By Mehmet Mufti
The first part
Memorie.al / Mehmet Muftiu were born in Tirana in 1930. During the War period (1939-1944) as a participant in the Anti-Fascist National Liberation Movement, he was arrested, tortured and interned in the Nazi camp in Pristina. After his release from the camp, he returned to Tirana and was accepted into the ranks of the Communist Party of Albania and during the years 1950-53, he worked as a journalist in the central press. After writing a letter to the Central Committee of the ALP, denouncing as shameful the arrest of his colleague and friend, the writer Kasëm Trebeshina, his right to study at the “Maxim Gorky” Institute in Moscow was canceled, and he was expelled from the ranks of the APS are interned in the village of Shtyllas in Myzeqe. A temporary rehabilitation made it possible for Mehmeti to finish the Higher Pedagogical Institute “Aleksandër Xhuvani” in Tirana and to be employed as a teacher in remote villages in different districts. Based on this, in 1961 he managed to publish his first novel entitled “Leka”, but three years later, in 1964, the manuscript of the next novel “Skhrimtari” was considered reactionary and Mehmet was again removed from copyright and works as a cigarette seller for 26 years. With the collapse of the communist regime, after 1991, he appeared again with his writings in the daily press and managed to publish several books. Mehmet Muftiu passed away in 2019, at the age of 89. The text that we have selected for publication is taken from the novel “SkhrimtarI”, which is taken from lived events and is dedicated to his colleague and close friend, the dissident writer, Kasem Trebeshina.
FRAGMENTS FROM THE NOVEL “THE WRITER”
On the way he was thinking about the letter that Hyseni had sent to the Albanian Government, where he had asked to be allowed to leave for the West. This request had seemed surprising to him, completely unreasonable, and he had advised his friend not to send him in any way, warning him that something unexpected might happen, that he might even be arrested.
Hyseni had stuck to his, being convinced that legally they could not take any administrative measures. Besnik had smiled bitterly and told him that the Government applied the laws according to its own interest. Then he had asked him to postpone sending the letter by a week. The friend had accepted…!
After Besnik had been unable to do anything to prevent Hysen from clashing with the state, he had told him that, for his part, he was free to send the letter.
It had been three weeks since Hyseni had posted the letter and nothing had happened, so Besnik’s bad thoughts had gone away. He arrived at his friend’s house, opened the door and, as always, called at the door of the living room:
– Come in! O Hys!
No one heard a peep. A great silence reigned in the house. Then someone moved in the other room. The floor creaked. Sabrija looked dead. She approached him slowly and whispered:
– You scared me! What do you call that?!
Besnik smiled kindly and spoke to him:
– We didn’t know. Because chicken heart. You were sleeping like this…?! You look sleepy to me.
– I didn’t sleep, but I’m worried – she sighed.
– Why, what happened?
– Don’t you know?! – she was surprised.
– No… – said Besnik, feeling something bad.
– They arrested Hyseni… – she said as if in tears
The faithful was cut. His heart sank. He entered the room silently. The daughter, five years old, was eating bread and did not even raise her head to see who came. It was perfect. Traces of tears were visible on pale cheeks. The fireplace corner was empty. The chill was not shriveled. It seemed that no one was sitting there.
…He sat on the chair sadly and asked painfully:
– When so…?
– Last night. We were all preparing for the New Year’s holiday and that month.
She stuttered and couldn’t help herself. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He turned his head and tried to calm down. My daughter finished eating and was frozen. At home, painful silence. There was no fire burning in the hearth. Hyseni was in prison. The woman and the girl looked desolate and lonely. Besnik groaned in sorrow and spoke:
– I told him not to send the letter because you will be arrested. But he didn’t listen to me.
Then even if he was allowed to go to the West, he did not have to accept that he would be destroyed. I tried to consult with the party members, but they did not accept me in the meeting.
Sabrija sobered up a little and spoke:
– I also begged him not to send the letter, not to be a fool because no one took him to the West. As if my heart felt evil. He was arrested, I stayed at home. The father-in-law ran away. He took the mattress on his side and of course, he slept in the store. He left last night because he allegedly could not sleep in the
Reactionary’s house. I wanted to come to my house because I was afraid to sleep, but my brother did not accept me. Come on, he said, daughter, don’t step on the threshold.
Her eyes filled with tears again, she was speechless. He turned his head until he calmed down and added:
– They even gathered around me and asked me to share it. A bad thing happened to him and I turned my back on him! They told me that he once betrayed me. If you abandoned him then, I had some right. But then they didn’t let me go, they forced me to come back here, and now they insisted: Leave!
“Hyseni is not a bad person. You know him better than I do. Besides, his head smells from this damned literature. Even those writers are really evil. When they see that he is angry, why do they fall on his neck?! He is honest and speaks his mind bluntly, but today he doesn’t have to.
Last night I had a very long night, as if it would never dawn. Now I was afraid that it was getting dark. I don’t know how I will get through tonight alone. I was stuck with the maid.
She paused for a moment, and then added:
– Thank you for coming. I was thinking about you. Faithful, I said to myself, will not abandon him.
Besnik was deeply depressed by Sabrija’s words. He was shocked by the fact that his father had left the house and gone to the store with a mattress by his side. He was revolted by the behavior of Sabrija’s brother and looked at the little girl with pain. He realized that the world was appearing merciless to him.
Footsteps were heard in the yard. The lady of the house froze. He sighed in shock.
– Who is like that?! Who can come at this hour?!
He looked at the window and spoke worriedly:
– Father-in-law…! Wait a minute…!
She came out. Someone walked into the living room and they entered the next room.
The old man had been greatly affected by his son’s imprisonment. He maintained the same respect for the government people as he had in the war and believed that they had not arrested Hysenin in vain. He was angry with his son and made him sick.
…He slowly asked who was inside. He entered the next room. He sat down on the chair in shock. He turned his dead gaze from the young woman and said:
– Did you find out anything?
– No… she sighed and her eyes filled with tears.
The old man lowered his head, groaned, and spoke in a low, hoarse voice:
– What a day I made it! It shamed me in my old age. I can’t meet on the street with acquaintances and relatives. My cheek is red. As if they hit me in the forehead when they ask me about Hysen. Cursed old age!
“Oh, how a white watch was not found in the war and a bullet did not take it. Oh, boy, boy, when I didn’t cry for you!
His body trembled. His heart sank, his eyes watered. He raised his hands, covered his face with his palms, lowered his head, and surprisingly, as he had never done in his long life, cracked the oil.
…He whispered deeply again, sobbed and seemed to be ready to cry again. Then he told Sabrija that he would sleep in the shop and left. From the window, Besnik noticed that he was hunched over and wiping his tears.
He was greatly affected by the fate of his friend’s family. It hurt Sabrija that she would only sleep with fear in her heart. Before his eyes remained the sullen face of the little girl and the miserable father…!
He was completely convinced that Hysen was honest, very talented and despite the wrong request to go to the West, he loved the Motherland…!
He reached home and entered the room. There was the bed, the table, the chair as before, and only the portraits hanging on the wall had changed. Instead of Gorky’s photograph, under which was written: “The word man sounds proud”, there was a drawing of Hamlet with the expression: “To live or not to live – That is the question”. On the table was Lermontov’s portrait, instead of Mayakovsky’s.
Besnik sat down at the table and started flipping through a volume of Hysen’s poems that was there. In these moments of revolt and regret, the work was presented to him in a brilliant light, as if it correctly expressed the truth of life, and was even genius, as the author himself declared. He read “The Ballad of Bedbugs” enthusiastically.
It described someone setting the house on fire to exterminate bedbugs, which symbolized the mesquins. In those moments, his brain was ignited by a turbid flame that obscured his clear view of the world, and it seemed to him that here the friend had reached the pinnacle of truth.
… How he was satisfied with these imaginings, Hyseni remembered again. He moaned bitterly and wanted to do something to protect his friend. It suddenly occurred to him to write a protest to the Central Committee of the Party, about the imprisonment of Hysen. He liked and was fired up by the idea, regardless of the consequences. He predicted imprisonment because of this protest, but he was not afraid. He could not remain silent when his poet friend was in prison. He wrote it and posted it the next morning.
The heavy iron door was pulled back with a thud. Closed. The latch was pushed. The remaining loyalist just glanced around. It was in a small cement dungeon, almost completely underground, that was bare, cold, and very clean. A little light came from the narrow turret with crossed bars that was flush with the ceiling.
Up there they had angrily threatened to put him in a terrible place. He had passed many doors closed with thick latches, and then the policeman had opened one of them, gone down two or three steps and called: “Inside”!
Besnik laughed to himself and said jokingly: “This is exactly the waiting room”! And whistled to give him courage. He took off his coat, threw it on the cement and was about to sit down, when he noticed a sheet attached to the door. He walked over and read the dungeon rulebook.
There, the arrested were ordered not to sing, not to whistle, not to speak loudly, not to hit the walls, in a word, not to make any kind of noise there. Besnik realized that he had broken the regulation by whistling and said to himself: “You have to obey just like in the army.”
Then he sat down and involuntarily imagined himself and the world. It was located underground, closed between thick walls, where the sunlight did not enter. Above him was the free world with which he was waiting for any connection, to which he was now a stranger. Up there the roads crossed, there was the tap, the oven, the shops, the post and the tall cypress tree. A little further his house.
The morning sun shone brightly on the hometown. People walked with vigor and joy, because the noon hour had not yet begun. That day he had risen early up there and taken to reading a book, foreboding a bitter event. After a while, they actually took him to the Internal Branch.
And now he was in the dungeon. There were no people, no houses, no roads, no cars, and no sun. He was alone between the four walls. “it’s okay – he thought as a joke – I’ll rest a bit. I am very fresh here. I was tired outside”. And as if wondering how it happened that he was inside, he imagined yesterday’s event in court.
He had gone to Hysen’s trial calmly, almost cheerfully, and when he had met Mihail and Telhana, he had started a conversation with them, as if nothing extraordinary was expected, as if there was no contradiction between them, as if they had come there for a same purpose.
He had behaved as if he was still in the Qafshtame rest camp, from where he had returned two or three days ago, after spending the whole of June. In those moments, his face shone, his eyes shone with joy, he spoke freely, with a cheerful voice, and he moved his hands constantly. When the conversation got stuck, he asked with interest about trivial things.
This behavior had surprised Mihail and Telhana and seemed completely incomprehensible and unreasonable. But when Hyseni, with his hands in irons, accompanied by guards, had climbed to the second floor, Besnik’s entire appearance had been transformed in a flash. He had been touched by the gloomy and angry look of his friend and was ashamed of himself for talking and laughing with Mihail and Telhan, who, in a way, were the main causes of Hysen’s imprisonment. He was confused and his face was full of anger.
The trial had begun quickly. Mihaili and Telhai had entered. Besnik had stayed outside in the living room, because he would be called as a witness. During the entire time that the trial was taking place behind closed doors, he had wandered in the corridor, remembering everything related to Hysen, and his soul had been filled with indignation. He had arrived almost in the same state of that night when he wrote the protest.
Some peace of mind, which had been created in the rest camp, was disappearing without a trace. The sad Faithful had appeared again. That’s how he would appear before the court. Memorie.al
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