Albanian poet Migjeni's short prose piece heralding the new year in 1937, only one year before his untimely death at the young age of 27. Translation by Genta Nishku.
Wishes for 1937
Dear friend, I don’t usually write wishes, neither for Christmas nor for Eid, neither for birthdays nor for any other celebration. I don’t write, because I don’t know if even one percent of the wishes that are made on those days by the whole world come true, because almost all are made out of hypocrisy. The world knows this, but continues writing wishes all the same. Not even for New Years did I wish anyone anything until now. But this time I want to enter the ranks of upstanding citizens and wish friends a good new year 1937.
Firstly, I wish you, dear friend, sweet dreams, may you not hear how the people roar as they struggle under the weight of their crosses. May you neither hear the cry of the defeated, nor the yelp of winners in this life. Sweet dreams! May you not hear how you chatter molar to molar, from the cold. Because then you would have to ask: you molar, why do you scuffle with molars and chatter thus? And the tongue answers instead of the molar: because it’s cold, sir, and when it’s cold, sir, to hell go body, muscles, nerves, sir, and therefore there’s grinding molar to molar, sir. It is too banal to say that clothes and shoes and warmth are missing, therefore: sweet dreams, dear friend.
Secondly, after the sweet dream, I wish you—what is also natural—to be happy, always happy. From this great happiness, in a fit of sentimentalism, to kiss the wooden plains of the room and its columns, just like Greta Garbo did in the movie Queen Christina, when she enjoyed beastly love (I meant to say holy, but it’s all the same). So happy, that the world will be envious and say: oh, how happy is he! To be happy, even if on the other hand your heart is exploding, like a clown’s. To be happy, because your happiness gives hope to others. In case your writing table limps, laugh. In case that the only chair in the house is damaged and you have nowhere to sit, laugh. In case you don’t have fire and you are cold, yes, laugh. In case some day, just for no reason, you are also missing food, pretend it’s a game, a joke, and laugh, laugh, laugh. Go out into the street even, at the crossroad, and laugh, laugh, and the world will say: oh, how happy is he! And when it comes to your house to see the cause of your happiness, the world will be reminded of itself and will start to laugh kikikikakaka. The illness of laughter will spread among all and people will jump up like monkeys. And so I wish that we all pass 1937 in happiness, though pathologically ill.
Millosh Gjergj Nikolla, who wrote under the pseudonym Migjeni, was born in 1911 in Shkodra, the cultural center of northern Albania. Deeply touched by the poverty he witnessed while serving as a teacher in remote villages and cities near his hometown, he wrote poignant poetry and prose sketches, imortalizing the reality of a people continously neglected and suffering for their daily bread. Migjeni was one of the most radical poets of his time-- when his first poetry collection was published, Vargje të Lira (Free Verse), two poems were censored for being too controversial. He rejected many conventions of the time, openly criticizing the clergy and organized religion, corrupted leaders and the upper classes that let the poor perish. Migjeni was also one of the first to incorporate personal themes in his poetry, and especially descriptions of the sexual nature, alongside patriotic dedications to his country. He was at the beginning of a brilliant writing career when he succumbed to tuberculosis at only 27 years old.
Genta Nishku is an Editorial Assistant for Warscapes. She is a Development Associate at Make the Road New York, a community-based, social justice organization in New York City. She holds a BA in Classical Studies and English literature from Hunter College. She is currently working on translating the poetry of Albanian writer Migjeni. Twitter @gentanishku.