A decade on, ‘Internationals’ launched in English
TIRANA, March 2 – “There is a misunderstanding that ‘Internationals’ is a book against the international community, I have received both compliments and criticism by foreigners,” said writer Ylljet Aliçka at a ceremony this week on the republication of his much-rumored book a decade after its launch.
“Without help by the international community, it would be difficult for Albania to go through transition to democracy in the early 1990s,” Aliçka, a former diplomat and scriptwriter, told an audience of writers, journalists and art lovers this week at an event on the book’s republication by the Tirana Times publishing house.
The Tirana Times publishing house has launched the book in English translated by June Taylor, and also republished the book in its Albanian and French versions.
“Having the book republished after a decade is a sign of appreciation for every writer. The topic is still current with the presence of the international community, clichés and misunderstandings. The internationals’ universal systems often do not match the complex Albanian reality,” said Aliçka.
The book is considered an effort to demythicise everything coming from abroad, often compared to idolatry most Albanians displayed against party leaders under communism which banned religion for more than two decades, turning then-Stalinist Albania into the world’s first official atheist country and isolating the country into what has been described as Europe’s North Korea.
Writer Diana Çuli praised the book for its style, setting, subtle humour and even sarcasm.
“In all his creativity, Aliçka uses humour and sarcasm to unveil human character and everyday situations,” said Çuli.
The Tirana Times publishing house says it chose to republish the book for the unusual echo and attention it attracted and because of the topic it treats and its quality that made the writer and diplomat go beyond the borders of small country such as Albania by being published in France and already underway of getting published in Norway and Italy.
“The book is a contribution to modernization and democratization of the Albanian society offering a critical approach over the increasing culture of dependence on the international community almost a century after the Paris Peace Conference that divided Albanian territories,” said Albert Rakipi, the director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, one of the country’s top think tanks.
“Increased culture of dependency toward the international community damages small and poor countries such as Albania,” he added.
Aliçka, who recalled how the book caused him trouble with calls to ‘ban the book and punish the author’ said he is writing an epilogue to the book.
A former ambassador to France and a scriptwriter, Aliçka is also having his ‘Internationals’ book turned into a movie directed by Albania’s Pluton Vasi.
“When I read Ylljet’s novel I was intrigued by the relation of a certain group of people, exactly the internationals, who come with the status of people who know everything. The movie is about a story of everyday routine of a specific diplomatic administration that undertakes to unveil its representation values,” the director has said.
“The film is a black comedy with very interesting situations and relationships that make up a novelty in the media communication between viewers and cinema,” says Vasi.
“Internationals are simple people in their own countries, but when they come to Albania they transform and show off. This is the gist of it. But this also happens with the Albanians’ help who have always had internationals as a reference point,” he adds.
Ylljet Aliçka has also had his “Parullat me gurë” (The Slogans in stone) short story turned into the “Slogans” movie that claimed the Young Critics award at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. The movie set in communist Albania depicts the ideological brainwashing of Albanians who were also tasked with voluntary duties of building giant socialist realism and patriotic slogans on hill slopes.