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A Meeting With The Literary Father Of Çufo The Piglet

Character / English / March 13, 2011

Ky postim ekziston gjithashtu në Vesionin Shqip

If we ever were to conduct a research into the time we spent laughing in our lifetime about an unforgettable novel character nicked ‘Çufo the piglet’, we would, of course, come to the conclusion that we have ended up adding a couple of funny years to our life. Behind Çufo, the funny piglet, stands the name of an important Albanian writer, Gaqo Bushaka. To him we owe that sort of joy that springs from inside, that is filled with adventure and fantasy. It may have well been impossible to escape from Albania’s communist regime in which words were counted and measured; yet one could still evade from it into the inside of a couple of books on a piglet named Çufo. That was quite a solution. Those who were born in Albania after the seventies were lucky enough to be able to tap into good children’s books. During my early childhood I would imagine Gaqo Bushaka as an elderly man, well over 60 (at that time “old” referred to anyone older than 30.) Yet, when he wrote his Çufo, Gaqo Bushaka was not older than 30. Gaqo Bushaka is a very modest man, not really talkative. He’s a writer, yet one of the sort that stand in quite a contrast with their own books, books that are always able to put a smile on your face. This earnest-looking man is the author of many novels for children and poetry books. If he were to count them himself, probably he wouldn’t be able to do so. At any rate, his five volumes of ” Çufo the piglet” have been published in several editions, topping well over 350 copies. Also, the “Art Bear” has been published several times, topping some 50 thousand copies.

His Life Before Writing

Gaqo Bushaka was born in the region of Lunxheria, in the village of Selcka on August the 1st, 1943. He moved to Tirana, the capital of Albania in 1946 with his mother. He grew up in a family of simple people, who learned to read relatively late in their lives, thanks to their will for learning. Little Gaqo was never spared any money for buying books. He finished the elementary school with excellent results. Yet, after his mother got paralysed, he had to quit further studying and work as an electrician. He worked four years long as an electrician, then he was hired by the state communication company. In the mean time, he attended afternoon high school classes, which he was able to absolve with excellent results. Further to that, he was awarded a scholarship for medicinal sciences. Gaqo Bushaka was able to attend only six months of university studies in medicine, then he had to quit, since he was fainting when he saw blood. Upon quitting medicine, Gaqo studied languages and then journalism. He eventually took his grade in 1967 and got a job as a journalist. Along with him, Xhevahir Spahiu and Spiro Dedja were the first three journalists to get a regular job with no party membership. A little bit later, Bushaka asked to get transferred to the Fatosi magazine, as he felt more attracted to literature for children. This would set the path for his future literary career once and for all.

The Birth Of Çufo The Piglet

It looks like Bushaka himself did not have any idea of what his main character, a lazy piglet, would become for the children literature. At that time he didn’t know the extent to which his other characters, such as Tipi, the Guard bear, the Swan teacher, and so on, would become popular. On the other hand, he seems to have been quite aware that Albanian literature was lacking a unique character, that would be to it what Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn would be to the American literature. He would start it all with “Çufo’s Adventures”. When the book was printed, good luck had it that a copy of the book was given as a present to Bashkim, the son of the Prime Minister of that time, Mehmet Shehu. During the ceremony of the Literature Award, the Prime Minister looked for the title of “Çufo’s Adventures” in the list of awards, and asked whether it would get a prize. “I think that book deserves an award”, he said, “it made me laugh”. Çufo, its author, and the children throughout Albania got lucky; nobody dared to overhear a wish expressed by the mysterious Prime Minister at that time. Those who were jealous of the book, those who thought its author was way too young and too unknown had no choice but to keep silent. For our own good, humour won the day.
Gaqo Bushaka speaks a little yet he thinks a lot. He likes to rewrite his books, and he takes time to do so. He never abandons his longhand and his pen. He is superstitious; he doesn’t like to give away a pen he’s used for a long time. It has taken him over three years to write each of his “Çufo’s Adventures”. He says he has spent over 20 years working on his character, who somehow took away the whole of his youth. In addition to Çufo, he has written scores of other works, novels, short stories, poems. All it takes for children to get clever. Bushaka’s fantastic realm has a place in everyone’s mind. For those who were young in the seventies, “Çufo’s Adventures” was a unique reading adventure. It filled one’s imagination; and for what is worth, there’s nothing better than that.

Today

Gaqo Bushaka is now on pension, for his old age’s sake. He still writes books for children and works on a part-time basis for a church’s children books department. He doesn’t give up on literature. A publisher has informed him that “Çufo’s Adventures” has been sold out again, and it will be re-printed. Gaqo Bushaka feels serene, sitting in his angle that is filled with books to the brim. He’s now already a myth. That’s so true that a friend of mine, once I told him I would interview Gaqo Bushaka, retorted: “What, is he still alive?” I encounter that question very often in the social networks, as if Gaqo Bushaka never lived, as if he were a product of Çufo’s own imagination, just to convince the rest of the world he’s not an orphan piglet…

More About Çufo

There’s no wonder Çufo has already a Fun-Page of his own on Facebook. It hosts thousands of comments. Mature people come back to him, tracking back the words they used when they were young. It looks as if Çufo is someone real, someone you can talk to.

Ky postim ekziston gjithashtu në Vesionin Shqip


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Irena Shabani
Is an Albanian freelance journalist and human rights activist specialising in investigative journalism. She co-founded Panorama, the leading newspaper in Albania, where she served as managing editor from 2002 to 2003. Prior to Panorama she was a journalist at Shekulli and Gazeta Shqiptare and has been part of the Albanian Human Rights Group from its beginning. She has collaborated on programmes for the International Research and Exchanges Board, investigating topics involving crime and political corruption and continues to collaborates with foreign organisations and local media focused on social problems and minority rights.




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