By Artan Gjyzel Hasani
-The black shadow of glory: A confession without witnesses!-
Memorie.al / This is a true story, which I cannot prove before you as such. The reliable witnesses are long dead, while a somewhat less important witness has just turned ninety. When you get to the end of this story, I don’t ask you to believe it. Nor do I hesitate to undo things that cannot be undone. Nor create media noise or sensation. But I ask for only one thing: that you think that the truth can be as I am telling you. That would be enough for me. As long as my father was alive, he did not want us to put this story in his mouth. After his death, I tried several times to write it in the form of a story, but I didn’t. I have always waited for the moment when I would tell it as it happened. And, I’m doing it today.
The story begins in the summer of 1976, in Tirana. It starts with a story. A story that my father would write about the singer Mentor Xhemali, whose voice fascinated him. The idea came to him after a conversation with his acquaintance, the singer Avni Mula, who told him interesting details from the unknown life of Mentor Xhemal. Through Avni’s mediation, a meeting was arranged with Mentor, who liked the idea that someone wanted to write a story about him.
They meet a few times; they go to the place where our future bass had caught the eye of someone for the first time for his voice, precisely in the port of Saranda, where he had worked as a porter at the age of 18. After spending the last pennies in hotels and restaurants with Mentor, my father returns to our house in Peshkopi and sits down to write for nights in a row.
How now I remember the pleasure with which he read to me every morning what he had written during the night. The story was finished and a 30-page typed manuscript came out. Mentor Xhemali was in tears when he read the story in the manuscript. My two old friends, Adriatik Kallulli and Vath Koreshi, had liked it.
The newspaper “Drita”, where Vathi worked, had rejected the publication because it was too long a story for a newspaper format. “I will publish it in the magazine ‘Nëntori’ in several consecutive issues”, Vath Koreshi had promised and had received two printed copies of the story.
Months passed, and the story was not being published. My eti’s phone calls with Vathi were rare, considering the timid nature of my eti, when it came to asking for honor and favors from others, whether they were his friends. 1977 also passed and nothing happened. My father never called Vathi again. She was disgusted and tired of the long wait.
That year, Mentor Xhemali retired and it would have been a very meaningful gift to publish that story, exactly in those days. But it didn’t happen. Meanwhile, Vathi had left the editorial office of “Drita” and had started working as a screenwriter in the only Albanian film studio.
One evening at the end of 1978, while we were having dinner, we saw that the new film “General Gramafoni” began to appear on television, which is still considered one of the peaks of Albanian cinematography. Screenwriter of the film, Vath Koreshi. At one point we heard the muffled voice of my heart: “Yes, this is my story”! His face was pale and covered in cold sweat.
I never forget that moment. We were all stunned at home. He calls Vathi the next day. “Gjyzel, I had nothing to do, I couldn’t publish it anywhere, I proposed it to Viktor Gjika, but as soon as he saw your unknown name, he rejected it without reading it, so it stayed dead in the drawer, I changed it a little, removed I added a character clarinetist to Mentor, added some other lines and adapted it for a movie script”!
After hanging up the phone, the father took the original manuscript of the story and tore it to pieces. For many years, I did not understand why he had torn up the original, the only written proof. This was also the end of my old friendship with Vath Koresh. A murderous disappointment that accompanied him until he left this world. He never wrote fiction again.
When I opened this conversation to him many years later and told him that this story should be written, he answered me: “And who will believe you? Where do you have the original manuscript?! How will you prove to the public that I was the author”?!
“But why did you tear the original?”, I had asked him, while taking care of him while he was languishing in bed before his death. “I didn’t need it anymore. I never thought of discrediting Vathi in public. We were very friends. I still can’t believe how he did that to me…”!
It remains a mystery how Mentor Xhemali agreed to participate with his voice in the filming of this film with the script that was originally written just for him! He never met his father again. Mentor, Vathi and my father have been gone for a long time. Have other people been aware of this story? Those friends and comrades of mine, who knew, are no longer alive.
Adriatik Kallulli, Jorgo Bllaci, Herkul Tartari, doctor Lame Koçi, journalist Fatos Cekodhima, is some of them. Not very sure, but maybe he knows Skifter Kelliçi, who is still alive…! But what does it matter, I don’t expect anyone to confirm to me since I myself am a witness to this whole matter.
This old story came to mind today and I was thinking: Oh my god he tore up the original manuscript, but it’s the stolen movie script itself that gives the proof. The film talks about a musician, a clarinetist, who was recorded by the Italians during the occupation, on gramophone records.
In reality, this happened, but with the porter Mentor Xhemalin, and not with any kind of clarinetist, and this very detail was also the axis around which my story was built. They recorded Mentor Xhemali on a gramophone record, popular Italian songs of that era and on the other side of the record folk songs. No orchestra. Except with his voice.
They recorded them as proof that they wanted to take them to the record company in Milan, so that they could evaluate if it was worth it. But, a few months later, Mentor fled to Durrës, and from there he became a partisan. This fact remains the only evidence that I bring to you in this sad story, which I do not ask you to believe as true, but to think that it could be true…! Memorie.al