Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Daniel Schorr: A Very Personal Remembrance

The recent demise of Daniel Schorr on July 23, 2010, at the ripe old age of 93 brought to my mind a warm and pleasant remembrance I have of him that took place many years ago. After a long and distinguished career at CBS and elsewhere, Dan Schorr joined NPR where he served as a highly respected commentator for some 25 years. Since my wife, Jane Christo, had been General Manager of NPR radio station WBUR in Boston for 25 years and frequently invited NPR luminaries (Scott Simon, Nina Totenberg, Robert Siegel and others) to WBUR events in Boston, I had opportunities to meet frequently with Dan Schorr during his many appearances at WBUR events. But, there's one incident with Dan Schorr that I'll never forget, and here's what it was:

I'll always remember the greeting that Dan Schorr once gave me after he had learned - during an earlier visit to Boston - that I was an Albanian and, indeed, even born in Albania. So, once at a later 'BUR event, Dan Schorr greeted me with "Hello Van, our noble Illyrian!" Naturally, I was taken aback (but otherwise greatly flattered) that Dan found out - or otherwise already knew - that the Albanians are the direct descendants of the ancient Illyrians!

Seizing this unique opportunity to talk about Albanians with Dan, I then informed him that during the 220s BC, Queen Teuta of the Illyrians was a thorn in the side of the Romans because her pirate ships always preyed on richly laden Roman merchant vessels trolling the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. So much so, that the Romans finally had their fill, and, in 227 BC, crossed the Adriatic Sea and invaded and conquered Illyria, removed Teuta from her throne, and made the kingdom of Illyria the Thema, or province, of Illyricum as part of the Roman Empire. I was touched that Dan listened intently to my brief historical narrative, so, when I met Dan again at another WBUR function in Boston, he, with a big grin on his face, asked me how the rebellious Illyrians could possibly have survived under restrictive Roman rule!

Friday, August 13, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Ismail Kadare's "The Accident"

My word! This is really the first time I've read an unfavorable review of one of Ismail Kadare's books! I read it twice since this book review in The Financial Times is that rare!

My favorite Kadare novel remains "The Citadel" followed by "The General of the Dead Army."

I'm posting Fischer's Review below to stimulate comments...


Review by Tibor Fischer
The Financial Times Limited
Published: August 7 2010 00:30

The Accident, by Ismail Kadare, translated by John Hodgson, Canongate, RRP£16.99, 263pages

I feel privileged to know what the 19th century was like. Not to have a good idea through research or imagination, but to have actually seen it. In 1987 I took a trip to Albania and while the capital Tirana, was dreary and grey and the main exhibit in the Museum of National Achievement was a light bulb, it was still recognisably a city. But when you reached the countryside you went back 100 years and saw peasants without shoes.

Living in Albania was truly the short straw of the Iron Curtain experience. However bad it was in Hungary or Poland, you could occasionally leave. Albania was literally the bunker, and a very uncomfortable one.

Ismail Kadare (born in 1936) was virtually the only writer from Albania to achieve international recognition. His 17th novel, The Accident, is an account of the Balkans after the fall of the Wall, but it is hard for those who didn’t witness the lunacy of the dictator Enver Hoxha to appreciate, for instance, a paragraph where his protagonists go home to visit: “‘Incredible,’ she said after a pause ... The restaurants along the road with their Hollywood names were incredible, and so were the villas with their private swimming pools, the former communists turning into oligarchs, the former middle classes turning into God knows what and the glimmering lights of the Royal Court with their tug of nostalgia.”

John Hodgson’s translation from the Albanian reads very well and The Accident starts off promisingly with the death of an Albanian couple, one of whom works for the Council of Europe, in a car accident in Austria, an accident so unsuspicious that various Balkan intelligence agencies find it suspicious and, à la Princess Diana, dig up all sorts of conspiracy theories.

As a veteran of Stalinist Albania, Kadare is highly adept at depicting paranoia and gratuitous suspicion, and The Accident has several acerbic and witty reflections on the messy history of the Balkans over the last 20 years: “both the Serbs’ gratitude to their defenders and their hatred for their destroyers, which Balkan custom suggested would persist for centuries, had unexpectedly begun to fade. Their vows of revenge, their rage and whining of the past were now recalled with more curiosity than pain.”

However, as a novel, it is dull and the characters have all the depth of a sheet of a paper. The Accident comes with a “recommended by [writers’ organisation] PEN” rubric. They should be ashamed of themselves for giving such an endorsement, as this book could put its readers off literature for life. Ismail Kadare has, however, become a totem figure in literary circles, mostly because he has seen the inside of totalitarianism.

It should be remembered that many of the great champions of democracy and free speech who emerged from under the juggernaut of communism, many of the East European writers you’ve heard of, either started off supporting the system, or doing nothing to oppose it until they were established and it was cramping their style.

Kadare is in his seventies and his recent output has been rather thin (although he won the first International Man Booker Prize in 2005). Like Kundera, Kadare has been living in Paris and it seems that the adulation of French intellectuals is deleterious to your prose (most of the enthusiasm you find on Kadare’s bookjackets are snipped from French journals).

The Pyramid (1993), about the building of Cheops’ pyramid, is an allegory of Hoxha’s Albania that probably would have made for fascinating reading in Hoxha’s Albania, but provides poor fare for the rest of us. You have to go back to something like The File on H (1981) to get something that amounts to a proper novel; an amusing story of two scholars visiting Albania in the 1930s to study Albanian epic poetry and its reciters in order to understand better the transmission of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
If you feel tempted to try Kadare – and he does have considerable talent – choose one of his earlier novels. Broken April (1978) for example, or my favourite, The General of the Dead Army (1963). An eerie story about a German general coming to Albania after the second world war to repatriate the remains of dead German soldiers, it will make you understand why many people rate Kadare as a novelist. The Accident, unfortunately, is a waste of paper and the time of anyone who starts reading it.

Tibor Fischer is the author of ‘Good to be God’ (Alma Books)

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles fro

The Albanian Alphabet

Because Albania was under Ottoman subjugation for almost 500 years, the teaching of the Albanian language or publishing any literature in that language in Albania was expressly forbidden by the Turks often under the penalty of long prison terms. Yet, the struggle for an Albanian alphabet spanned the entire 19th century and even the early part of the 20th.

The evolution of the Albanian alphabet underwent hundreds of changes and revisions and the efforts of many distinguished leaders and scholars of Albania.

Geographically, activities on behalf of a unified Albanian alphabet extended to the Albanian communities of Monastir in the north, Salonika in the east, and Saranda in the south with major alphabet contributions from Tirana, Elbasan, and Korçe.

The Albanian alphabet is definitely Latin-based, and similar to that of English except that it is comprised of the following 36 letters

a b c ç d dh e ë f g gj h i j k l ll m n nj o p q r rr s sh t th u v x xh y z zh
(including the letter - ç - and, again, following the same principle of one letter for one sound, making use of diacritical marks (¨) for sounds peculiar to Albanian - the letter - ë - along with nine digraphs dh, gj, ll, nj, rr, sh, th, xh, and zh which are regarded as a single character.

The Albanian alphabet does not have the letter w.

The adoption of a unified Albanian alphabet during the early part of the 20th century helped stimulate Albania's national movement towards complete independence from the Ottoman empire while bringing all Albanians closer together, northern Gheg and southern Tosk, Christian and Muslim.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Boston Public Library: Fan S. Noli's Psalm 137 for Mixed Chorus

Thanks to Agron Alibali, here's an excellent - and rare - opportunity to hear one of Archbishop Fan Noli's musical compositions...

Fan S. Noli's Psalm 137 for Mixed Chorus

Posted by: "Agron Alibali" agron@rcn.com AAlibali
Thu Aug 5, 2010 8:49 pm (PDT)

Fan S. Noli's Psalm 137 for Mixed Chorus

Place: Boston Public Library

Time: Friday, October 8, XXXX


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Albania Press Review - July 19, 2010

Here's what three major newspapers in Albania are writing about...

Albania Press Review - July 19, 2010
Tirana | 19 July 2010 |

Here are the top stories in Albania’s main newspapers. Balkan Insight has not verified the reports and cannot vouch for their accuracy.


A US study says that Albania’s capital Tirana is one of the cities most at risk of being devastated by an earthquake.


Albania’s government has told the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights that it has no money to pay reparations to property owners expropriated by the communist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha.


US Ambassador John L Withers has said that by voting against President Bamir Topi's appointments to the country’s high courts, the parliamentary majority is discriminating against the best lawyers in the country.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Immigration Lawyer in Warren, MI

I haven't had the time (or the help) to add the name et al of the immigration lawyer below to the list of IMMIGRATION LAWYERS found under ADVISORIES on Frosina's Website www.frosina.org so here's a fast way of getting this lawyer's name out where it can be seen and might do some good for a person in Warren, MI needing immigration advice...


Renis Nushaj
Attorney at Law
3200 East 12 Mile Rd. Ste., 104
Warren, MI 48092
Tel. (248) 808-3256
Fax. (866) 654-7234

Monday, August 2, 2010

Massachusetts Cultural Council: Artist Fellowships

Massachusetts Cultural Council

From: masscultural@masscultural@pmailus.com


A Periodic eNewsletter from the Massachusetts Cultural Council

Artist Fellowships: Apply Now in Music Composition, Playwriting, Sculpture/Installation

The 2011 MCC Artist Fellowships program guidelines are now available. This year, the competitive, anonymously judged program offers fellowships of $7,500 and finalist awards of $500, as direct support to individual artists in recognition of artistic excellence. Learn more about Artist Fellowships.

Applications are currently being accepted in the categories of Music Composition, Playwriting, and Sculpture/Installation. Deadline: September 20, 2010.

Applications in the categories of Crafts, Film & Video, and Photography will be accepted beginning December 1, 2010. Deadline: January 24, 2011.

Not sure in which category to apply? Read the Discipline Definitions, and if you have any questions, contact staff.

This deadline schedule is a change from past cycles, so please pass along this announcement to any Massachusetts artist you know who might be interested in applying.

Every week, we round up a list of intriguing opportunities for artists – competitions, calls to artists, information sessions, residencies, and more.

We’ve also featured the voices of some of the most exciting artists at work in the Commonwealth. The latest: an interview with Joan Leegant on the writing craft and her new novel Wherever You Go, bite-sized Q&As with writer Ilie Ruby and painters from MCC’s Painted Visions exhibition, and a Studio View with fascinating mixed-media artist Leah Giberson.

The MCC's Artist Department:

Kelly Bennett, Exhibitions Curator/Program Coordinator (Visual Arts & Choreography)
Dan Blask, Program Coordinator (Literary Arts & Film/Video, Music Composition)
Maggie Holtzberg, Folk Arts Program Manager

Visit ArtSake.

In addition to Artist News, MCC provides Mass Culture Now (featuring general MCC News) and Creative Minds (arts education and creative learning in Massachusetts). If you would like to subscribe to these e-newsletters, please follow the link at the bottom of this email for "updating your e-mail preferences," and select the news item(s) you would like to receive.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency that promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences, to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.