Interview with Azem Deliu

Azem Deliu was born in Skendaraja (Sebica, Kosovo) in 1996. He studied Albanian literature at the University in Priština. His book of poems „The Funera lo fRain“ was published in Tirana in 2013, while his two novels – „The Illegal Kisser“ (2016) and „Shënimet e krimbit Smolinski” (2018) were published in Tirana. His first novel „The Illegal Kisser“ was translated to English and is currently being translated to Polish, German and French. Deliu lives in Priština. This April he is a guest of the Writers’ House in Pazin where he is working on his first book on short stories.


Azem, how are you feeling in Istria? Do you find your stay at theWriters’ House inspiring?

I feel wonderful. It is one of the most interesting stays I’ve had outside my country. It is therefore, of course, inspiring.


Can you describe the book you are currently working on? How is the book developing?

What I proposed to your residency program was a book with short stories. I am not sure if this will be the final product. During my stay in Pazin, I had an inspiring meeting with your city’s high school students and there, I explained something I am using again here: My two novels started as short stories.
I started writing a book with short stories, but as you can see, there’s no guarantee they will end up as short stories.


Last year your new novel was presented to the public. In short, can you describe what kind of prose work we will be reading?

I try, as far as I can, to go deeper in individual stories. Or, better said, thoughts. The opinion acording to which this is anti-society is, in my view, wrong. Only by going deeper in someone, can we understand what’s common for everyone.


Your first Novel „The Illegal Kisser“ was very well accepted in international terms and it was a hit on the Albanian language area. Could you rember some of the coments, readings, interactions which surprised you the most?What do you think was that „special something“ that wont he hearts of the audience?

I do not know what was the reason for it’s success. The most interesting experience was in Tirana Book Fair. I was walking on the main street near the Bookfair, to go in a lunch I had with my publisher. Near the street, there were two girls with my book in their hands. They were talking about the book and didn’t realize I was there. I stopped for a moment and, after I saw they really did not know I was the author, I went on walking. It was the nicest of feelings. People who would never recognise me as a face, knew my book. That made me feel like it was worth it.


During the 1970s and 1980s, while Kosovo and Croatia were still part of the Yugoslavia, one of the publishers in Priština (Rilindja) published some worksof Croatian cannonical modern litarature writers in Albanian: Miroslav Krleža, Ranko Marinković, Slobodan Novak… Croatian literature is more and more published in Albania during the last decade. For example, translations of some of Croatian most respected female writers are published in Tirana, such as Daša Drndić, Dubravka Ugrešić and Slavenka Drakulić. On the other hand, Croatian audience if only familiar with Ismail Kadare, while one book of Beqë Cufaj was after a few decades translated and published in Croatia.

How did you get to know the works of Croatian authors? Would you like to read some of our authors after your sta yin Istria? And, on the other side, which Albanian writers would you recommend to Croatian publishers?

I read Miroslav Krleža, I think pretty early, somewhere in the first two years of my studies. That was my only read from Croatian literature. Then, I read Miro Gavran, not knowing he is Croatian. After my stay in Pazin, I got to know more and now I am really looking forward to reading more from Croatian literature.
On the other hand, besides Kadare, who has been the most iconic literary figure in Albanian literature for decades, I would suggest to Croatian publishers also Fatos Kongoli and Ridvan Dibra. Very, very good writers, with a very sharp sense of literature, but not as well known as Kadare.
When it comes to Beqë Cufaj, I did not read him enough to be able to give conclusions, but I can say that I was so happy when I saw he was also published here.


You came to Pazin after your residential stay in Beograd where you presented your works in few appereances with the public: on March 14th you were reading your prose with in the meating of 20 your writers from Serbia and Kosovo; the following two days you participated in dialogues under the name of „In other peoples’ shoesor How we see each other“ and „The New Time or Tomorrow starts now“. The association Krokodil from Belgrade and Qendra Multimedia from Priština are making an effort this last couple of years to establish a contact in terms of literature…What does it mean to you to be able to communicate to your colleagues in Belgrade if we take into consideration a fairly unfavorable political situation?

I have always been a fan of a more connected book-trade in Balkans. I can not say I am happy with what’s done, but it’s much better than it was, if we talk exclusively for literature. Of course, everyone who appreciates this should be thankful to ”Qendra Multimedia“ and „Krokodil Association“. These organizations have what it takes, to make us feel like in the Literary Republic, ethnicity is not a criteria of evaluation.


You traveled through Europe so you are able to compare the lives and perspectives of young writer. in these terms, how would you describe the current situation for a young writer in Kosovo? How are you feeling after returning to Priština after a residential stay?

A writer has to do another job in order to be able to make a living. If you are not internationally succesful, it’s extremely hard, not to say impossible, to live with books. This makes the situation pretty complex. A writer who is forced to do another job, will not have the proper time and space to work on his/her projects (of course, there are cases in which having another job does not disturb too much). This is why residential stays helps us a lot. It gives us the space we need, to pursue our projects having that in mind.


Your literaly journey probably started in Priština where you studied literature. But, all of your books are published in Tirana.How would you describe the relationship between these two centres of Albanian literaly culture – Priština and Tirana? Are the publishers in Tirana interested in publishing Albanian writers from Kosovo and how are you/they presented to the public?

I chose Tirana not because of the city, but because of the publisher. I think I am fairly presented to the public in Tirana, but with that being said, not to many writers are lucky enough to have this happening. It is important to make the literary trade more  well-connected.


You are obviously a literate of the modern time, as we can see from your previous public appereances. You are acting/thinking both in terms of regional and European  area. How do you see the future of our region and what do you think will be the role of literature in all of that?

First of all, thank you for the good words. It is a big responsibility for me to even think, let alone speak, in these terms. But of course, I am a writer and courage to speak is one of the things we can’t afford to lack. We are not in very good times in the region. When I say that we are not in very good times, I mean that there will be plenty of time going until literature can play a role in society. In my eyes, literature does not need society to be good, but the society needs literature in order to be good. I am concerned about the region and, as a literary extremist, I can say: Balkans will be as good as the books it produces. This may as well be said about Europe.


(za portal Kuće za pisce – Hiže od besid u Pazinu razgovor vodio Neven Ušumović)