Monday, March 26, 2012

Writing In A City That’s Collapsing

 The PEN Atlas is your gateway to a world of literature.  Every Thursday, we post literary despatches from around the world, showcasing the very best international writers.  We hope to bring new insights into the rich literary landscape that may be found beyond the English language. All content is commissioned and edited by Tasja Dorkofikis, who will be inviting a wide range of contributors from around the world about to give their views on contemporary and emerging literature.  If you would like to pitch or reprint an article then please get in touch. English PEN Launches the PEN Atlas with this piece by Athens based writer Gazmend Kapllani.

What does an author do in a city that is collapsing? Like all the other non-authors, he tries not to collapse. He hopes that the worst is over, and yet he fears that perhaps the worst is yet to come. He observes the falling snow and for a moment he thinks about the homeless who have filled the streets of Athens. To them, snow means death. Perhaps this makes a certain book come to mind – A Sun for the Dying by Jean-Claude Izzo (READ MORE) 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The homeland and its patriots

Leaving one country and choosing to live in another, as I have done, is both a painful and creative process. And after some years have passed, you find yourself in the position to draw some conclusions about “life lessons.” One such lesson is that man’s greatest virtue has nothing to do with the purity of his bloodline, but with his ability to create and to change. Another lesson is that our true homeland is not marked in our genes, but in our hearts and minds. A true homeland is one which offers its people respect and opportunities.
Living in two countries and between two languages, I can affirm that the people I’ve met who truly loved their country did not often say the word “homeland,” nor did they maniacally shout that they are “patriots,” and neither did they lecture about hating others. For those who equate love of country with hatred towards others, history shows that this constitutes certain catastrophe – mainly for their homeland.
People who truly love their homeland are not afraid of new or different things; rather they seek out these elements and integrate them. Because without the integration of new things and change, civilizations wither.  Those who truly loved their homeland did not make bold statements, rather they made small, everyday gestures – working with diligence and patience, many times inconspicuously. They were not opportunists, living only for today, but they were people who imagined what their homeland would be like 50 years later. Those who loved their homeland paid taxes and respected the law. They did not envy others, nor did they strike out against their fellow citizens, regardless of their origin and background. I never heard people who loved their homeland say “I love my country” because for them, this was self-evident.
As self-evident as it is to say “I love my home.” They felt safe in this love, they didn’t have an inferiority or a superiority complex, they were not afraid of newcomers taking away their homeland. They surely did not resemble others who imagined themselves as a kind of “national hero” always at the forefront waving a flag - only later behind the scenes they’d use the flag as a sack to launder their dirty money, to carry their envelopes stuffed with “gifts,” their bribes and other similar items.
I also came across many others who truly loved their homeland, even though their homeland was forcing them to leave. They were usually the best, the most creative, the most peaceful. However, these people could not find a place in a country which had become infested by the mediocre and the crooks. These people left with both feelings of relief and sadness. But they would promise to return….

(Translated & edited by Gigi Papoulias)