SEE authors abroad - Part 2

posted by sab on 2006/09/07 18:17

[ SEE authors abroad ]

For a while, there has been no entry on authors abroad - though there is an abundance of SEE authors who have spent parts or most of their lifes abroad, reflecting - amongst other things - on topics like migration and 'Balkan' experiences in a variety of ways. Their presence in the web keeps growing, albeit slowly - as is the case with Martin Camaj (btw, this link is referring to a Wikipedia entry on the Albanian Wikipedia).

A short biography and some of his poems in English can be found on and on Robert Elsie's Albanian literature site:


Camaj (1925-1992) was born in Temali in the Dukagjin region of the northern Albanian alps. He is an émigré writer of significance both for Albanian literature and for Albanian scholarship. He received a classical education at the Jesuit Saverian college in Shkodër and studied at the University of Belgrade. From there he went on to do postgraduate research in Italy, where he taught Albanian and finished his studies in linguistics at the University of Rome in 1960. From 1970 to 1990 he served as professor of Albanian studies at the University of Munich and lived in the mountain village of Lenggries in Upper Bavaria until his death on 12 March 1992.

Camaj's academic research has concentrated on the Albanian language and its dialects, in particular those of southern Italy. His literary activities over a period of forty-five years cover several phases of development. He began with poetry, a genre to which he remained faithful throughout his life, but in later years also devoted himself increasingly to prose. His first volumes of classical verse Nji fyell ndër male, Prishtina 1953 (A flute in the mountains), and Kânga e vërrinit, Prishtina 1954 (Song of the lowland pastures), were inspired by his native northern Albanian mountains for which he never lost his attachment, despite long years of exile and the impossibility of return. These were followed by Djella, Rome 1958 (Djella), a novel interspersed with verse about the love of a teacher for a young girl of the lowlands. His verse collections Legjenda, Rome 1964 (Legends) and Lirika mes dy moteve, Munich 1967 (Lyrics between two ages), which contained revised versions of a number of poems from Kânga e vërrinit, were reprinted in Poezi 1953-1967, Munich 1981 (Poetry 1953-1967). Camaj's mature verse reflects the influence of the hermetic movement of Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970). The metaphoric and symbolic character of his language increases with time as does the range of his poetic themes. A selection of his poetry has been translated into English by Leonard Fox in the volumes Selected Poetry, New York 1990, and Palimpsest, Munich & New York 1991.

The blog Ostracised from Österreich has an entry on Martin Camaj with a poem in German translation; also worth mentioning is the bilingual edition of his poetry, Weißgefedert wie ein Rabe/Me pendlat e korbit të bardhë, translated by Hans-Joachim Lanksch (click here for a review of this edition). The poems continue to amaze me, partly because some of them seem so much outside of any fixed time or place, and yet they are not at all, like the following one:

Mbas kryqëzimit të zogjve

Erret nata e fundit e dashunisë
nisë si për lojë:
ai ec në shputa të larme
shpendësh dimnues në Veri
nëpër banesën shum-dritaresh.
Zogëza mat trollin me kambë të zeza
para se me u nisë për Jug:

zanet e jashtme të botës ushtojnë
dhe rruga asht e ndame dyshë,
gjysma akull e gjysma diell.

Kreuzung der Vögel

Nachtanbruch letzter Liebe
spielerisch gekeimt:
er geht buntbesohlt
wie einer der im Norden über Winter
hinter vielen Fenstern haust.
Auf schwarzen Füßen schreitet sie
jung und schön
vor dem Aufbruch nach Süden

von außen schallen die Stimmen der Welt
und der Weg ist zweigeteilt:
halb Eis
halb Sonne.

Apart from writing his poetry in Gheg, he has also published an Albanian Grammar that takes this northern dialect into account. He thus fuelled parts of the - still popular - discussion about Kosovar identity.

Identity questions again - a more recent article on the topic can be found in Transitions online, under the title Question Time, written by Robert Murray Davis.

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The imagineSEE-weblog is a space about ideas, images, (re)inventions and (re)constructions of and about the Balkans, from outside and within SEE.

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This is a part of the collage 'The Black File' by Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic, who will be represented at documenta 12 (16/6-23/9) in Kassel this year.

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