and cartoons for Albanian cinema studios.
From 1996 to 1997, he was editor of the French-language newspaper Le Courrier International (Paris) and he continues to contribute articles to both daily newspapers and Albanian revues.
He is a distinguished diplomat, who served as an ambassador of Albania (1992–2005) in Paris, Lisbon and Monaco. He further served as an Albanian cultural representative in Paris (1997–2003) at both UNESCO and the international French language organization, OIF (La Francophonie).
Luan Rama has written fifty books, including novels, short stories, poetry, correspondence, essays and historical works published in Albanian, English, French, Italian and Greek. Many of these explore linkages – historical, cultural and personal – between Albania and Europe, especially France. A number of his literary works have been published in France, including two volumes of poetry, Territoires de l’âme (Territories of the Soul) and Couvrez-moi avec un morceau de ciel (Cover Me with a Piece of Sky); the essays Le long chemin sous le tunnel de Platon (on the fate of the artist during the totalitarian era in Albania) and Pont entre deux rives (on Franco-Albanian linkages). He has authored studies on Jean Cocteau such as Rendez-vous avec Jean Cocteau, and on French archaeologist Léon Rey and his pioneering work at the ancient Greek site of Apollonia, Albania, Auguste Dozon – le Consul qui aimait les contes (Auguste Dozon – The Consul who loved the Conts), Udhëtimi i fundmë i Arthur Rimbaud (The last trip of Arthur Rimbaud) and Parisi letrar (Literary Paris).
Luan Rama has been awarded many honours for distinguished services to his country as well as for excellence in writing. These honours include: the Naim Frashëri Medal (Albanian civil award) in 1986; the European Award of ADELF (the French Language Writers’ Association), for Le long chemin, in 2000; the Grand Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (French civil award, presented by then President Jacques Chirac) in 2002; and the Personality of 2014 of La Francophonie (presented by the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), “The Great Alexander – Gold Prize” and the Salamine Greek Committee, UNESCO. He is regularly invited to speak on the subjects of literature and diplomacy to national and international symposia and has published fifteen from French to Albanian and vice versa.
He lives in Paris, where he has lectured on the history and geopolitics at the Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilization (INALCO).
Do you remember?
It was a warm summer night,
just past midnight,
while laying in her bed,
the old woman extended her hand
and placing it over her husband’s chest:
– Are you sleeping? She said
– I remembered just, like in a dream…
– The night when I was looking for you everywhere,
in the rain, through the wind,
looking for you like a fool
and I prayed to God that you would be with another woman,
that you were alive…
tell me, where were you?
He turned towards her and touched her dry lips.
It was cold.
The silence weighed heavily.
-Yes, I was with a woman
– I’ve wanted to tell you all my life,
but what does it matter now?
we will be leaving soon,
leaving the sun behind, crossing over onto the long night…
He kissed her. She cried.
– Sleep now, it’s late, birds will sing in a little while,
and doves will take to the streets of heaven.
– I was afraid for you! …
now, to sleep, I have plenty of time.
And they held each other tight,
eye to eye,
heart on heart,
with bleeding wounds slowly throbbing
through a timeless time,
and the dawn not wanting to shed its light onto the world…
The doors of my city
I have always cherished its doors and doorsteps
gates open like hearts,
intimate like a woman’s fragrant breasts,
bulging and in the flash,
gates high and low
shy and graceful like enamoured girls,
doors as shelters of love
seductive, always open.
I adored them just like that
With their scent of wood and hands
many a times I kissed beneath them
drunk and drifting,
gates of whispering and devotion,
like the most beautiful fairy tales
mesmerizing at all times,
on the fresh summer breeze
and incessant winter rains,
doors under the sun,
eyes on the passers-by
undressed like women on joyful beaches,
doors under the white light of dawn
and burning sunsets,
enigmatic as they slowly close at midnight
under the glow of a silver moon.
Millions of these doors are closed today,
silent mourning like on a day of sorrow,
next door, someone just dies,
the dinner table was not set,
oh, how much silence and death…
“Amen!” – the doors pray
and the heavens sadden even more,
coffins march the streets alone
no goodbye for the last time,
of the pain and sighs
ancient mourners in black scarves,
tears for one whom will never return,
slowly closing, without a sound
as the trees tremble on the sidewalk
as if they want to hide the open wound
under the sunless, gray sky…
Poets die like birds
Arben Shehi went to blow out his candle the night before…
Poets fall like sparrows,
struck by lightning,
closer to the storm and the sun.
Poets are the wounded heart of gamebirds:
that’s why they are the first to plummet
towards an endless death
in a life that does not dwindle.
Poets take the first blow
as they have embodied the fires and the heavenly voices
and so by Olympus are condemned.
They die before their time
From the life-long labour
of sowing love throughout their days.
From a lover’s loss and yearning tears
They stop hearts and break one’s breath
when in their death, they drop.
The poet’s searing gaze is brimmed with tears…
Quite… she’s slleping
The train is on the move
Opposite me, she is sleeping.
Her leg slightly raised
Like the scene of a model
Gently resting against her seat,
The train is on the move, raindrops along the windscreen,
Clouds running away
a forgotten tree, naked, lonely,
and saturated in the rain,
while she, eyes closed
floats away with her dream.
Where is she going, where?
in which arms, in what shores? …
I put the book aside and take another look
Her leg ever raised
and plump lips, red,
long manicured fingers in the air intertwined
breathes in an out for
all women in love,
kissed, ecstatic, as in their late sleep,
under a gray century,
Ready to take in her arms
to bring it to the Delphic oracle,
Red lips «cramoisi»,
And since I don’t have a pencil,
And I’m not a painter
I begin to sketch with my eyes:
I draw eyebrows, eyelashes,
Move down on the pink chicks,
Hibernate for a little while in her oval chin
And I continue to draw gracefully
As if I were Man Ray
under the light of his atelier,
Draw lines of a stranger
In her golden age,
Like a Botticelli Simonetta,
Like a Rembrandt Hendricke,
wearing the face of the first love,
There, in that seat
Where all the women of the world were sleeping at that moment,
In her eyes,
With a slightly raised leg
An art modeI saw, a fruit of love
That should not be bitten.
Quite… she is sleeping…
Then suddenly she awakes,
Facing my way.
Her lips opened like rose petals,
She noticed me
I looked at her,
She laughed amicably.
And then…I closed my eyes shyly
To sleep in another world,
with another woman …
Baba Mondi listens to Mozart
Baba Mondi listens to Mozart
not in the Tirana Grand Tekke
but at the “Palace”, in the heart of Paris
where an Albanian dancer performs on stage
“The angel” has descended on earth! – says Baba
murmuring the prayers of his coryphaea
the angel opens his arms and jumps in the air
“one of a kind”
Baba’s beard shivers
of this dove of peace
and it seems to him that Mozart is back
in the world of the living
dressed in green, with his magic wand
an angel-dancer, a Mozart and the infinite dance of the dervish
whom pirouetts constantly here in Paris
amidst the prayers of the whole world
to sing to love like Bektach Veli.
Baba Mondi closes his eyes:
“Never again war and bombs,
we are all the breath and children of the same love! “
He murmurs in the divine darkness where the world turns
imagining himself dancing with this angel
in an endless drunkenness,
not at the Palace
but under the lighten couple of the sky,
on the burning trunk of the earth,
Shoes that have lost their masters
I have came again to the sunny shores of Aegean Sea
more abandoned, shaggy shoes
who have finally fallen in this great mortar…
Where are the children who once wore them?
Where are their masters, mothers and fathers with their lifeless eyes?
Their torn mouths do not tell their story
they scream of thirst and hunger,
having travelled thousands of miles over the seas
under the light of the slain moon and dazzled sun
just like in a strange funeral march
searching the shores of Great Hope,
large leather shoes
more tragic than the Titanic itself lost in the depths of the ocean,
other shoes still riding the waves
in a macabre dance,
where the left seeks the right
where they both seek their master to flee again
to take the road to the shores of love.
You see these shoes cracked by salt
thrown in mourning
and feel that death happening inside of you
grabs your throat rendering you breathless,
you feel as if a Mozart re-writes “Mass in C Minor” and dies again,
like a Van Gogh commits suicide again from abandonment and loneliness
or a Maria Callas’s cords are cut off by an eternal sadness
Pavarotti has lost his voice facing this giant graveyard
Chopin would play the world’s most painful sonata
all death happens twice because of these shoes and sandals
seeking their masters, longing for human love,
Jessy Norman does not get to finish Schubert’s Ave Maria,
on these shores everything ends with a “hallelujah,”
as if Leonard Cohen has come out of his grave
to sing the last song
and that’s how I die,
oh what a world funeral
here on the Aegean coast!
I must take the sea on foot
to become their guide
to take them maybe one day
maybe one morning,
on the shores of Good Hope,
shoes looking for their lost masters…
Translated into English by Miranda Shehu Xhilaga