Sejfulla Malëshova (1901-1971)
| Saturday, 07.07.2007, 12:59 PM |  

BIOGRAPHY

Sejfulla Malëshova, 1945
The forced marriage between Albanian literature and Marxism-Leninism was firmly cemented from the start with the founding in October 1945 of the Albanian Writers' Union. Initially, responsibility for cultural policies in post-war Albania was conferred upon the poet Sejfulla Malëshova (1901-1971), who used the penname Lame Kodra. Originally from the Përmet region of southern Albania, Malëshova spent a good deal of his life abroad. Most of the verse of this self-styled rebel poet was written in exile and was published in the now rare volume Vjersha, Tirana 1945 (Verse). He had studied medicine in Italy and in 1924, at the age of twenty-three, became Fan Noli's personal secretary in the latter's democratic government. With the overthrow of Noli, Malëshova fled to Paris and from there, inspired by the October Revolution, he continued on to Moscow where he studied and later taught Marxism. In the Soviet Union he joined the Communist Party (1930-1932) but was subsequently expelled as a Bukharinist. As minister of culture in the communist-controlled provisional government, Malëshova followed a relatively liberal and conciliatory course in order to encourage the reintegration of non-communist forces into the new structures of power. He was not one to condemn all prewar writers such as Gjergj Fishta as reactionaries, nor was he in favour of a total break with the West. Malëshova soon became the spokesperson of one of the two factions vying for power within the party. With the backing of the Yugoslav communists, however, the faction of his adversary Koçi Xoxe (1917-1949) gained the upper hand by early 1946 and Malëshova fell into disgrace. At a meeting of the Central Committee on 21 February 1946, Malëshova was accused of opportunism and right-wing deviationism and was expelled both from the Politburo and from the Central Committee.

Strangely enough, Sejfullah Malëshova survived his fall. This left-wing idealist who had once been a member of the Comintern was interned in Ballsh for two or three years and spent all his later life in internal exile as a humble stock clerk in Fier where, for years, no inhabitant of the town dared speak to him. His only social contact was to play soccer with the children. Whenever anyone approached he would pinch his lips with his fingers, signifying the vow of eternal silence which ensured his survival.

Sejfullah Malëshova died on 9 June 1971 of appendicitis in unimaginable isolation. Although everyone in town knew his poems by heart, no one dared to attend his funeral. He was buried in the presence of his sister, the gravedigger and two Sigurimi agents.

POETRY

How I Love Albania

I've no farm estates or manors,
I've no shops or lofty buildings,
Yet I love my land, Albania -
For a barn in Trebeshina,
For its boulders and its brushwood,
For a hut above Selishta,
For two fields ploughed in Zallishta,
For a cow and for a donkey,
For an ox, a little lambkin,
            This is how I love my country
            Like a shepherd, like a peasant.

Yes, I love my land, Albania,
For the clover in its meadows,
For a quick and agile maiden,
For its spring of water gurgling
From the cliffs and flowing swiftly
Through the leafy oak tree forests,
Tumbling down to form a river,
Yes, I love my land, Albania,
For the fenugreek in blossom,
For the birds that fly above it,
For the nightingales a-singing,
In the shade and in the brambles,
Trilling songs of love and longing,
            This is how I love my country,
            Like a poet in devotion.

Yes, I love my land, Albania,
Right from Korça to Vranina,
Where the farmer sets off early
With his hoe and plough a-toiling,
Sows and reaps by sun and moonlight,
Yet, he has no food to live on,
Where the farrier and saddler
Day and night stoop o'er their duties
Just to get a few stale breadcrumbs,
Where the porter at the dockyards,
Laden down with iron and barrels,
Bears his load, barefoot and ragged,
Always serving other people.
Yes, I love my land, Albania,
Right from Skopje to Janina,
Where its people in misfortune
Suffer, live their lives in serfdom,
Yet they have a fighting spirit -
            This is how I love my country,
            Like a revolutionary.

(1939)

[Si e dua Shqipërinë, from the volume Vjersha, Tirana 1945, p. 18-19. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

Rebel Poet

Listen to me, men and women,
            Everywhere,
There's an warrant out to snare me
            from Tiranë.
Over hill and over dale and
            in the fields,
Their patrols are right behind me
            step by step.
I fear not their hunting dogs and
            all their guns,
I am off and make my journey
            path by path,
I am off and will find shelter
            house by house,
Everywhere in this, my country,
            I've my lair.
I'm a thug and I'm a rebel
            and I'm proud,
Both the beys and, yes, their thrones I
            will attack.
I have come to do my job,
            protect the poor,
And a war on slavery have I
            now declared.

            * * *

Who have raised their guns against me?
            let me know!
Who's behind me, searching for my
            every trace?
Stop a while and listen to me,
            soldier boy,
Are you not a peasant's son, a
            village lad?
Bide a bit and listen to me,
            brother mine,
Hold your pace and save your bullet
            For those men,
For the ones who rob, oppress our
            piteous home,
For the ones who here exhaust us
            in our plight.
And my poems may, too, resemble
            me, a thug,
For my lines with black gunpowder
            have I filled.
Songs of war and songs of fire
            in my mouth,
And a storehouse full of weapons
            is my chest,
Verse, my verse, fly off in fury
            like a bomb,
Go and furl out like a war cry,
            like a flag,
Let our country's people gather
            everywhere,
Let the tyrant tremble, quiver
            in his hall.
To your feet arise, oh Korça,
            matriarch,
With Devoll and with Kolonja,
            with Opar.
Come forth now, oh Vlora river,
            banner high,
As you'd come to pick your bride up
            in her veil,
To the vanguard like Gjoleka,
            Kurvelesh,
Beat upon them, Chameria,
            like a storm.
Like an earthquake may you bellow,
            Mount Tomorr,
May the waves of Shkumbin river
            seethe and boil.
Rise up, people, like a lion,
            Cast the yoke,
In Berat and in Tirana,
            Elbasan,
And you, Mat, Luma and Dibra,
            like the wind,
Seize your arms and for your freedom
            take to war,
Moan and groan, oh wretched Shkodra,
            ancient town,
Come along, arise Kosova,
            join the dance,
With Krasniqi, Bajram Curri
            and Tetovë.
Let our country's people gather
            everywhere,
Let the tyrant tremble, quiver
            in his hall.
Verse, my verse, fly off in fury
            like a bomb,
Go and furl out like a war cry,
            like a flag.

(1935)

[Poeti rebel, from the volume Vjersha, Tirana 1945, p. 13-16. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



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