Visar Zhiti: The Editor in Chief
E diele, 23.08.2015, 02:20 PM
The Editor in Chief
by Visar Zhiti
(Excerpt from the book “Trails of Hell,” pg. 60)
A long time ago, in the former life when I lived above ground, I took my book with stories - like a different kind of tales, for those who grow, for an ageless reader, to the publishing house, more or less something like that.
Young Shehu, as they called Bashkim*, since the weirdo Lasgush* once had called him so - ah Lasgush’s verse, “I speak to you with fire…with fire…in my bosom I have dug a grave …” as well as in mine too, asked to become the editor of my story tales.
In fact, it was me who asked him to, and he responded “fine.” I was delighted, meanwhile, I thought: the son of the Prime Minister, Enver Hoxha’s closest collaborator, no one would dare to contest him. But no, it was not so. When the editor in chief of that section took Bashkim aside and explained something in confidence, I sighed, “ah.”
“I’m sorry” Bashkim said, “They don’t want to. They are saying something like following the Fourth Plenum, the outside editors are not accepted. Would you like to give me the manuscript as a gift? With your autograph.” He confused me. It was my first and only autograph.
While I was having coffee in the club near the publishing house with the tall and slender editor in chief, wearing a red turtle neck, with his teeth sticking out strikingly, he spoke only about Bashkim, how he had got to know him at the Elbasan Metallurgical Plant when the editor in chief was doing the communist Party internship in order to become a full party member…
“Bashkim...? No. Me…” -and the editor in chief turned red, finally remembering to give an explanation for the book I had submitted.
“It can’t be published, consider it a beautiful prelude… It is equivocal. It is not for children or adults; it’s in-between…it’s arduous. No…publish the poems first… Look! Here comes Bashkim...”
When we parted, Bashkim felt embarrassed.
“We had really gotten to know each other in Elbasan,” he said. “I was at the Metallurgical Plant doing the productive labor, that’s what they call it, the year after high school.”
“Who was he?” I asked.
“You didn’t know him? Fatos Kongoli*.”
* Bashkim Shehu was the son of the communist Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu.
* Lasgush Poradeci was an Albanian poet and writer.
*Fatos Kongoli has become one of the most convincing representatives of contemporary Albanian prose.
Translated from the Albanian by Hilda Xhepa