April 21, 2016 | Thursday
Kosovo’s Authors: In search of closure!
By Albatros Rexhaj
A character leading a double life – trapped between yearnings of the soul and the scarce opportunity afforded by reality – who spends most of his time dealing with all things mundane, torturing the soul with the most trivial of things in a life of a commoner, struggling to earn just enough to preserve his dignity. And yet, for all the physical and spiritual fatigue, he always manages to find some time for his occupation as an artist, which amidst the reality of twisted values, turns to a hobby and passion that feeds the soul.
This character is a writer, but he may just as well be any other artist in Kosovo. A typical character of unfinished stories, where the author can neither glimpse nor find the happy ending. A hostage to the noblest of dreams and drives of his soul! It is at this point that his biggest suffering is conceived, suffering of a soul unable to reconcile with the reality at hand.
To write about the challenges of being a writer in Kosovo, to me, is a very personal experience; with the power to transpose me to a dimension where sorrow turns to rage. In spite of record sales, I am also very aware that even the most successful among us are unable to make a dignified living from our work as writers or artists, without needing to dabble in other occupations.
I feel like a character that fled an unfinished novel, who is now looking for the author with unwavering determination.
In a perpetual dilemma!
Should I worship him as my Creator?
Or, should I scold him for punishing me to an eternal quest for happiness, in a world where happiness is only seen as a utopia?
These are the verses at the opening of my last book, my attempt to find an answer to the question: what makes a writer happy?
Proponents of vanity will undoubtedly shout “fame”, as in their world, something is of value only if converted into publicity. But an artist knows full well that fame holds no value, if devoid of deserved appreciation for the work itself. “Appreciation” does not merely mean good reviews and similar empty eulogies, rather an opportunity for a writer to make dignified living from his own work.
The book market in Kosovo is far from being even a semblance of industrial entrepreneurship, capable of producing revenue, as ultimately a work of art, such as the book, is a product, albeit an intellectual, but one that, nonetheless, needs to have its market and a deserving social merit. The sad reality is that our society, caught in the labyrinth of many other problems, often most basic, will hardly contemplate affording due attention to intellectual/artistic products. However, as if it were not enough, these difficulties are coupled with our cultural isolation, that prohibits penetration to a larger market. For entirely non-cultural and artistic reasons, owing to absurd political blockades, the writers of Kosovo, but also others, are not made part of the cultural programmes, literary or artistic exchanges that occur under the auspices of the European Union, and almost all our contacts are developed through private channels.
We are physically part of Europe, even at the heart of it, formerly the cradle of European civilization; we are, however, deprived of the right to be part of the European cultural family. According to creators of European identity, the European Union, as a symbol of the new Europe, represents a cultural approximation above all, a union of common civic values, which are then perpetuated into common economic, political and legal norms. Therefore, the European approach towards Kosovo artists is awry, as it indirectly implies that our European values should be brewed by politics rather than the world of arts and culture. Paradox!
Which brings me back to the beginning. As well-drawn and motivated as a character may be, finding a dignified solution to the end of the story (in this case, the story of a writer in Kosovo) cannot occur, as the story continues to be written by someone else. The thing is, this character will no longer be treated as a victim, but will persist in his right to be happy and end his own story.