“While waiting for the second edition of Klara Buda’s Chloroform, I and an entire generation find the forbidden night.”
I have walked a lot. I have walked into each and every one of Tirana’s bookstores looking for a book that is already sold out. It seems as if an entire generation has walked with me, seeking those forbidden nights when we used to lock ourselves in so that we could live another day. My frantic walking from one bookstore to another coincides with the rediscovery of a past that I want to experience once again through the pen of a contemporary.
I read Klara Buda’s novel in one sitting. It left me with the urge to share all the sensations, impressions and images that the narrator and I experienced together from her characters, the totalitarianism she describes, the absurd confinement of human beings, her well-written and colorful intrigue, and her flowing and rich style and aesthetic narrative.
The aestheticism of her narrative is founded upon her conception of beauty: the sensations her style elicits; the descriptions of the main characters, Alma Fishta and the morgue supervisor, Qani, (my favorite); and the writing techniques the author utilizes throughout the book.
Each character is “beautiful”: the sounds of their names, their speech, their screams, their movements, the echoes of a world that encompasses their universes and then joins the vapors of chloroform, barks of dogs, the power of the speakers,, the choruses of communism, and Roma music.
The author’s style is reminiscent of Joyce’s, but nevertheless unique and reflective. I feel Klara Buda, by this superb fiction, empathizing with his characters. His perception is rendered plausible by both the imagination of the verb and by the events that happen to the student group on which the novel is based.
Once more, the act of the writer, the impressive style of the author, her technique and elegant writing refined to the smallest detail, come into play and this marked me The images are intertwined with the times, the tangle of Romanesque time and image, the ideology inseparable from the metaphor!
In my opinion, the scene where Marenglen Qani Qeni (Qani) talks to the dead in the morgue and “beautifies” their heads is the pinnacle of the author’s stylish fiction, the acme of a stylized fantasy so to speak. It is a very original treatment of a character who adorns the eyebrows of the morgue’s residents.
“Oh you hussy don’t, don’t do that! You’ll break Qano in two!”…
(While he shows no interest in the nurses that greet him)
“He didn’t even see anything. He is not interested in the alive.”
Marenglen (a metaphoric combination of Marx, Engels, and Lenin) is the “prince of the morgue” – a corrupted monstrosity produced by the communist epoch. While Qani is disfigured, he is also refined, with a voice that “penetrates the soul,” There is something humble, but almost heroic, in the existence of this new anti-man. He survives the times stoically and lives in the world of the cadavers; coloring the light they receive by painting the only triangle window-glass of the morgue pink. He is sweet to the dead, and he is sweet to the living. He is a master of sewn hymens and loyal to the secrets of the re-virginized girls, which gave birth to the expression, “So you slept with Qano” alias Top Secret. He is discarded by society, but he has created a world of dead limbs and names for himself.
“Welcome to paradise! The best little snub noses that Shkodra has to offer!”
Variations of Mat!
Crooked Alla George Kastriot.
Variations of Berat!
Clefted chins from Ardenica.
Sharp eyes from Vlora.”
The author, just like Qani with his dead limb puzzles, interposes the incessant refrain on the intrigue of the novel:
The slogan song: “Homeland, like a spring flower, blooms every day more and more beautifully! “air raids, obligatory and collective morning rise and concerts, which echo the everyday routine of the capital.
Thus, the songs penetrate the streets as the chloroform vapors penetrate the delicate body of Alma Fishta and the just-formed curves of her belly to be exorcised by an on-call physician, who is the proud owner of a “Sphincter Logic.” False morality takes a direct hit from Alma’s surreal dialogue with this doctor.
The last scene is a masterful quilt of descriptions, figures, emptiness, violence and noise.
Alma’s escape from the clinic at dawn is the metaphoric passage of the woman from darkness to light, night to day, and totalitarianism to freedom.
The author’s descriptions of the noises on that fateful and fatal night give me uncomfortable sensations: “cleaning women’s” brooms where dogs and fetuses are killed or fetuses are killed like dogs. The Roma women are the only ones who dare talk against the killing of the dogs…The yelp of a wounded dog, in parallel with the “Murder” that were happening within the closed shutters of a hospital window, penetrates the deafness of the forbidden night.
While a life was extinguished, a fire was being kindled and a Roma song was sung: “Hajde Duko ko Bunari…” and later: “My bosom is empty/My eyes are blind/My soul is scorched/For I want a child.”
In her search for a freedom allegory, the author likens Alma Fishta to a Roma woman, Bella a nomad, a bohemian, a woman of a “sovereign love” and no taboos. The Roma woman does not recognize propriety, thus becoming the author’s symbol of the explosive emancipation of women. Her mouth utters the words that Alma’s soul wants to scream, the yearning for motherhood. Above all, the freedom of the individual peaks in the words of Bella’s husband, who “loves the first son more, even if he is not his own, but fruit of chance /Begotten by chance”.
The child’s “apogee” takes a new meaning in Bella’s words, the triumph of motherhood over a compulsory abortion. Both Alma baby’s life and her battle of emancipation are about to fail, but Alma does not accept that. Instead, she leaves the clinic and Qani’s skillful assistance with her old life behind.
Furthermore, Klara Buda has a specific talent for writing pure and rich prose, using little known but refined Albanian expressions.
Finally, a bloody but victorious maternity provides the leitmotif of detachment and escape from those atrocious times. The life and death scenes, the descriptions of the “poor animals” and the song-slogans all sound like a prelude for life /a prelude to the life that takes over.
And the author triumphs!
* The article is published in the Albanian daily “Gazeta Shqip”, October 2010