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In The Library Of Aurel Plasari

Character / English / November 23, 2010

Ky postim ekziston gjithashtu ne Shqip

His suits, which seem to have just gone out of their sheaths, give notice to Aurel Plasari, who remains in the public limelight for two reasons. He does not speak much and talks properly. Surrounded by a distance aureole, he is often rumored by the journalistic circles or beyond because he must protect his private life with fanaticism. For me, whom I have been his student, and for many of my peers, who had him as their professor, he was one of the most preferred. Of course, esthetics, taught from his lectures, has served to each of us in an invisible way by adding another quality to our character. Many years ago, when I wrote a piece on a library clerk who had been working in this institution for 30 years, she would point her finger at Aurel Plasari, as well as one of the early readers of this library. He adds the description of another early library clerk who remembers Aurel Plasari “to come to the library in short pants.” Smiling Plasari insists that this is not true. “The library desk was high and I was little, just 14, so it was hard for the lady to spot what kind of trousers I had put on.” Certainly, at that time, Plasari, himself, had not dreamed of becoming in some future the director of this library, which had fascinated him since he was a kid. He loved to get down to the library basements as many times as he wanted to touch with his hands the rare values, inherited by this institution for centuries and shake the dust off from those books, considered as “banned” for the readers in their early youth. And especially to keep the books well, protect and identify them for the public.

Life

Plasari defines his life as a hurdles’ race. Of such hurdles, met by many people, some are forgotten but the others remain on the memory. He does not want to think of the many years he strived for the “study right” which at that time was somewhat 6 or 7 years. But things were worse, he says, when he tells how one of the state security reports about his father , read only over the last years, revealed the complaints of his father about the hard life he was having under the regime that “the little son” was not accepted to be enrolled in the kindergarten. “My sister, who read this report, was shocked while I simply grinned with the craziness of this regime…”
What he can not forget is that period of time when his right to translate was denied. May be it was between the years 80-82 when he was punished for the translation of a poem of Russian symbol author, the Russian Marina Cvetaeva on an anthology of the anti-fascist poetry. He remembers well that later on, it was the publication of the great anthology “French Poets”, most of the poetries dating to various centuries, translated by him, which resulted to the publication of his name. Apparently the books have apparently been injected in his veins much earlier when his conscience was not yet rekindled. Reading was his greatest passion. At that time, he tells, he had a big problem with the family library: “we had many books in foreign languages. I could not perceive having so many books in my hands and could not read them…” His quest to learn foreign languages starts from here. Besides the National Library, many personal libraries existed in the years of “socialism.” He longs for the library of a close friend of his parents, called The Argus Library which was an Albanian branch of the famous publishing house “Hachette” of Paris. It also had its own library in Tirana in the years 30-40s. “There were more books than us, Plasari reminds, quasi with a complaining voice. I was always in trouble with my parents over the books I used to get from this library. Not that it had not enough books but because fear existed that I could receive books which, according to the adults, I should not read or they were not good for me. First what in the beginning were called “yellow books” and then the literature of Russian emigration and others. In a word, they were concerned of the influence of such books on my brain given my tender age as well as on my family.” Now that I remember this bizarre character of the 30s, Plasari says, as if to apologize to his memory, it seems to that I still have some books unreturned…

Himself

If he would think for a moment for some of the characteristics of his personality, he would say: “I am not envious and this has helped to detect this quality in the others. At the same time, another characteristic of mine is self-containment but with a big “S”. “I am self-contained when it comes to considerable matters and this saves me from many troubles,” Plasari says. Another characteristic, which the others detect in him, is that of being humble. “This, Plasari says, comes from inside. I have neither learned nor forced it.” There is only one point where he forgets about being humble, that is when he comes to reading. I would like someone said enough to me. Meanwhile, the same question of mine, addressed to him many years ago, regarding the reason why he doesn’t stop reading, he would reply that this way, he could complete himself.

As far as friends and the place they occupy in his life they occupy, the director of the National Library would reply: “I have qualitative and not quantitative friends. I have more enemies in number. Whereas as per his relation with the enemies, he says: “I want them to stay enemies, I don’t want to change them. They are like a litmus paper, which in the chemical substances; serve as tests of it self.” He reminds how a great representative of Albanian literature has told him: “You have the grace of having many enemies and on attack. That’s your charm and you can do anything about it. ” And Plasari smiles thinking of an essay entitled “Graceful to the enemies”. Regarding the gossips he could have found himself involved, Aurel Plasari would perceive himself as a receptor. “Moreover, a very curious receptor, he says, laughing heartily, but adds that he does not have the talent “to produce such and pass them on to the other people or transform them.”

Asked about his relationship with his only daughter, he replies: “I am on very good terms with her. I believe in the principles of the antiquity literature whereby the child belongs to the father and not to the mother. And he remembers of the “modern law” which was approved by the Goddess Athena on Oresti. Then he jokes “May be I am jealous than my daughter loves her mother more than her father…”

As I am addressing questions to him during this interview, I think of the concise way of his expression. Exact sentences, not very much elaborated and surely short sentences. Asked about whether he feels lonely, Aurel Plasari replies: “It goes without saying that I am lonely by nature in order to make jobs which the others with an overly sociable nature can not do.” Referring to Descartes, he says that being withdrawn into ourselves turn an author into a subject (a thinking human being) and object (an observer of himself who thinks.)

The National Library

There are many people who have been part of this library since they were children. There are others who have been newly added on the list of its readers or others who have not yet explored this big building facing the mosque and Tirana Hotel. But, to him, the relation with the library would be considered as a love affair. When he got the post of the National Library director some 12 years ago, he probably hesitated for a moment thinking of what he would do as “chief administrator” of that place where he had come in and out as a reader. He had the impression that he was risking to abandon teaching. To him, this vast building but actually very small for the big wealth of knowledge has got him all. He deems it as the first university in his own life after which the second university, which he was allowed to attend with delay, was much easier than the first one. He says that when he got this job as a proposal, that was not his choice but now that’s his job and he should do that as well as possible like all the other jobs he takes over. In order not to lose his contacts with teaching, he actually teaches at masters’ level at the University of Tirana: he does not have time to do more. Asked whether he would ever teach in the private universities, he replies: “I have never wanted to teach in the party’s school.” With a smile on his face, he adds that “I am expecting someone, graduated from “the party’s school,” from all those private universities, which are mushrooming every day with a noisy publicity and big money, to replace me.” His relation with the subordinates in the national library is considered by him as a cooperative bond on condition that every one is aware of his her position. It is not the first time but I wish it is the last time he speaks of the scandalous conditions of the books, most of which are put on the ground. “Tirana is undoubtedly the only capital in Europe which does not have a national library and the National Library continues to fill out this gap. In fact, the National Library was initially designed to be a city library. The National Library was placed there temporarily as the old building at Elbasan Street was not sufficient. But it remained there eternally. Since 1987, the spaces of the National Library have run out. “I have often said that the Library is insufficient but the Albanian leaders are part of the holy category of those who have ears but they do not hear.” How about Plasari himself? “I have only the words in my hand,” he says. He confesses that he has often received promises for the solution of this situation. Some of them have been made to him, personally but even to the interested public but so far, nothing has changed. For the moment, he is making efforts to have some premises from the so-called “Palace of Congresses,” known as “Palace of Concerts.” Nothing would impede the National Library to cohabitate in a musical harmony with the concerts as it happens with the big libraries all over the world,” he says.

Love, God and Studies

Whether he believes in love, Plasari always replies with humor: “Even in this very moment you are asking me! I don’t know whether I will ever escape to it, only if God orders me.” About his relationship with God, he says that since people are surrounded by phenomena and realities which they can not make out or explain, I can not be so cocky as not to believe in that holy force which exists “beyond us.”

The term “relationship” between him and the books is preferred by him to be considered as “a taking” and not as a relationship. He only takes from them. In this period, he has turned to the classical literature, to the old Latin and Greek literature. Reading such stuff at another time and at another age makes him experience other sensations and explorations. For instance, he reveals how few things have changed in the human being for centuries and millions of years and reminds of surprising elements which the genetic code still retains in us: may be since the time that the monkey man slept on the trees. Now reading the Antiquity authors is a professional interest. He tells how he has distinguished their influence on the great literature of an author like Malaparte or Ismail Kadare.
He says that this kind of paper was received in 1989 from the paper contingent designed for |the dictator’s works.” “It was a good timing as Enver Hoxha was not sending some written thing from the other world…”
We leave him behind in his own study where he is surrounded by books which are here and there. Now they are even on the ground. He hopes, but not only him but even the others, that this city will have a real, big and shiny library one day. Because after all, the bigger this building, the larger the number of the number of its readers. This is helpful for the people to complete themselves and to guarantee more future to our culture.

Childhood memoirs

Of the many languages he masters, English is the one he dedicated himself at a later period of time. He admits that it has not been easy for him to learn this language and he still has problems with it. “I should have had a psychic handicap with this language,” Aureli says, because since I was an infant to the age of five or six, I was raised by a governess who had come from US. She was raised and educated there. She took care of me, sung songs in English and my parents have told me that she started to speak in English to me.
Her death must have been like a violent psychic interruption for me as a kid. My mother, who was forced to deal with me soon after, have told me that she had to sing any lullaby or some English expressions to start talking with me. I doubt that such a strike must have left some psychic obstacle in the linguistic programming of my brain, if I can put it that way…”
Whereas for the old lady, who had come from US to spend the last years of her life in Albania, he says that he had come across her name in one of Faik Konica’s correspondences and that he is surprised to see that she wrote to Konica as one of his admirers, almost obsessed with him, or as it is said in such cases, “she nurtured quasi a pathological love towards him.”
“Now I can rebuild in my imagination the secret behind this woman’s life.” To be sure whether it was all about her, Plasari has double-checked with his elder sister and she has reconfirmed that he is right in his conclusion.
He returned to English language to some times later to perceive the brilliance this language gives to the literature, for example to the magnificent prose of John Goldsworthy. ”However, I might still need a shrimp, he says with a smile on his face, to improve my relations with the English language.”


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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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Në Bibliotekën E Aurel Plasarit

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