Dictatorship and authentic literature are incompatible... The writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship.
I thought for a long time about leaving Albania, but at the same time to play a role in its life.
In antiquity, there were three regions in southern Europe: Greece, Rome, and Ilyria. Albanian is the only survivor of the Ilyrian languages. That is why it has always intrigued the great linguists of the past.
In general, literature is a natural adversary of totalitarianism. Tyrannical governments all view literature in the same way: as their enemy. I lived for a long time in a totalitarian state, and I know firsthand that horror.
Guidebooks used to write the name of my city in two ways: Gjirokaster in Albanian, and Argyrokastron for foreigners. The classical-sounding name somehow gave it better credentials, because people in the Balkans famously exaggerate and often call their villages cities.
Literature led me to freedom, not the other way round.
For a writer, New York works well. Literary work is very elitist. I worked two hours a day, maximum, and the time after that was very agreeable. I walked a lot with pleasure. Those two hours augmented the day. I wrote more here than in Paris, an entire chapter of a new novel.
For a writer, personal freedom is not so important. It is not individual freedom that guarantees the greatness of literature; otherwise, writers in democratic countries would be superior to all others. Some of the greatest writers wrote under dictatorship - Shakespeare, Cervantes.
For me as a writer, Albanian is simply an extraordinary means of expression - rich, malleable, adaptable. As I have said in my latest novel, 'Spiritus,' it has modalities that exist only in classical Greek, which puts one in touch with the mentality of antiquity.
Having spent the greater part of my life under a Communist dictatorship, I am very familiar with the Bolshevik mentality according to which an author in general, and an eminent author in particular, is always guilty, and must be punished accordingly.
I am of the opinion that I am not a political writer, and, moreover, that as far as true literature is concerned, there actually are no political writers. I think that my writing is no more political than ancient Greek theatre. I would have become the writer I am in any political regime.
I consider I've had a good day when, among the lines I've written, I've produced from my innermost core what I call 'the appearance of the pearl.' That could refer to a discovery, a sense of harmonious cohesiveness, or something like that.
I first came across the script for 'Macbeth' between the ages of 11 and 12; it was the first book that shook my life. Because I did not yet understand that I could simply purchase it in a bookstore, I copied much of it by hand and took it home. My childhood imagination pushed me to feel like a co-author of the play.
I work only in the morning from 10 to noon. I still write by hand. I interrupt my writing when I feel that I've discovered something beautiful or, on the contrary, when I feel discontent.
If I manage to write something that I consider good and valuable in a particular place, that spot automatically has a special aura for me. In Albania, there are two cities where I have written the majority of my work: Gjirokaster, my home city, and Tirana.
If you are a serious writer or just a normal one, in one way or another, you are writing in the service of freedom. All writers know, understand, or dream that their work will be in the service of freedom.
It is well known that in the Communist countries, and especially in my own, Albania, readers were often called upon to demonstrate their vigilance by detecting and denouncing the 'errors' of authors.
The founding father of Albanian literature is the nineteenth-century writer Naim Frasheri. Without having the greatness of Dante or Shakespeare, he is nonetheless the founder, the emblematic character. He wrote long epic poems, as well as lyrical poetry, to awaken the national consciousness of Albania.
The great universal literature has always had a tragic relation with freedom. The Greeks renounced absolute freedom and imposed order on chaotic mythology, like a tyrant.
The laws of literary creation are unique; they don't change, and they are the same for everyone everywhere. I mean that you can tell a story that covers three hours of human life or three centuries - it comes to the same thing. Each writer who creates something authentic in a natural way instinctively also creates the technique that suits him.