How did you find your way to me?
My mother does not know Albanian well,
She writes letters like Aragon, without commas and periods,
My father roamed the seas in his youth,
But you have come,
Walking down the pavement of my quiet city of stone,
And knocked timidly at the door of my three-storey house,
At Number 16.
There are many things I have loved and hated in life,
For many a problem I have been an ‘open city’,
Like a young man returning home late at night,
Exhausted and broken by his nocturnal wanderings,
Here too am I, returning to you,
Worn out after another escapade.
Not holding my infidelity against me,
Stroke my hair tenderly,
My last stop,
Ismail Kadare, 1959
Translated by Robert Elsie
At the age of 80, Ismail Kadare has lived through the Second World War, the Communist regime in Albania, and the fall of the Soviet Union. After his studies at the University of Tirana, Kadare worked for a time in the Gorky Institute in Moscow as an official writer of the regime, which cemented his hatred for censorship and indoctrination. After the fall of the Soviet Union he was called upon to become president, a suggestion which he swiftly declined. Based primarily in Paris, he has achieved significant recognition in the West, and won the Man Booker International Prize in 2005. I couldn’t go past his tender love-letter to poetry, and now look forward to reading some of his novels.
In ‘Around the World in 230 poems’, I will share a poem from every country in the world.