|Posted by ALBANIAN-AMERICAN FREEDOM HOUSE on May 29, 2013 at 11:55 PM|
By Visar Zhiti
Extract from the book “Trails of Hell”
The prosecutor seemed notoriously oppressive and thick-skinned. In his heavy coat and bushy animal skin collar, he looked like a wild beast. Well, I guess spring hasn’t arrived yet. At first I thought they had brought policeman Marku to confront me in case I had broken a rule in the prison cell. I feel bad I was dubious about Marku, but…
- This is the district prosecutor, comrade Avdi Gashi, - said the interrogator.
- Explain yourself clearly, or I’ll rip off your pants! - brayed the prosecutor. I did not understand what was wrong with him. - They even requested you to be a writer in Tirana, - he let out a loud bray like a burp. His cheeks and trachea must have hurt from it. - But we turned them down. And we were right. How could we let an enemy go there? Is he going to explain himself, or should we charge him with an additional crime, - he turned his head toward the interrogator, - let’s add…?
- He will talk. He has no way out, - the interrogator assured him.
What further accusation is the prosecutor so easily charging me with, as if he is simply adding another ladle of soup in my bowl?
- What did you want with “rakatakia,”* who you got involved with? - The prosecutor asked with contempt. - Eh?
Even the interrogator got confused. He asked him in a whisper:
- What do you mean by that, comrade Prosecutor?
- I don’t know! He knows who “rakatakia” is… the Japanese one.
(Do they want to accuse me of being a Japanese spy?)
- Aha, you are right, - the interrogator chuckled. - What is the name of the Japanese poet you translated; since you couldn’t stay out of it? – Irritated, he turned towards me, - Eh, “Taketukia”?* Ah! What did you want do with him?
When I was a student, I couldn’t stand reading passages of Enver Hoxha’s speeches in Russian, which sounded mediocre, gorarçe* translated, and boring, so I found a Japanese poet to read outside of class, Isikava Takuboku. (Did I need to report this to my killers as well?) My friend from Korça, Skënder Rusi, and I decided not to waste our time terribly in vain and chose to translate a poet who would be permitted for exams. We picked a far, far-off Japanese poet who had a lesser known biography. Frankly, he was all we could find. H. Leka from Shkodra lent us the book from his personal library. He was our professor and our friend. We translated the whole book from Russian. But in his notebook Skënder interpreted the tanks more imaginatively and I, perhaps, a little more ironically.
- Talk to us! Why don’t you speak? Vermin! Who gave you rakatakia and taketukia, and why? - I perceived senseless mumbling sounds.
- What were your relations with critic Xhezair Abazi? - The interrogator asked me abruptly.
- Same as with the others, - I said.
- Is he talking about Xhambazi?* - Howled the prosecutor.
Then they were chatting over something, but the prosecutor could not lower his voice; he would find it easier to unload a heavy bundle of oak twigs from his back than bring down his voice. What? Sparks? What are they informing each other about? What is this Golden Pen…?
- But they also asked you to be a writer, you renegade! - Despite his old age, the prosecutor charged toward me, but the interrogator held him back.
- Wait, don’t you worry about it, I will fix him.
Translated from The Albanian by Hilda Xhepa
*Rakatakia in Albanian slang is a child’s rattle toy.
*Taketukia in Albanian slang means ashtray.
*Gorarçe in Albanian means grammatically incorrect.
*The prosecutor mispronounced his name; Xhambazi in Albanian means swindler.