From Leka Toto
Memorie.al / Leka Toto were born in Tirana on February 14, 1934. After finishing high school at the Tirana gymnasium, he was able to begin his studies at the Faculty of Law of the State University of Tirana, but in 1956, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment freedom, being accused of attempted escape. He was released from prison in 1964 (where the convicts worked for the construction of the Superphosphate Plant in Laç), but the ordeal of the sufferings of Leka Toto, who is also the son of Ismet Toto, the well-known publicist and politician of the Bird Monarchy period (and the grandson of Et’hem and Selaudin Toto, who was shot with the Group of Deputies in 1947), will not end there: he works as a manual laborer first in agriculture and then as an ironworker in construction enterprises, always under pressure of the class struggle, as a “declassed man”. In December 1990, he engaged with the democratic movement and processes and, starting from this, in the elections of March 22, 1992, he was elected deputy of the Democratic Party for the area of Delvina and Saranda. Then for several years he served as a functionary (organization branch) in the Democratic Party, where he was also a member of the presidency. Leka Toto passed away in 2001, after a serious illness. Having a wide cultural background, since his youth Leka Tota was engaged in various writings, mainly of a literary and philosophical nature, but without ever attempting to publish, due to the effect of the family biography. He was able to do this only after the 90s, where he explored the genres of prose, journalism, drama and translation, managing to publish several works, among which we can mention: “Sakipi”, “Vetkryqezimi”, “St. Friday” and “I’m reading myself”.
FRAGMENT FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL BOOK “I’M READING MYSELF”
Continues from last issue
The cell was wider than under the stairs, much higher and fortunately boarded. In the ceiling there was a small square window crossed from where you could see the sky in four pieces, as Migjeni says in his verse. In the middle of it hung a dim electric lamp that burned day and night.
I sat down next to the wall next to the gate, supported my back and gathered my legs, wrapping them with both hands. I couldn’t be more collected. It seemed to me that the thoughts in my head had accumulated so tightly that they had lost their form. They could not be separated from each other. They swirled in a viscous blur as their erratic movements caused me pain.
It didn’t take long, as much time as the brain, as always in such cases, feels it necessary to protect itself: suddenly the bunches of pine trees withered away. Since I was little, I believed that someone above me, fate or god, in difficult moments, conscious or not of them, revealed my future through legible signs.
They don’t forget me. I don’t know how such a belief was born in me, but without a doubt, the confessions of my grandmother and the troubled life of not being able to decide independently, always in the hands of others, influenced its conception.
Pine spoke very clearly. A fire would start and the one that would burn was obviously me. The excited imagination began its flight without a definite orientation, but its stops were not unreasonable. People on pyres of burning wood and inquisitors looming before them smugly serve the god devoutly.
Haunted, I muttered to myself to each of them: “And this one is burning.” After making a wide circle under the sky that weighed like an inverted coffin, I stopped by a pale man with a sparse beard, who, sitting in an armchair, was reading a poem. It was Dostoevsky of a well-known portrait. His words “and they would have burned Christ” rang out.
The question stuck in my brain like a nail: “Do they burn them or do they want to burn themselves?”. Forty years have passed and I have not been able to answer this question, which I believe will disappear with me. Either way, one thing is clear; in this world there are people who burn and people who warm themselves in their fire. Apparently, I was a dubious member of the first group, perhaps chance had thrown me there.
I am not able to share this yet, but I can certainly say that I had no desire to burn. As there were several piles of pine trees in front of the seller, my mind concluded that fate wanted me to burn up, not immediately, but within a few years. And so it actually happened. We prisoners were crushed in a smoke-filled fire, without bursting into flames, without making light.
The heavy door was forced open. As per the rules, the guard handcuffed me and we both walked down the long corridor without saying a word. We entered a large room opposite. An officer was sitting behind a desk, above him, close to the ceiling, was a wide window with crossed bars. In the middle of the room a concrete chair, motionless, on which I was ordered to sit. Immediately after me, several officers entered, there must have been six or seven, surrounded me and began to question me without respecting any order.
They yelled, laughed, mocked, pushed me, hit me, but fortunately not hard… “What have you done against the government? Where did you want to go? The Hungarian Revolution…?! They repeated these questions several times like a circle of devils, when suddenly a large colonel with a monster face lowered his head and approached me: “What about the bandit Fatmir, do you know him? He has said it all. Everyone else was silent.” “I know him, but he has nothing to say about me,” I said with a trembling voice.
The colonel straightened his body and shouted: “He has nothing to say about you, huh?!”, hitting me so hard in the face with his palm that I fell to the ground with a mouth full of blood. After he kicked me and once in the ribs with the tip of his boot, he addressed me “That’s it for today, if you come with these thoughts tomorrow, I will strangle you. Go away”. A young officer helped me up and led me out of the room by the arm. There the warden was waiting for me, who took me back to the dungeon without saying a word.
I leaned against the wall. I was completely stunned. My face was on fire, beating and weighing me down, my eye almost closed. I swallowed the blood that filled my mouth, for fear that if I spat, the guard would beat me for dirtying the dungeon. Overwhelmed, humiliated, helpless, I burst into a childlike sob. Somehow I was freed, while the thought that this would be repeated tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and who knows where its end would be, set in motion the idea of suicide within me. Never before in my life had I stopped near her.
I don’t know why you appeared to me in the form of a sphinx, no longer of weathered stone, but like a statue cast in a mixture of colorful metals. It sparkled under the blazing sunlight. His two white eyes stared at me. I was shaking all over. In their whiteness I tried in vain to read something. Surely an enigma that cannot be thought danced in them. The blood was pounding in my head and I felt it was pushing me into memories only heard from me by my ancestors.
…Suicide is undoubtedly an intense emotional conflict, where all feelings annihilate each other painfully and cruelly. In those moments you are in the middle of a desert of ash on a planet where there is no life, but when it is tragically sublimated into a moral principle literal, the sounds of a divine flute, agonizing in the heart of every man, beckon you to walk wholeheartedly in the gracious path of true being.
As Hamlet says in his famous monologue, “thought began to yellow the color of resolution”, within me. The idea of suicide began to recede and it seemed to me that it stopped where I could not see it. “You have to do something worth dying for.” It has been a long time; apparently the life in me is dying out naturally. I have not been able, at least until now, to describe what this something is. In difficult moments, in a deep spiritual crisis, I denied its existence, but very soon I reproduced it, not fully convinced, without recognizing it.
…After a day at the end of November. The bitter cold and all the humidity of Tirana had penetrated the walls of my cell. But I was shaking, my teeth were chattering and when I thought about how the night would pass without end, my hair stood on end. Completely helpless from the lack of food, I occasionally did gymnastic movements to warm up, even for a few moments. Then I lay my body somewhat loosely on the floor and so exhausted I waited for sleep, gazing out of the cross window where the clouds flew one after the other without being felt.
It wasn’t coming. I started to move. My hand bumped into some spilled tea a while ago. Several spots were created on which flickered the dim rays of the lamp that did not go out all night. Slowly and timidly they began to approach and there came a moment when they came together, their juices mixed. Although it was the same brown tea liquid, the reflexes changed. In front of my eyes, only one stain remained, which, as usual, happened recently, forgotten by the investigators, took the prominent forms of an anonymous composition. I was presented with a couple caught in the act of sex in a very unfavorable position with the two heads in opposite directions as in gambling cards.
I could not understand why the painter had placed them in this way, what was his purpose. Around the head of what appeared to be a male lay a very clean and well-lit section of floor; his gaze wandered somewhere beyond her where the shadow that came around the room began, while the woman’s head was immersed in old stains and gave the impression that she was enjoying their dirty stench. I rubbed my eyes and turned my head a little, hoping that the composition would disappear, but it didn’t. In contrast, the bodies of the lovers moved with me fueled by an unprecedented lust. For a moment I said to myself: “Don’t get me wrong”?!
…I heard the change of guards at midnight, I couldn’t sleep. It must have been there around two o’clock when a shrill scream broke the silence of that building filled with pains and worries of all kinds. “We did not separate”! Shouted one voice loudly, while the other, which seemed to be leaving in the weaker corridor, “Amanet the children”! These words were repeated several times mixed with the sound of the policemen’s feet and their short calls “quick, quick”!
They took him to shoot the poor man. Everyone in their cells, terrified, felt the other’s pain as if it were their own. I was shaking all over. A cell door slammed shut. It felt like he hit me in the chest and threw me against the wall. Silence without feeling sat on her throne for a while undisturbed.
Left alone within the four walls that suffocated him from time to time he let out a terrifying howl like that of a death-defying dog. Today the prey of death was being given to him by others, there was no need to wander after him and stick his claws in while panting. Those who foolishly love their life, foolishly think that by doing so they take it away from themselves.
They are seriously mistaken; death is the end of life and an integral part of it, in whose arms we will all end; they do not want to understand that it is not an enemy outside of us, but an inner desire of ours for the deep silence and peace of non-existence. The immature man for death is not suitable for its taste; he continues to remain alive and dead at the same time, serving as a catalyst for new questionable compounds in this world.
The shrill screams were becoming rarer, one by one they fell into a murky pool of oil, in a death that slowly succumbed to the enigmatic silence of things; convinced of what happened apparently summed up. Disturbing conjectures and hopes were abandoned to the unknown. A dark sleep must have overtaken him as it did me.
Judging the other by starting from yourself, it is implied, is something suspicious, but there lies a large part of the truth, you cannot deny it. We are not too far from each other, especially in such cases…! Since we are rational animals, many answers and solutions are arbitrary. The Gordian knot is not cut once and for all because it has a vicious feature that always ties itself again.
The frightened shadows of that long night had hid in their nameless recesses, when my glued lashes barely fluttered. A new day was marked in the cross window square. Several times I came around the room with the impatience of a man who is unconsciously waiting for something. The premonitions in your quintessence cast a dim light on the stage where the drama will be played out next. I have the impression that they come to life when the exhausted reason is without realizing it at its most extreme limits! Memorie.al