Attilio Bertolucci, 1999
"I never read a book so beautiful, but baffling; so imbued with lyricism, but bitter as poison; so truthful that you immediately want to read Holy Scripture again; so present that you regret the past; so pungent that you feel you should wear gloves when flipping the pages."
Stelvio Mestrovich Wotnynski, 2010
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Pantheon in BlackoutPOEMS
By Shpend Sollaku Noé
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Shpend Sollaku Noé
All right reserved.
Chapter OneS. S. Noé and Evolution of a Metaphor
Notes about the life and activity of Shpend Sollaku Noé
by Attilio Bertolucci
S. S. Noé is known as a poet, writer, politician, professor, literary critic, and investigative journalist in the field of state nomenclature corruption and symbioses with organized crime.
Noé is one of the first organizers and leaders of the opposition who, risking his life, made possible the collapse of communism in the East; is one of the pioneer publishers of neodemocratic East European press; is the first who denounced the Mafia's penetration in the East and infiltration of organized crime in the state nomenclatures; is the first who denounced the war in the Balkans (especially in Bosnia and Kosovo) and predicted the length of its development; is the first who, when the West applauded the victory of democracy in Eastern Europe, warned of the swift return in power of cryptocommunists.
Noé was born in Albania on April 3, 1957, in a family of clerks. He had a difficult childhood because when he was three years old, his father, a monarchist, was sentenced to imprisonment as a so-called saboteur of the Hoxha regime. Noé, his mother, and his five siblings experienced, besides the economic hardship, the psychological violence and terror of class war. Noé, who was the youngest child, lived painfully through the confiscation of the house, expulsion from school of his brother, and imitation of cross-handed handcuffs on the streets by the children of censors. His mother, a teacher, was transferred far away from home, and his oldest brother, although still a teenager, played the father's role. He obliged his sibling in reading books and listening to classical music all day, miraculously saving them from the ugly consequences of marginalization.
During childhood, Noé read adult-level books and started to write intensively and even to publish. He wrote stories, drama, and poetry. At fourteen years old, Noé won a music contest in capital of Tirana, but he couldn't continue the Artistic Lyceum. Back in his hometown, he was enrolled in high school and was an outstanding student. He continued to pursue reading, writing, and, occasionally, publishing.
At the same time, Noé became engaged as an actor, singer, librettist, and "show friend" and started to attend antiregime events. During his high-school years, two national seminars for young talent were organized, and Noé was the dominant author and presenter. He ended his time at the school with excellent achievement, but he jeopardized his high-school degree by wearing a pair of supposedly anticommunist pants and by singing in a park some famous foreign songs with a group of friends. The excellent grades weren't enough to earn him the right to continue university, and he desperately sought his right to study for three straight years.
At eighteen years old, he prepared his first book, The Sphinx, after publishing in newspapers and magazines. Ismail Kadare, a great Albanian writer and a political exile in France since 1989, wrote to the chief of the Naim Frashëri publishing house, "The author of these verses is a boy with original talent. I ask, if it is possible, to make the book review."
Kadare's request was rejected. Everything that was good to Kadare was ugly and dangerous to publishers of the regime. Publication of Noé's book was denied, and he was pressured to return to the traditional cliché of socialist realism.
In 1978, thanks to the energetic intervention of the League of Writers and Artists and, personally, its president, the great poet Dritëro Agolli, to Hoxha himself, Noé won the right, "outside the criteria," to study in Albanian language and literature. But as soon as he was registered at university, they posted him on the island of Sazan to perform military service for three years as a sailor. There he was forced to perform twelve-hour service each twenty-four hours, and later on to do hard labor digging tunnels!
In this period, Noé secretly attended lectures, risking his arrest because soldiers were prohibited by law to frequent schools. He finished all the exams in a few months (completing the first year in five days: it was normal for him to take two exams or even three exams a day and still earn the best grades).
In 1980 his father died, but army officers did not tell him. Alerted by a postman soldier, he left the island of Sazan at midnight on a freighter and reached home a few hours before the funeral. The return to the island was infernal: special surveillance, tunnel work, and no more permits to see his family. It was his elderly mother who, though sick, traveled to give him prohibited literature.
After the army, in 1982, Noé began work as a teacher in the town of Lushnje, but since he was an undesirable element, he was moved to one of the poorest villages of Albania, in a high school where children of political prisoners were also studying. He could no longer dream of becoming a singer (his voice was checked by party militants and was deemed too Western) or an actor. In the village where Noé taught, he managed to create a new talent group with his students, whose work was published even in national periodicals, transforming the municipality into a provisional center of the school literary movement. He began, though in peril, to make active the children of political deportees (an act strictly banned by the regime). At the same time, he was trying to publish criticism, translations from Russian and Italian, poetry, and so on, and had prepared a collection of short stories. But his work was in vain, as he received no answer from publishers.
In 1985, the dictator Hoxha died. His successor, Ramis Alia, realizing that "evil" would come from intellectuals, created a climate seemingly more lenient in dealing with writers and artists. Noé was hired again in Lushnje to teach in main high schools.
Finally, in 1987, he succeeded in publishing his poetry book The Azure Colts, but after publication, it was immediately censored by the regime. The book was partially republished in 1988 with many missing poems.
The years 1989–1990 represent the political turning point of Eastern Europe and mark the beginning of Noé's most productive period. In 1990, he founded the Party of Free Will (PFW) with other unsatisfied intellectuals. Understanding the proximity to the Democratic Party (DP) program (in its beginning the party of intellectual youth and students), Noé decided to mediate and step in with his supporters in the DP. (The main reason was economic failure of PFW.) Observing the betrayal of ideas on which the DP was established, soon Noé and some other members left the DP and went to strengthen the ranks of the newly born Republican Party (RP). Noé was elected as a member of the National Leadership Committee of the RP, in which he would quickly become a prominent personage and would influence the resolution of main problems in two presidential elections and the elimination of the pro-communist faction inside the party. Simultaneously, Noé led the party of Lushnje region (main container of the Republican Party) and dealt with organization of Republicans in other districts of the country.
In those years, Noé also engaged in journalism. He founded the newspaper Ora e Fjales (Word Time) and influenced the image of another opposition newspaper, Republika. He wrote too many articles using different names. At the same time, the field of battle was not only the fight against communism dictatorship, but also, and especially, against new political monism represented by the so-called crypto-communist party in power. He was very active in denouncing the infiltration of organized crime in nomenclatures of Eastern Europe. At rallies and articles, Noé would say only the truth, risking his life and becoming prey to the court of Tirana in April 1992.
With betrayed ideals and helpless to save himself and his family (his wife and son), Noé decided to leave Albania and sought political asylum in Italy (in 1992, after the so-called victory of democracy in the East, Noé's family was the only one in Italy to be given political asylum).
With interviews, articles, and published books, and with speeches in streets and theaters, Noé was the first who sounded the alarm about everything that was going on, and especially for the future of Albania, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.
In Italy, Noé has published The Reign of Prohibition (Dismisuratesti, 1995), To Applaud Caligula (Florence Book, 1997), With the Cross on Back to Galilee (Libroitaliano, 1999), Suicide of the Leaves (translations from Albanian into Italian of Ferdinand Laholli) (Dismisuratesti, 1995), and Crowd's Destiny (poetry of Hajdin Abazi) (Dismisuratesti, 1996). Noé has translated selected poetry from many other Albanian authors, such as F. Haliti, V. Zhiti, J. Radi, and so on. He also has translated from Italian into Albanian selected poetry from Pascoli, Pavese, Croce, Ungaretti, Quasimodo, Mestrovich, and others. A good part of his works is written in Italian and Albanian, and his books are illustrated by the author himself (covers, murals, and photo poetry). Noé's works have been translated into German, Swedish, English, Romanian, and Spanish and are published or sold in more than seventy countries, such as Italy, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the United States, India, Japan, Canada, Australia, England, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Norway, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, China, Russia, and some of the Arab countries. His verses are included in world anthologies in English and German.
Many major Italian and foreign newspapers, such as Il Messaggero, Il Tempo, Dismisura, Ciociaria Oggi, Gazzeta di Parma, CIR-Notizie, Alto Adige, La Nazione, Il Tirreno, Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry, Das Boot, Log, Rustic Rub, and Parnassus of World Poets, and bilingual magazines of Albanian diasporas in the world have written about Noé's works. His works are introduced by important personages of Italian literature and politics, from national leaders of Amnesty International in Rome to Gianfranco Fini.
It is worth mentioning that he occasionally gave important interviews for television networks, such as RAI, Mediaset, TVN, RTTR, GBR, and so on. They continue, along with the Italian national radio, to echo the works and personality of Noé.
Introduction of the book To Applaud Caligula, Florence, 1997
Simple Advice How to Read Pantheon in Blackout
by Stelvio Mestrovich Wotnynski
This poetry book is divided into five sections: "Telegram from the Sepulcher," "Mare Nostrum," "Murus Noster," "Check Up on Homer," and "Barcodes."
"Telegram from the Sepulcher" includes poetry from the books The Sphinx, The Reign of Prohibition, and To Applaud Caligula.
The author is Shpend Sollaku Noé, a professor, a journalist, and, above all, a supreme poet. He was born on April 3, 1957, in Lushnje, Albania, a fertile land of poets and lovers of poetry, and he has lived in Italy since 1992 as a political refugee. Noé always has fought for the protection of human rights and, specifically, having experienced firsthand the horrors of dictatorship, for the rights of emigrants and political exiles.
Before speaking of Pantheon in Blackout, it is necessary to mention his other books, such as The Azure Colts, The Balkan Colombia, The Short Century of the Balkans, and A Place on Foot to Galilee, published in Italy in Italian, except for The Azure Colts. Additionally, Abysses-Voragini and Barcodes—Codici a Barre were published in the United States in 2009 and 2010 in Italian and English.
I have known Noé for years, and we are bonded in a deep friendship. I am also a refugee from Dalmatia. Years ago, I presented him in Lucca, on the premises of the Cultural Association "Cesare Viviani." Never had that room been so full of people, and all listened attentively to the words of the poet. Many people asked questions, and he answered them all with calmness and intelligence. Some of his poems were read by an actor and aroused the interest and excitement of all in the room. Still today, people remember Noé and his biting poetry. Yes, because his poems leave a mark, they are not floral buds that you admire and then forget, but thorns—painful spines that are hard to make disappear.
Noé is a wonderful man who did not make of poetry the reason for his life, but of his life a poem. And there's a big difference in this.
His muse is not a badge, a slick ornament on the jacket to show off in evenings with friends or in public places, but a fist in a velvet glove that perplexes and also causes to reflect even the last of the unwary.
My whole body is a pain of an improbable eruption.
With these brief words opens Pantheon in Blackout.
The cliff already eroded, but the wave is dead, too.
I yell, scream, but you lack the ears.
Even more tragic.
If the reader who is going to face this book will skip its introduction, and would like to imagine himself immersed in a world of fairy tales and enchantment, framed by a romance that relaxes the mind as he enjoys the green grass of Eden, he should put this volume down on the table and turn on the television, enjoying, perhaps, some stupid reality show.
This book, like all Noé's books, is a fully equipped gym where the gray matter of memory trains, sweats, and toils. Each poem must be considered—not because they are difficult to understand, as the style of Noé is as simple it can be because truth is simple, no, but for its intrinsic value, for the message it offers, and for the strong emotion it produces.
The poem "Mare Nostrum" divides the sea in winter, spring, summer, and autumn. And like "The Four Seasons" by Vivaldi, imbued with pathos, "Mare Nostrum" is devilishly subjected to a kind of anatomy of poetry. And here's the proof: the winter sea is a cemetery sea/an enemy sea/a usurer sea/a tomb sea. "It feels good at Vlore," the spring sea, that litigates with his summer's twin and denounces autumn's stepbrother. "Presumptuous" because it refuses the kiss of the spring sea, because doesn't speak to the winter sea, because it ignores the autumn sea—this is the summer sea. The sea of " fake Noé," agents of souls. And "sopping," "unhealthy," "Polyphemus sea," "sea of Sejnane," and "scorpion sea" are the names of the autumn sea.
In the poem "Murus Noster," a.k.a. "Poem of Bats," Noé states bluntly that The barbed wire is the most beautiful jewel on a wall.
Analyze this verse, its content. It is, poetically speaking, of extraordinary beauty, but de facto a painful truth.
How many walls are there for human stupidity? Walls that are silent/walls that press/walls that leave/walls that remain.
The building of a wall to divide two nations, or even worse, the same state or the city itself (see Gorizia) is a concrete proof, not abstract, of human barbarity, incivility, and lack of democracy, a disregard for peace and universal coexistence. This is what poetry has been preaching for centuries. This is what our Noé is preaching in a modern and stinging way. Poetry should be the antidote to nationalism, religion, egoism, hostility, boundaries, wars, racism. It is the new gospel that longs for peace, the equality of people, the true freedom (and not those artfully feigned), and the union of cultures. When man is freed from atavistic restraints, man will be poet.
And that is why Noé—it seems a joke, but it is not—turns to Homer, the father of poets, in a Poem of Coffeehouse ("Check Up on Homer"). He wants to chat, with notes of Iliad and Odyssey in his pocket, searching and calling him my delight. But where he could find him? In hell, paradise, or purgatory?
And Noé launches his tirade: Telemachus, ten years after the excruciating roar of Troy, makes regular use of drugs among discotheques and clandestine mega cylinder races. Penelope crafts soirees, because her suitors prefer the stunning reality show. Helen and Menelaus are "literary" precursors of immorality, which already become mode. And Ulysses? An infidel and inventor of orgies.
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