Luca Scarlini explores Tirana for the City in Books project
The intricate history of Europe is reflected in an eccentric and brutal way in Tirana. Seemingly foreign to everything, the young Albanian capital is the scene of both European disintegration and the rebirth of hope, a proud claim for identity and an infinite diaspora, totalitarianism – all of it - and faith in democracy, state atheism, Islam and Christianity. Tirana is the City in Books chosen by Festivaletteratura for 2019.
A red flag with a black eagle waving high in Piazza Sordello: Tirana is the city chosen this year for A City in Books, curated by Luca Scarlini.
The keywords of the initiative organized with the support of the Embassy of Albania in Italy, the Ministry of Culture of Albania and the City of Tirana are modernity, hospitality, identity, similarity with Italy. The aim is to explore the urban imagination of the young Albanian capital (99 years old), now in full cultural revival, in the wake of a project that the Festival has been carrying out for some years, with the literary exploration of cities such as St. Petersburg, Alexandria, Buenos Aires and Prague. In the Tenda dei Libri, a group of researchers and PhD students specialising in Albanian language and literature ((Maria Teresa Conte, Alessandro Cuccia, Rossella Gentile, Nensi Islami, Sara Manuali, Edra Risto) guide the public in the discovery of Tirana's difficult history and collective identity. For centuries, tyranny, fascism and the communist regime have forced many of the most important writers in Albanian literary history to emigrate, study new languages and publish their works well away from their homeland, so as not to succumb to censorship. The result is a multifaceted literature, with a lexicon rich in loans, which some authors, such as Ismail Kadare, strive to restore to its original purity.
In the Accents section, meanwhile, the curator Luca Scarlini and Persida Asllani, a scholar and lecturer in Albanian literature at the University of Tirana, present the city, talking about a country that is very close to Italy because of its history and culture, which has penetrated deeply into the Italian territory through the Arbëreshë communities in Sicily, Puglia and Calabria, and into our literature, thanks to the work of small publishing houses in the South, such as Rubbettino and Besa, who are telling the story.
This wonderful library, which includes not only books, but also 22 documentaries and newsreels provided by Arkivi Qendror Shtetëror i Filmit and the Luce Historical Archive, will not be lost when the Festival ends, but will instead enrich the Rete bibliotecaria Mantovana on a special shelf dedicated to Tirana. In short, mobile testimonies, ready for migration, that recall My Father's Books by Luan Starova, a symbol of homeland and identity in migration: books that "became a sacred treasure for Dad, for Mum, for us children, regardless of where the fate of the Balkans had brought us".
For those who want to explore similar events, Festivaletteratura recommends:
Wednesday 4 16.00 - 20.00 “Una città in libri: Tirana” - Accento Wednesday 4 17.00 “Piccola guida alla Tirana in libri” - Thursday 5 10.00 - 20.00 “Una città in libri: Tirana” - Friday 6 10.00 - 20.00 “Una città in libri: Tirana” - Event 92 “La memoria dei luoghi di Tirana” - Event 120 “Le favole della sera” - Event 124 “Partir” - Saturday 7 10.00 - 20.00 “Una città in libri: Tirana” - Event 177 “Solitudini di pietra” - Event 179 “La capitale dei sogni” - Sunday 8 10.00 - 20.00 “Una città in libri: Tirana” - Event 226 “C’era una volta in Albania (e forse c’è ancora)”.