Little is known in the literary field pertaining to countries which once formed part of the Soviet bloc. Decades of obscurantism and strict politics forbid authors to freely express their thoughts, see their works published and gain prominence in the literary world, which remained Western under many points of view. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Europe is now discovering a newfound interest in Eastern Europe. Not just in terms of travels and foreign relationships, but also from a cultural perspective.
Out of all the nations which were formed from the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Kosovo certainly stands as the most peculiar: most of its inhabitants speak Albanian, but have been politically and culturally dependant from Belgrade. To this day, Kosovo’s independence as a state is still open to debate, and the European Union has not expressed an opinion on this matter yet, despite Kosovo having been recognised and accepted by several countries. With such undefined situation, one might wonder if there is a cultural voice that defines this country and the answer is not definite as well. There is a voice, but it has no national character. It is more about the people. The truth of the matter is that rarely one speaks of “Kosovar Literature” but it’s more likely one hears of “Albanian Literature of Kosovo“, because that is what it is. But despite this literature being defined through the use of the term “Albanian“, it still holds a peculiarity which makes it a bit foreign to the Albanian ear. The 1990s were a particular hard time for Kosovo and in the years leading to the 1999 war, the country’s dissidents could either be threatened or worse. Discrimination and the strictness of Serbian rule did not allow this generation of Albanian speaking writers to express themselves. In addition to the chaos and repression taking place in Kosovo, the country’s intellectual minds had language issues to overcome: having been denied access to Albanian as a language as part of the educational system in Kosovo, barriers could then be found in literary form.
Despite all these hurdles, many authors are now recognised as “Albanian writers from Kosovo“. Eqrem Basha is one of the most important names in this field. Once Yugoslavian (he was born in the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1948), Basha studied in Pristina and later moved to France for a period of time. He has published eight books of poetry and three collections of short stories and one of his most popular books, whose translated title is “The Night Shadows“, was published in 1999 and tells of war and its atrocious acts, something which plagued his country for years. “Nata është dita jonë” (“The Night Is Our Day“; 2007) is Rexhep Qosja’s latest book: this novel depicts human instincts and behaviours where rational and irrational thoughts combine and clash. Fully involved in politics, Qosja was a prominent figure in peace talks and defends human rights for the Albanian people of Kosovo. A while ago, he notoriously criticised fellow writer Ismail Kadare for defining Albanian identity as Western and in response claimed it to rather be a mixture of Western and Eastern cultures, and of both Christian and Muslim faith as well. Zejnullah Rrahmani has been working on novels since 1974. His work “Romani për Kosovën” (“Novel For Kosovars”; 1999) has quite a clear purpose in its title. Other prominent authors are poet and critic Sabri Hamiti, poets Ali Podrimja, Azem Shkreli and Flora Brovina among others.
Besides developing new approaches and moving forward in its evolution, European Literature should start to emphasise the place and role of these authors, encourage analyses and critical approaches both in the academic world and in culture in general. European countries must start to dialogue with these cultures and peoples, embrace their heritage and learn new perspectives. In these times of crises, where the old world often self-references itself, a new direction is more than needed.