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Robert Elsie

Dictionary of Albanian Literature

ISBN 0-313-25186-X
Greenwood Press, New York, Westport & London 1986
171 pp.


    In research on Eastern Europe and the Balkans, there has long been a gap, if not a chasm, when it comes to Albania. Romanian has always attracted fringe interest from students and experts in Romance studies. Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian are firmly embedded in Slavonic studies. Modem Greek benefits from a long-standing interest in Classics and from direct contacts which have arisen as a result of mass tourism. Albanian has long been ignored not only because it does not fit into any of these convenient patterns, but also because of the lack of adequate grammars and primers to learn the language, because of the paucity of readable translations of Albanian literature, and no doubt because of Albania’s traditional political isolation and its comparative inaccessibility.
    The present work serves to provide the Western reader with basic information on Albanian literature from its origins to the present day. It contains entries on over five hundred Albanian writers and literature-related topics, including in most cases fundamental biographical and bibliographical data.
    As to the eternal question of inclusion or exclusion, I have tried to keep the dictionary as eclectic as possible, i.e., better too many than too few. Inevitably, however, a few authors will have been overlooked which should by no means be interpreted as a statement about their literary qualities. Nor is inclusion in the dictionary to be understood as automatic recognition of literary merit. Excluded as a rule are scholars, journalists, and publishers of little relevance to Albanian literature itself.
    It must be noted from the start that such a dictionary can only be as good as the sources upon which it is based. Primary sources for Albanian literature are frequently difficult and occasionally impossible to trace; and secondary sources, both those from Albania itself, from Kosovo, and those from the West, are eminently unreliable. Inaccurate and conflicting data are endemic to virtually all works to date. Titles and years of publication contradict one another from source to source with an alarming regularity, which caused me at times to wonder whether such a project was indeed feasible. The reader may rest assured that I have done my best to eliminate as many inaccuracies as possible and not to introduce any of my own, but should keep the above word of caution in mind.
    In conclusion, a word or two on methods. The dictionary is ordered according to the English alphabet and not according to the Albanian: thus Dhosi before Dodani, etc. Authors with more than one name (e.g., Italian and Albanian names for Arbëresh writers) have been entered under that most commonly used, with a cross-reference to the other(s). The original titles of older works are provided where available; otherwise the titles are in modem Albanian. Albanian place-names are normally given without the post-positive definite article: thus Tiranë not Tirana. Shkodër not Shkodra. General sources are all listed in the bibliography, whereas specific literature on individual entries is included in the corpus itself. For many authors, information is unfortunately scant, but I have chosen, nevertheless, to publish here what could be elicited from the sources available in the hope that the compilation may help and encourage others to pursue further research in this much neglected field.
    It remains for me simply to thank all those who have helped and encouraged me during the four years leading to the completion of this project, including: Martin Camaj (Munich), Johannes Faensen (Berlin), Xhevat Lloshi (Tiranë), Arshi Pipa (Minneapolis), and Agim Vinca (Prishtinë).

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