|Andon Zako Çajupi|
The most significant phase of Çajupi’s literary and nationalist activities was from 1898 to 1912. By 1902 he was an active member of the Albanian Fraternity of Egypt (Vëllazëria e Egjiptit ) and that same year published the poetry volume for which he is best remembered: Baba-Tomorri, Cairo 1902 (Father Tomorr). This collection, named after Mt. Tomorr in central Albania, the Parnassus of Albanian mythology, contains light verse on mostly nationalist themes and is divided into three sections: 1) Fatherland, 2) Love, and 3) True and False Tales. The work was an immediate success. Indeed no volume of Albanian poetry had proven so popular among Albanians at home and abroad since the collections of Naim Frashëri .
Though there are many technical imperfections in his poems, their straightforward octosyllabic rhythms reminiscent of southern Albanian folksongs, their unequivocal messages and their patriotic inspiration made them extremely popular both with adults and children, and proclaimed Çajupi the most important Albanian poet since Naim Frashëri.
Çajupi was also a playwright, author of a verse tragedy on Scanderbeg entitled Burr’ i dheut (The earthly hero) written in 1907. This was followed by a one-act original comedy Pas vdekjes (After death), written in 1910 and printed, like the former play, in 1937 by Sofokli Çapi. Another drama in verse, which remained unpublished during his lifetime, was the four-act situation comedy Katërmbëdhjetë vjeç dhëndër (A bridegroom at fourteen).
The mountains rich in stone,
The meadows full of grass,
The fields replete with wheat,
Beyond them is a river.
Across from it the village
With church and rows of gravestones,
And standing all around it
Are humble, tiny houses.
Frigid is the water,
The wind blows, but no matter,
The nightingale proclaims it:
Gazelle-like are the women.
Lying in the shade, men
Playing, busy chatting,
Misfortune cannot strike them,
For they're living off their women.
Women in the fields, and
In the vineyards, women,
Women harvest hay, all
Day and night a-toiling.
Women do the threshing,
Reap the harvest, women,
Leaving before sunrise,
After dark returning!
For their husbands, women
Scorch out in the sunshine,
Working, never resting
Not even on a Sunday!
Poor Albanian woman,
All the time a-slaving,
And when homeward's wending,
Makes both lunch and supper.
What about your husband
Lounging by the fountain?
Oh, my wretched woman,
You run, too, the household!
[Fshati im, from the volume Baba-Tomorri, Cairo 1902. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]
Motherland's the country
Where I first raised my head,
Where I loved my parents,
Where every stone knows me,
Where I made my home,
Where I first knew God,
Where my ancestors lived,
And left their graves behind them,
Where I grew on bits of bread,
Where I learned to speak my language,
Where I have my friends and family,
Where I've laughed and where I've cried,
Where I dwell with mirth and hope,
Where I one day long to perish.
[Mëmëdheu, from the volume Baba-Tomorri, Cairo 1902. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]
Dear motherland of mine,
I love you as you are,
But if I saw you free,
I'd love you even more.
Weep, oh forests, plains and stones,
Weep, oh mountains under snows,
Poor Albania is abandoned,
Never will she see the light,
Veiled forever is the country
In a thick and sombre blight.
Darkness and misfortune on us,
Thunder, lightning all around us,
Do we live with hearts a-frozen,
Dwell in fear, deprived of joy,
None in song do raise their voices,
And the nightingales are grieving.
What disaster, desolation!
In their nests the birds take shelter,
Yet the people flee their own soil,
For a savage law does rule it,
Yes, Albania we yearn for you,
Refugees in states so foreign.
How can you endure such serfdom,
Oh, Albania, wretched country?
You've saved other nations while you
Bear this heavy yoke and burden.
Oh, Albanians, swear an oath that
You will now fight for your homeland.
Dear motherland of mine,
I love you as you are,
But if I saw you free,
I'd love you even more.
[Robëria, from the volume Baba-Tomorri, Cairo 1902. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]
AFTER DEATH (PAS VDEKJES)
A one-act comedy
- to the memory of the late Nikol Duçi, nationalist activist of the past -
Miss Lulushe - a school mistress for girls
Mr Adham-Uti - a healer and a writer
Mr Vurko - a journalist
Zeneli - an employee at the Salonica Club headed by Skëndo Bey (editor-in-chief of ‘Lirija’ (Freedom), the Young Turk newspaper)
Action takes place at the Albanian Salonica Club in 1910.
(The characters enter the club room together. The room is furnished with two armchairs and a table in the centre which is heaped with newspapers and manuscripts. To the right is a closet, to the left is a wall telephone.)
Adham-Uti (angrily): What is going on here? I don’t understand a thing. Your employer, the head of this club, promised to meet me here at 8 P.M. and you tell me he is not coming! You even have the audacity to ask me who I am! Did you not inform him that I, Dr Adham-Uti, have arrived and am presently waiting for him?...
Zeneli (with a smirk): Doctor Efendi, I was not able to speak to the bey because he is not here today.
Adham-Uti: What the devil!...
Zeneli: What? Oh, please don’t use that word again because...
Adham-Uti (to himself): I think this man has lost his wits completely!
Adham-Uti, Vurko, Zeneli
Vurko (in a huff): Zeneli, has Skëndo Bey arrived yet?
Zeneli: No, Vurko, and I don’t think he is coming at all. Wait for a moment though in case there is any work for you.
Vurko (sitting down): I’ll wait until he comes.
Adham-Uti (pompously): I shall wait a little longer too, although I really have much work to be done!
Vurko (whispering into Zeneli’s ear): Who is he?
Zeneli (in a loud voice): What? You don’t recognize him? This gentleman is DOCTOR A-DHAM U-TI from Frashëri, the famed village Naim Bey comes from, and...
Adham-Uti (interrupting him): Naim Frashëri is not from my village at all. Don’t talk nonsense!
Zeneli (with a smirk): Oh, I am so sorry, milord, but... (bowing his head) I am so dreadfully sorry, Dr Adham-Uti!
Vurko (snickering): Crocodile tears, Zeneli? What kind of name is that anyway?
Adham-Uti (scowling): You do not seem to like it.
Vurko (gently): On the contrary, milord, it would seem to be a splendid name. Adham comes from the biblical Adam, our forefather, and Uti must be related somehow to Odysseus of Homeric fame...
Zeneli (surprised): Oh, you have an education after all. Silly me, I thought his name was just Albanian... The doctor is a gentleman of the Christian faith, if I am not mistaken. Who knows when we will begin to say our prayers to Saint Adham-Uti, ‘forever and ever, amen’!
Adham-Uti (solemnly) However my name may sound to you (glaring at Vurko), I have always lived up to it!
Zeneli (looking at Vurko): Oh, yes, I see. The gentleman is a famed healer!
Adham-Uti: And a writer and a poet to boot!
Vurko (sitting down): How admirable of you, Doctor Adham-Uti. It is indeed a pleasure to make your acquaintance. And a great honour, too, believe me! My name is Vurko. I am a correspondent of the newspaper ‘Lightningg.’
Adham-Uti: Oh, a reporter, are you?
Vurko: Tell me, sir, what do the great figures of the nation have to say about the Albanian question nowadays. I would like to publish a report on the issue in our newspaper.
Adham-Uti: You mean you want me to give you an interview?
Vurko: Yes, sir, something I can publish in ‘Lightningg.’
Adham-Uti: Stop pronouncing it ‘Lightningg,’ it is ‘Lightning.’ Lightningg, lightning, singingg, singing. I shall have to inform Skëndo Bey about your bad pronunciation. The language you people use nowadays is not Albanian at all. Our poor language has fallen into bad hands indeed. And the alphabet you use is quite unacceptable!
Vurko (dumbfounded): I don’t understand! It is the alphabet decided upon at the Congress of Monastir.
Adham-Uti (furiously): Congress of Monastir? What Congress of Monastir? Who even attended it? Was I there?
Vurko (with a smile): Why did you not attend, sir?
Adham-Uti: Hah! First you call me ‘Doctor Efendi’ and now I am only a ‘sir’ because I told you the truth. I am telling you things the way they are. And you dare to ask me for an interview! No, no, no! I am not in the habit of giving interviews to newspapers such as yours.
Vurko: I never imagined... I did not think for a moment that you would be opposed to newspapers!
Adham-Uti: Well, now you know, and can tell the whole world with a bolt of your ‘Lightning,’ if there actually are people who read such a rag! These are my final words on the matter!
Vurko: And quite a surprise they are!
Adham-Uti (in a fit): What do you mean, a surprise? That’s it! I have had it. Who the devil do you think you are, young man? Listen to me! What would I possibly have to gain by your writing an article about me: "Doctor Adham-Uti, the famed healer, author of innumerable scholarly works, discoverer of a new tonic for fever and yet another tonic, even more amazing and more desperately needed for sterility among women, is on the verge of publishing a new and definitive alphabet for the Albanian language, involving totally new letters. He has worked for ten years and three months to perfect this alphabet." What is it to me? I do not seek praise from anyone! And if I did, I would well receive it for revealing to you what I have come to discuss with Skëndo Bey here today... to show him this alphabet and find out whether the Young Turks would like it or not, whether they would give it their approval to be used in schools throughout Albania, whether they would be willing to purchase it from me, and whether I can expect any support from the government in Istanbul for this great service I have rendered to the nation. Skëndo Bey asked me bring the alphabet to the club today so that he and Miss Lulushe, who is a school mistress for girls, could have a look at it. If they agree to it, they will want to introduce it into the girls’ school to start with and then to submit it to the Young Turks who, for their part, will certainly take great delight in it and wish to compensate me for my troubles and perhaps even send for me to become a Member of Parliament in Istanbul!...
Vurko: But why do you want to introduce the alphabet into the girls’ school only?
Zeneli: Yes, why indeed?
Adham-Uti (arrogantly): Don’t you understand at all?
Vurko: No, I swear I don’t.
Zeneli (triumphantly): I know! Because girls are women, and therefore...
Adham-Uti: Therefore what?... Keep going!
Zeneli: Well, they are cleverer than the boys and will be better at learning the alphabet. Am I right? Is that why?
Vurko: It is as logical as two times two is four.
Adham-Uti (emphatically): You fool! The real reason is that girls turn into women... and men do what women tell them to do...I have written a whole book on this subject.
Vurko: Then, the decision on the alphabet would be entirely in the hands of Miss Lulushe, wouldn’t it?
Adham-Uti: And in the hands of Skëndo Bey because he has good relations with the Young Turks, some very close friends.
Vurko (amazed): Friends indeed!
Adham-Uti: That, I tell you, is why I am not talking to anyone else and certainly not to your rag of a newspaper!
Vurko: Nor to the ‘National Unity,’ nor to "The Sun" either?
Vurko: Nor to the ‘Lightning,’ nor to ‘The Staff’?
Adham-Uti: Not at all!... Good Lord, why do you keep on about it? You’ll get nothing out of me. I do not seek the admiration and praises of anyone. No matter what they tell you, healers such as I are a rare breed. I can heal eyes, ears, noses, hands and legs. There is not an disease I cannot conquer. You may say that I do not have many ‘clients.’ Let them stay away. Let them languish in their illnesses. Whose fault will it be if they do?
Vurko: But why do you want to sell your alphabet to the Young Turks? Why don’t you give it to Albania for free?
Adham-Uti: For free? What an insane idea! I have been working on that alphabet for ten years now, day and night! And I should give it away? To whom? To the Albanians who have never even heard of me? Think of all the Albanians who have striven for years to create an alphabet and have not come up with a thing. I alone have found the solution, and I’m keeping it in my pocket. Miss Lulushe, if she has a brain in her head at all, will be amazed when I show it to her. She will be overwhelmed!
Vurko: I imagine she will be quite startled! Is she coming today, too?
Adham-Uti: Indeed she is. Skëndo Bey gave me his word.
Vurko: Do you know Miss Lulushe?
Adham-Uti: Of course I know her. Her mother had a fever last year. But the tonic I discovered, as I told you, is a wondrous drug. Anyone can be cured, unless he dies in his sleep first without making an effort, without giving it a fair try. And so, when Lulushe’s mother took it...
Vurko and Zeneli (together): She was cured!
Adha-Uti: No, she died. She died in her sleep, as I told you!
Zeneli: What a wondrous drug! One times one...
Adham-Uti (turning to Vurko): Such are my deeds, gentlemen. I have no need of your praises. Words are ephemeral. Deeds, gentlemen, deeds! What ever comes of newspapers? Nothing, so don’t waste your time. You’ll never get a word out of me!
Vurko (with a slight grin): What you have told me is quite sufficient, milord. I bid you good day. Farewell, Doctor Efendi! (he departs in a rush).
Adham-Uti (angrily): Damn. He got me talking after all! I didn’t even want to give him an interview. Oh, if I ever get my hands on that fellow...
Adham-Uti (tapping his watch): Strange. It’s 8:30 and Skëndo Bey does not seem to be coming! Zeneli, has Miss Lulushe not arrived yet?
Zeneli: Not yet, sir! I haven’t seen any women coming our way in a long time!
Adham-Uti (angrily): What is this all about? They are making a fool out of me. To hell with it all! (He sits at the table and casts a glance at the manuscripts on the table. After a moment, he rises suddenly and, dumbfounded, utters): Haxhi Aliu has died! Good lord! I don’t believe it. He has died without a sound. He was fine when I last met him. Perhaps a bit weak, but certainly not at death’s door. Poor Haxhi Aliu! The poor man, and a Member of Parliament, too. He had many friends. He wanted me for government service. Oh, poor Haxhi Aliu has died.
Zeneli: No, milord! He is not dead. Perhaps he is just giving up the ghost.
Adham-Uti: What, and has not died? What do you mean, my good man? (Reading from the text): "We are deeply distressed to learn that His Excellency, Member of Parliament Haxhi Aliu, has passed away"... (to Zeneli): What a dreadful loss! You have lost a good man indeed!
Zeneli: But he is fine. A newspaper as well-known as ‘Lirija’ must be prepared for any eventuality, for anything that might occur so we are never caught empty-handed, so to speak. What would happen tonight, for instance, if in the middle of the night, we should receive a telegram saying that Haxhi Aliu had dinner, and then choked on it and died? The editor-in-chief of ‘Lirija’ has no time to start investigating where the gentleman was born, who his parents were, and what he accomplished or did not accomplish during his lifetime. For this very reason, Skëndo Bey prepares the texts in advance. Haxhi Aliu can die in peace and tranquility whenever he wants. Our newspaper is ready for him anytime.
Adham-Uti (glancing at the text): Ha, ha! Haxhi Aliu would certainly be pleased at such a flattering obituary. Tell me, Zeneli, how many days ago was this text written?
Zeneli: Oh, quite a while ago, milord. The editor-in-chief always prepares for everything in advance. We have obituaries ready for all public figures! For kings, for instance, since their lives often hang by a thread, or a noose or a knife or a revolver. We have obituaries ready for Members of Parliament since many of them are exceedingly advanced in age. We have obituaries for noted writers and for other figures of renown.
Adham-Uti: Figures of renown, you say?
Zeneli: Yes, of course. A renowned healer, for instance, could kick the bucket anytime, just like the rest of us.
Adham-Uti: Yes, I suppose you are right (stopping to think for a moment): And what about me? Do you consider me to be a figure of renown?
Zeneli: What do you mean? Are you asking me if you are old?
Adham-Uti: No, I mean, do you consider me to be a great figure?
Zeneli: With a long life?
Adham-Uti (patiently): No, Zeneli, I want you to tell me if I too, am a figure of renown, I mean, whether or not I have a reputation as a healer and am known as a writer?...
Zeneli: Well, that’s what you, I mean, they say.
Adham-Uti: Tell me openly, am I, Doctor Adham-Uti, a figure of renown, or not?
Zeneli: A what?
Adham-Uti: A great man!
Zeneli: Why do you even bother to ask? Of course, you are a man of considerable stature.
Adham-Uti: You’re not making fun of me now, are you?
Zeneli: Not at all, I swear it. I have no doubt whatsoever that you are a big man!
Adham-Uti: How do you know?
Zeneli: Because you are not short.
Adham-Uti: Why else?
Zeneli: Because you have a beard and thinning hair. In fact, when I think about it, you’re as bald as a cucumber. That’s why you must be wise.
Adham-Uti (satisfied): Where did you learn things like that?
Zeneli: It’s what my grandmother taught me, God bless her.
Adham-Uti: God bless her indeed. She seems to have been a woman of sage judgments. That would mean then that your employer, Skëndo Bey, must have an obituary about me, too! Tell me the truth, Zeneli, don’t keep anything from me!
Zeneli: I’m sure he must have, After all, you are a Member of Parliament, and you are not that young anymore. You are an elderly statesman. I can assure you of that.
Adham-Uti: Alright, alright, Zeneli. Can you give me your word?
Zeneli: About what?
Adham-Uti: Can you keep a secret?
Zeneli: No need to worry about that. I am discretion itself. No one ever gets a word out of me. (To himself): I don’t think so, anyway.
Adham-Uti: Very well. You have done me a great favour. Take this silver coin.
Zeneli: A real coin? For me?
Adham-Uti: For you.
Zeneli: I may be a Moslem, but I have the impression I am going to be ‘bearing the cross’ with my own two hands.
Adham-Uti: Why is that?
Zeneli: They say you are a bit stingy, actually.
Adham-Uti: Don’t listen to rumours.
Zeneli: A coin, all for me?
Adham-Uti: I have two others for you, too, Zeneli, if you tell me...
Zeneli: Oh, damn, now I understand. You want to know what my boss wrote about you, the text which ‘Lirija’ will print when you pass away.
Adham-Uti: You will tell me, won’t you?
Zeneli: Damn it! But then... why not. If I, for my part, were to ask a favour of you, not a coin, but something which wouldn’t cost you a thing. They say after all that your wife only doles you out a few cents a day...
Adham-Uti: What do you want of me, my boy?
Zeneli: You can’t make money here. I’ve got barely enough to survive on.
Zeneli: I was thinking to going to Egypt, to Alexandria.
Adham-Uti: And then what?
Zeneli: To put it short, milord, I would like to ask you to give me a letter of recommendation for the president of the Bashkimi Club so that I can get a job.
Adham-Uti: Do you know his name?
Zeneli: No, I don’t. I can’t remember, but I’ve heard he has a huge moustache, a tall body and two eyes that...
Adham-Uti: What you mean is a big chunk of meat with two eyes attached to it. Ha, ha, ha! And of course he has money?
Zeneli: Yes, sir. He has income from his spouse. He’s one of those types who live off their wives!
Adham-Uti: There is nothing wrong with that, damn you, even I myself... But what do you mean exactly? What line of work do you want to get from the president of the Bashkimi Club?
Zeneli: I would like him to get me a job as a messenger and a crier at the stock exchange.
Adham-Uti: Do you know how to do that?
Zeneli: Of course I do. I have a voice as deep as a cave.
Adham-Uti: You do have a good voice, and long droopy ears to boot, but whether they’ll help you make enough money to support yourself and your family, I don’t know, Zeneli.
Zeneli: I have no family, Doctor Efendi. Actually, I have been living with a lady for a number of years but I haven’t tied the knot yet.
Adham-Uti: Tied the veil, you mean. You’re a Moslem, aren’t you? It would be better for you to make the woman your own and live a proper life in the open.
Zeneli: Everyone thinks I’m married because that’s what I always tell them, and the ‘Kuvendi’ newpaper once mentioned I was married too.
Adham-Uti: So you and the ‘Kuvendi’ newspaper have lied.
Zeneli: milord, a lie is the salt of truth, as the president of the Bashkimi Club once put it when he was here on a trip to Salonika.
Adham-Uti: What the hell?
Zeneli: Oh, don’t use that word. May the Lord... the Lord...
Adham-Uti: You can’t remember a thing, my good lad, you’ve got a brain like a sieve. I have written quite an exceptional book on that tonic of mine.
Zeneli: I’ve got it, doctor. I found it.
Adham-Uti: You found what? You sound like Archimedes?
Zeneli: No, no, not Archimedes, the president’s name is Machi.
Adham-Uti: And what did this Mr Machi have to say for himself?
Zeneli: He said that all the Albanians in Egypt are blind and only he has two eyes. He must be lying and trying to deceive everyone.
Adham-Uti: It’s true, the Albanians in Alexandria have always been fanatics for the Greeks and all the more, Mr Machi. He is a despicable and disgusting individual, a traitor to his country like those doctors Harisi, Naumi and Turtulli, who are notorious for their gossip, their muck-raking and their sleazy deeds. And this Mr Machi of yours, Zeneli, is the same as the rest of them. Probably worse. Lord preserve us...
Zeneli: What a fool I must then have been not to understand. To tell you the truth, he did smell a bit. But when I saw him all dressed up in his fine clothes, I said to myself, Zeneli, I said to myself, this gentlemen must be a great Albanian.
Adham-Uti: Dressed up in his fine clothes, he may have been. But don’t forget that he bought those clothes by stealing funds from the Bashkimi Club! I know the story well. He may look like a great figure, but in reality he is nothing but a worm. Let him and his friends go to hell and let us take care of our own affairs. What were we talking about?
Zeneli: What were we talking about?
Adham-Uti: Oh yes! We were talking about the obituary which ‘Lirija’ is going to publish about me when I die. Tell me what’s in it. I gave you a silver coin, after all.
Zeneli: And you promised me two more, didn’t you?
Adham-Uti: He can remember things when it suits him. Tell me about it now and when you go to Egypt, I’ll write you the letter of recommendation for the head of Bashkimi, whoever he may be, the man with the big moustache, that chunk of meat with two eyes attached, to get him to help you.
Zeneli: You promise?
Adham-Uti: I give you my word. For God’s sake, just show me the obituary Skëndo Bey has written about me.
Zeneli: Why not. Except that I can’t remember where it is.
Adham-Uti: Well, look for it then!
Zeneli: You’ll have to come back later.
Zeneli: Fine. And the day I find it...
Adham-Uti: What day, you fool? I want it now.
Zeneli: Right away? (The telephone rings and Zeneli rushes to answer it): Hello. It’s Zeneli speaking. Who? Yes, of course. Doctor Adham-Uti has arrived and is waiting for you. No, Miss Lulushe has not come yet. (Turning to Adham-Uti): It’s my boss, Skëndo Bey.
Adham-Uti: Let me speak to him. (He goes to the telephone): Hello. This is Adham-Uti speaking. Very well, thank you. And yourself? Yes, the moment you told me, I went to visit him at his residence. He has an eye infection. What should be done? Well, if you ask me, I think the bad eye should be taken out so that the other one is not infected. I told him so, but he was not to be convinced. Are you going yourself? Very well. But who is going to pay my bill? Oh, you yourself! Very good... When? Well, I’ll perform the operation if he lets me! And then, right afterwards, we’ll come back here to talk about the Albanian alphabet. You’ll see for yourself. You’ll see that it’s... Well, when can I meet you at the club?... Miss Lulushe will have to be here too. Thank you very much. All the best.
Zeneli: Who has the eye infection, doctor?
Adham-Uti: You don’t know? Mehdiu.
Zeneli: The governor?
Adham-Uti: Skëndo Bey has asked me to heal him.
Zeneli: And you want to remove his eye?
Adham-Uti: If we don’t, he’ll lose both of them. It is a new method of healing I have devised. If one hand hurts, cut it off to save the other one. If one leg is hurt, amputate it as quickly as possible to save the other one. An eye ache? Remove it so that the other one is not infected! That is my method and that is how I have treated my wife. Her right eye was aching one day. I operated right away and now her left is in splendid condition. She can even see at night...
Zeneli (dumbfounded): Good Lord. You have amazing healing methods. What happens if someone has a headache? Do you chop it off?
Adham-Uti: Don’t talk nonsense, Zeneli. These are serious and profound matters which you don’t understand. I have spent my entire life... But don’t forget what you promised me, for the obituary.
Zeneli: Well, don’t forget the two silver coins either, milord.
Adham-Uti: Cash in your little hot hand, my boy. Try to find the text while I am visiting Mehdiu, before I get back. Oh, and if Miss Lulushe shows up, tell her to stay put and wait for me here.
Zeneli: Very well, doctor. Have a good time!
Zeneli (to himself): Two coins plus the one he gave me make three. It looks like it’s going to be a good day. (He goes out to the door and calls): Mr Vurko, Oh Mr Vurko. Come in for a moment, will you please? There is something I’d like to talk to you about. (Mr Vurko enters).
Vurko: What do you want, Zeneli?
Zeneli: Could you do me a favour?
Vurko: As many as you want. What can I do for you?
Zeneli: I would like you to write an obituary for a great man who has just died.
Vurko: What? Did someone of importance die? Tell me who it is and I’ll prepare the text for you.
Zeneli: Well, he’s not exactly completely dead yet...
Vurko: Well, what do you want the obituary for? Why don’t you wait until he dies, at least?
Zeneli: I can wait, but he can’t. He wants to see what he is like dead.
Vurko: Who is it?
Zeneli: I gave him my word of honour not to tell.
Vurko: You don’t think I would ever tell, do you?
Zeneli: Well, just between the two of us, it is Doctor Adham-Uti who wants to know what is going to be written about him when he dies. Do you understand?
Vurko: My word! And he has the gall to say he doesn’t like newspapers and is not seeking praise. Zeneli, is this Adham-Uti going to pay you anything?
Zeneli: How could you possibly imagine such a thing?
Vurko: I suppose it is none of my business. Alright, I’ll go and write the article you want.
Zeneli: Thank you. I am much obliged. What can I do to pay you back?
Vurko: Don’t even mention it. Just between the two of us...
Zeneli: Listen, I have an idea...
Vurko: What is it now?
Zeneli: I think he would be even more delighted if he were to see the obituary in print, so why don’t you...
Vurko: A great idea! I’ll run down to the Kristo press and see what I can do.
Zeneli: Thank you so much!
Vurko: Alright, see you later then! (He departs)
Zeneli, then Miss Lulushe
Zeneli (to himself): Adham-Uti will be delighted. When people see things in print, they always believe them, like angels in the Koran. (Miss Lulushe enters saying): Hello, Zeneli.
Zeneli: How are you? My boss hasn’t come back yet, but make yourself comfortable because he should be here soon. While you are waiting, have a look at the newspapers and articles on the table. I’ll clean up the office in the meantime.
Miss Lulushe (Looking at the newspapers, she spots the article about Haxhi Aliu and cries out): Why, Haxhi Aliu has died! That poor Member of Parliament. I feel so sorry for him.
Zeneli: Don’t feel too sorry for him, Miss Lulushe, there is still hope.
Miss Lulushe: Hope? Are the healers going to bring him back to life again?
Zeneli: If only they could.
Miss Lulushe: Well, what do you mean then?
Zeneli: Haxhi Aliu hasn’t exactly died yet.
Miss Lulushe: May the Lord protect him. How am I then to understand what you are saying? If he has not died, why then have you written his obituary?
Zeneli: Because he is at death’s door and we have to prepare the obituary so that we are not caught empty-handed when he does die.
Miss Lulushe: And what happens if he survives?
Zeneli: We store the obituary with the others and it gets published when the time comes. You must realize, Miss, that we have obituaries prepared in advance for all figures of importance, men and women alike, for kings and queens, Members of Parliament, because you never can tell when they’re going to kick... the bucket.
Miss Lulushe (indignant): A fine custom indeed.
Zeneli: We are not doing anything wrong. We let them die whenever they want. We just have to be ready to find the right words of praise in time for their... departure.
Miss Lulushe: Say whatever you want, but I would not be very amused to find out that someone was writing my obituary while I was still alive and... kicking, as you say.
Zeneli: Oh, I cannot imagine for a moment that my boss would have neglected to write an obituary about such a fine lady as yourself!
Miss Lulushe: He has written about me too?
Zeneli: I have no doubt about it. You are a person of some significance.
Miss Lulushe (to herself): I wonder what he could have written about me? Something good, or something bad? What will he possibly have to say about me when I die? (To Zeneli): Zeneli, do you really think he’s already written a text about me?
Zeneli: I quite sure of it, and I should know, because I work for him.
Miss Lulushe: Listen then!
Zeneli: I am listening, Miss. What would you like?
Miss Lulushe: Could you show it to me?
Zeneli (pretending not to understand): Show you what?
Miss Lulushe: The obituary.
Zeneli (shaking his head): I’m afraid not.
Miss Lulushe: Why not?
Zeneli: Because you would be quite insulted!
Miss Lulushe: Please, Zeneli, do it for me.
Zeneli: Ask me for something else, anything else, but not that! My boss would throw me out of the club. No, never!
Miss Lulushe: How can I get my hands on it?... I just want to read it and then I’ll put it back where I found it. For your assistance, I would be willing to give you five silver coins.
Zeneli: Five silver coins, you say? That is quite a different matter then. I think it might be arranged.
Miss Lulushe: I’m so grateful. I must be off now, the carriage is waiting for me. I have to visit a friend of mine who is ill. You try to find it in the meanwhile. Don’t lose time. Thank you so much, Zeneli! (she departs)
Zeneli: One plus two make three, plus the five she’s going to give me make eight silver coins in one day! I am not doing badly at all today. Why didn’t I think of this scheme earlier? What a fool I was, a real idiot. And to think that I wanted to move to Egypt. This is the place to make money. What have I been doing all this time? But better late than never. (He opens the door and calls out): Mr Vurko! Oh, Mr Vurko! Could I speak to you for a moment?
Vurko: (enters with a text in his hand): I have finished with the doctor’s obituary. Is there anything else I can do for you?
Zeneli: I am very grateful to you, Vurko. What can I say? There is one more thing...
Vurko: Speak up then. Would you like another obituary for Adham-Uti?
Zeneli: No, my good friend, not for Adham-Uti, but for someone else.
Vurko: I think you’re going a bit too far, Zeneli, if you ask me.
Zeneli: Please, Vurko, do me the favour.
Vurko: No, not that. Is there not something else I can do for you?
Zeneli: I can pay you, if you want... we’ll share the...
Vurko: Nothing doing! I have work to do.
Zeneli: Listen, Vurko! This time it is for a lady.
Vurko: For a lady? For whom, Zeneli?
Zeneli: For Miss Lulushe.
Vurko: For the charming school mistress? That is quite a different matter. I think I can arrange it. Is she going to come here?
Zeneli: She just left and is going to...
Vurko: Did you get a good look at her? She’s quite a beauty, isn’t she?
Zeneli: That’s for sure.
Vurko: Red cheeks...
Zeneli: As red as pomegranates!
Vurko: Slender figure, dark eyes, the light-skinned nape of her neck...
Vurko: Listen, Zeneli, I have been after her for two months now.
Zeneli: And you are getting nowhere.
Vurko: Not at all. She is as slippery as an eel. She won’t even listen to the poetry I have written about her.
Zeneli: Well, what do you think?
Vurko: I’ll do it. I give you my word, Zeneli, that I’ll sit down and write the article you want. But when do you want it for?
Zeneli: As soon as possible this time. She’ll be back any time. Tell me honestly though, Vurko, is there nothing you want for your trouble? We should share the rewards!
Vurko: Not at all, Zeneli. Keep everything for yourself. I cherish the hope that one day Miss Lulushe will find another form of recompense for me. That’s what I want. (He departs singing):
"Lulushe, my lovely,
How I long for your embrace!..."
Zeneli (satisfied with himself): That is exactly what I want too, not to share the rewards. Oh, if only I knew how to write, myself! Miss Lulushe is not back yet (Looking at the door). Oh, here she is. I’ll pretend now to be looking for her obituary.
Lulushe: Haven’t you found it yet?
Zeneli: Not yet, but it will be here somewhere. It’s just that I can’t remember where we put it.
Lulushe: Let me help you. We’ll search together.
Zeneli: No, no! I looked through everywhere here and couldn’t find it. I think your obituary must be in Skëndo Bey’s office.
Zeneli: Wait. I’ll go and see. I’ll be back in a jiffy. (He departs)
Lulushe (to herself): I certainly hope he finds it and brings it back with him. (She glances at the documents on the table and, seizing one, is astounded and cries out): What? What is this here? I don’t believe my eyes. I must be dreaming. Doctor Adham-Uti has died. How appalling!. He was quite well this morning. According to Skëndo Bey, he was supposed to come by this afternoon to show us an Albanian alphabet with new letters. Oh, the poor doctor. What a perfidious world we live in! Here today, gone tomorrow... (She sees Adham-Uti approaching slowly, is horrified, makes the sign of the cross, and cries out): Away with you! Away with you!
Lulushe (frightened): A vampire, a vampire! Come no closer! Go away. Away with you!
Adham-Uti (surprised): What, me? A vampire? What is this woman talking about?
Lulushe (horrified): A vampire and a devil! (she makes the sign of the cross)
Adham-Uti (solemnly): I beg your pardon, madam. I may be a bit dirty or not overly attractive, but I am certainly not a vampire. Only the dead can turn into vampires!
Lulushe: What? You are not dead?
Adham-Uti: I’m as alive as they come!
Lulushe: Good Lord, are you absolutely sure?
Adham-Uti: I swear to God.
Lulushe: Then I must apologize. I thought you were dead!
Adham-Uti: Why is that? Who told you so?
Lulushe: I read your obituary here and...
Adham-Uti: Oh, now I understand...
Lulushe: I thought it was true. And from what Zeneli told me...
Adham-Uti: Let me have a look at the text.
Lulushe: No, no! Let me read it to you. You will see for yourself that whoever it is about would seem to be thoroughly dead. (she reads the obituary) "Today we learned that Adham-Uti, a self-proclaimed healer, gave up the ghost. The deceased, although not overly clever in his own right, became wealthy due to his wife’s fortune. It is not known where he came from. We have been informed only that this charlatan let his own mother starve to death last year. The swindler regarded himself as a great man and tricked all the people around him with his sly talk. Rumour has it that he attempted to poison his wife to get her inheritance. With such a heart of stone, it is a good thing that he died of a stroke last night when the cock crowed. Let dregs cover dregs!"
Adham-Uti (furious): That is what he wrote about me?
Lulushe: That’s it.
Adham-Uti: How cruel can people be? Me, not overly clever? Me, a charlatan?
Lulushe: Absolutely incredible.
Adham-Uti: And that I died of a stroke? Let dregs cover dregs?
Lulushe: But we are not made of mud and dregs.
Adham-Uti: I am supposed to have died of a stroke? Why a stroke? How do they know I didn’t die of rabies or of anthrax?
Lulushe: That is a very good question.
Adham-Uti: An evil person, me? What do you think?
Lulushe: I think you are a... fine person.
Adham-Uti: Oh, a world of deceit indeed. People have praised me all my life, and when I die, they call me evil, they insult me, they throw mud at me! Oh, Oh... (Zeneli enters)
Adham-Uti, Lulushe, Zeneli
Adham-Uti: Why in God’s name did you show my obituary to Miss Lulushe, Zeneli?
Zeneli: I’m very sorry. I forgot it was on the table.
Adham-Uti: That was a big mistake. Listen here! What possibly made you think that I was about to die?
Zeneli (surprised): I, I don’t really know.
Adham-Uti: And what kind of death do you personally think I will suffer?
Zeneli: I imagine, Doctor Efendi, that you might slip and fall off a cliff.
Adham-Uti: Very good, but I do not intend to go climbing.
Zeneli: That is probably a good idea.
Adham-Uti: But why does the obituary say I died of a stroke?
Zeneli: Well, perhaps because you have a thick neck, and anyway, you seem to lose your temper quite often.
Adham-Uti: That is quite true, but I’m not insane. Why all the effort for an obituary which has not been published in the newspaper? And it never will be, because, I swear to God, I do not intend to die, ever! May the devil take that journalist and the obituary he wrote! (He seizes the text and tears it angrily to pieces)
Zeneli: Don’t do it, Doctor Efendi! Don’t upset yourself because you might have a stroke. What are you doing? Why are you tearing up the obituary? How am I going to piece it back together? What is my boss going to say? What about all the work? At least.. Damn, you promised me...
Adham-Uti: Promised you what?
Zeneli: Two more silver coins.
Adham-Uti: What? You insult me and you want me to pay you for it? Are you out of your mind?
Zeneli: What? You mean that Doctor Adham-Uti is breaking his word of honour? Next time I’ll ask for payment in advance.
Lulushe: Did you find my obituary, Zeneli?
Zeneli: I was about to look around for it, when all this uproar began and I rushed back to see what was going on. But you will have to pay me five silver coins in advance. Otherwise...
Lulushe: Two coins, like the doctor.
Zeneli: No, woman, more than that!
Lulushe: We poor women!
Zeneli: And are you willing to pay me even if they insult you?
Lulushe: Don’t worry. Let them insult me! I’ll pay you whatever they say. (To Adham-Uti): We only want to know what they say about us when we pass on.
Zeneli: Are you going to tear up the article?
Lulushe: Not at all!
Zeneli: Do you swear you won’t?
Lulushe: I give you my word.
Zeneli: Alright, I’ll go and get it. (He departs)
Miss Lulushe, Adham-Uti
Adham-Uti: Isn’t what I have suffered enough? Do you really want to suffer too?
Lulushe: Yes, I must know what they say about me. Oh, I am well aware of how they flatter women as long as we are alive. But after death, the truth always comes out. Nothing is sacred anymore.
Adham-Uti: Truth? So you believe what they wrote about me is the truth?
Lulushe: I beg your pardon, sir. No one is without fault, and newspapers certainly make mistakes. But, who knows? One day, in a hundred years, in two hundred years, the truth will come out.
Adham-Uti: In two hundred years! I want them to know who I really am right now.
Lulushe: When a man is dead, what do a hundred, two hundred or a thousand years mean?
Adham-Uti, Lulushe, Zeneli
Zeneli (approaches Lulushe and says): It was a struggle, but I found it.
Lulushe: Oh, thank you, Zeneli. Here are the silver coins.
Zeneli: I am much obliged to you. (To himself): At least you kept your word. (In a loud voice): Splendid weather today, don’t you think, although it is a bit chilly. Would you like me to light the fire?
Adham-Uti: Why not? (Zeneli lights the fire and departs)
Adham-Uti: Let us see what they have to say about you.
Lulushe: Yes, let’s have a look. Why is my hand trembling?
Adham-Uti: You are not afraid, are you?
Lulushe: Afraid? By no means. You will see. (She sits down and reads the obituary): "Miss Lulushe passed away..." (Her hand falls). But I don’t even know what I have! What did I die of? I do feel a bit queasy. I have the feeling I am beginning to faint. I think I am dying.
Adham-Uti (taking the article from her): Let me read it. (He reads) "It is with great affliction that we learned that Miss Lulushe has passed away suddenly and quite unexpectedly. In tomorrow’s edition we will publish more details about this angel, about this fair flower, fairer than anyone else in the country."
Lulushe (satisfied): Angel! Flower!
Adham-Uti (furious): Damn! Praise for a woman and nothing but ridicule for a healer like myself.
Lulushe: Please, sir, do not allow yourself to become upset.
Adham-Uti (furious): No, no. You are quite right. Read on for yourself.
Lulushe (taking the article and reading): "It remains only to add that the late Lulushe was not simply a fair and wise lady, but also a teacher of great learning. She was a kind soul, filled with feelings of friendship and boundless love!" (In tears): How true! That is me, all right. (Continuing to read): "Thus, when the news of her death spread through town, men and women, boys and girls, moaned and lamented in sorrow, No one failed to attend her final farewell, tears streaming down their faces. At once, her home was filled with visitors, with bouquets of flowers, among which was one bouquet of splendid roses and violets sent by Mr Vurko who could hardly retain his grief! (In tears): How beautiful! How beautiful it must have been! And Mr Vurko, how kind of him to send the flowers. How badly I have treated him, never giving him a glance. I even refused to listen to the poetry he wrote about me. How he must have loved me!
Adham-Uti: Are you finished?
Lulushe: Yes, I am, sir. Perhaps it is better that they didn’t mention what I died of.
Adham-Uti: They at least let you die of whatever you wanted. I had to have a stroke, whether I wanted one or not. That’s what it is to be an attractive woman. They flatter you, send you flowers, raise you to the heavens.
Lulushe: Never believe that all your neighbours are your friends.
Adham-Uti: In my case, they were all enemies. You were lucky!
Lulushe: Do not think that I did not suffer while I was alive.
Adham-Uti: And now?
Lulushe: What was it all worth? When a person dies, things lose their significance.
Adham-Uti: Don’t worry. You’re not really dead yet.
Lulushe: Well, you’re not dead either!
Adham-Uti: Me? If I hadn’t wanted to live, I would have killed myself.
Lulushe: What? For a bad obituary?
Adham-Uti: No, no! And I do not intend to die without exacting vengeance. Look. This manuscript here contains my greatest achievement. It is a new Albanian alphabet and it is only with the help of this alphabet that our language can progress. There is no other way of writing it.
Lulushe: What do you mean? We have been writing quite well with Latin letters for some time now, and...
Adham-Uti: Nonsense! The Moslems are upset. And the Arabic letters which Haxhi Aliu has proposed upset the Christians.
Adham-Uti: So, I put my brain to the matter and came up with something to satisfy both sides.
Lulushe: And what is the solution?
Adham-Uti: Using Greek letters to satisfy the Christians.
Lulushe: Very good, but...
Adham-Uti: And we must learn to write them like the Arabs, from right to left, so that the Moslem Albanians will be satisfied, too.
Lulushe: How can we learn to write like that?
Adham-Uti: That is precisely what this new alphabet is for. But now, I am not going to show it to anyone or publish it at all. To hell with the Albanians and the Albanian language! I’m not publishing it because they don’t even recognize my qualities. They ridicule me. I am going to take supreme revenge... I am going to burn my alphabet! (He tosses it into the fire)
Lulushe: Oh, no! Don’t do that. How can you do such harm to our poor nation?.
Adham-Uti (in a rage): Yes, yes. Let the alphabet burn! If the Albanians are that evil, let them stew in hell. They shall never see my alphabet at all!
First Zeneli, then Vurko
Zeneli (angrily to Adham-Uti): What are you doing, sir? Are you trying to burn the whole building down?
Adham-Uti: I hope all of Albania catches fire.
Zeneli: And what will the Young Turks do then? (To Miss Lulushe): Where did you put the obituary?
Lulushe (with satisfaction): Here you are, Zeneli. Thank you. (she hands it to him)
Zeneli: Thank you. I am going to put it back where it belongs. (To Adham-Uti): Listen, Doctor Efendi, my boss asked me over the telephone to tell you that he has no time today to come and see your Albanian alphabet.
Adham-Uti (angrily): He is not going to see it today and is not going to see it tomorrow or ever! (He departs in a huff, stroking his beard. Zeneli then departs too and bumps into Mr Vurko)
Vurko: (Pretending at first not to have seen Lulushe): Why, Miss Lulushe has honoured us with her presence!
Lulushe: Oh, Mr Vurko! How are you, my dear Mr Vurko?
Vurko: Please, do have a seat, miss. How are things going here?
Lulushe: Where have you been all this time, my good sir?
Vurko: I was with Skëndo.
Lulushe: I do hope he is well.
Vurko: He is fine, thanks be to the Blessed Virgin.
Lulushe: What a fine coincidence that I should meet you here because I wanted to thank you for...
Vurko: For what, miss?
Lulushe: For the bouquet of beautiful flowers you sent me the day I died.
Vurko (surprised): The day you died? God forbid!
Lulushe: Yes, quite true. You do not understand. You did not see what went on here. Listen, Mr Vurko, from now on you may consider me to be your friend. Your true friend and companion. A friend in body and soul. And you can come over to my house whenever you wish and recite the beautiful poetry you have written about me! (she approaches and gives Vurko her hand which he takes and kisses in rapture).
Vurko: (He watches Lulushe as she departs and begins to sing to himself):
"Lulushe, my lovely,
How I long for your embrace!..."
[Pas vdekjes, 1910, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]