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CREES Noon Lecture. Literature in Albania from Communism to the Present

Lisandri Kola, Luljeta Lleshanaku, and Primo Shllaku
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
12:00-1:20 PM
Off Campus Location
Under the communist regime (1944-91), Albanian literature followed two separate and antithetical paths: on the one hand, writers turned to socialist realism for official literature that supported the state’s propaganda, while on the other authors writing in prisons or labor camps joined an underground literature of opposition to Enver Hoxha’s regime. Subject to harsh censorship and persecution, some oppositional writers managed to escape Albanian Communism, going into exile to publish books critical of the regime. Those who remained in Albania were silenced until the collapse of the regime.

Coming from three different generations, the authors on this panel share their experiences of the totalitarian regime and its aftermath, and reflect on the role of literature in Albanian society: how does literature represent and transfigure experiences of violence and oppression? What is the place of exile in national literature? What is the role of literature in the memory culture of a post-communist society? What, indeed, is the status of literature in contemporary Albania?

Lisandri Kola is an author, scholar, and translator. He taught Albanian Literature of Exile at the University of Michigan (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures), and Albanian Modern Literature, History of Albanian Sonnet, Translation Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Tirana. Kola is the author of many books, among them A Poem of Love (Albanian-English-Serbian), Flutrat vdesin në maj/Butterflies Die in May, Sonete/Sonnets, and Saga e nji dite/Saga of a Day, among many others. He has translated into Albanian language, Longinus, Alda Merini, Fernando Pessoa, Luigi Pirandello, Saint Anthony of Padua, and has in progress Rime of Guido Cavalcanti. Selected poetry and prose of L. Kola are translated into Montenegrin, English, German, and French languages. He was awarded the Albanian National Prize Át Zef Pllumi in poetry (2014). Lisandri Kola obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Tirana in 2014.

Luljeta Lleshanaku is an Albanian poet. She studied Albanian philology & literature at the University of Tirana, and later she graduated with a MFA from Warren Wilson College, USA. She attended The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 1999 and was awarded a writer’s fellowship from the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (2008-09). She is the author of nine poetry collections in her language and fourteen other collections published in translation in other languages. Five of her books in translation are published in English. Her last poetry collection in English is Negative Space, published by New Directions in the USA and by Bloodaxe Books in the UK, was a winner of the English PEN award, a finalist for the GRIFFIN International Poetry Prize 2019 in Canada, and a finalist for PEN America 2019. She has worked as journalist, TV author, university lecturer, and a historical researcher.

Primo Shllaku was born in Shkodra, a town in the north of Albania of great cultural primacy, which lasted until the time the communist regime was set up. His father was a theater director and uncle a prominent translator of ancient Greek and Latin. Shllaku studied Albanian language and literature at the State University of Tirana. For several years he taught in different schools and different levels of school in Tirana as well as in different villages. Beginning in the late 1980s he taught at the University of Shkodra. Later he taught Albanian and French in Greece as well as Albanian at the University of Belgrade. In 2010 he received a doctorate in literary sciences, after which he has been teaching a History of Esthetical Doctrines at the University of Fine Arts in Tirana.

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Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Albania, European, International, Literature
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, International Institute, Albanian American Student Organization, Albanian American Student Organization, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia