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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry



Fresco

by
Luljeta Lleshanaku


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Fresco



Title: Fresco
Author: Luljeta Lleshanaku
Genre: Poetry
Written: (2002)
Length: 75 pages
Original in: Albanian
Availability: Fresco - US
Fresco - UK
  • "Translated, with Henry Israeli and Joanna Goodman, by Ukzenel Buçpapa, Noci Deda, Alban Kupi, Albana Lleshanaku, Lluka Qafoku, Shpresa Qatipi, Qazim Sheme, Daniel Weissbort, and the author."
  • Edited and with an Afterword by Henry Israeli
  • With an Introduction by Peter Constantine.

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Our Assessment:

B : decent collection, some nice pieces

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Born in 1968, Luljeta Lleshanaku grew up under one of the more bizarre regimes of recent memory, Enver Hoxha's isolationist Stalinist dictatorship. Hoxha died in 1985, but change came slowly to Albania. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Albania too tried to move towards a more democratic and open system -- with still limited success. Peter Constantine's introduction to this volume offers a good, brief overview of the state of the arts, and specifically poetry, in Albania during the years of dictatorship, noting that poetry was one of the few forms of expression that could survive in those censorial times (and managed even, in some ways, to flourish).
       Luljeta Lleshanaku's own hardships are recounted in Henry Israeli's afterword; despite them, she has managed to establish herself as a leading poet of her generation. Fresco is the first collection of her poetry to be published in English, though many of the translations included here previously appeared in literary journals and magazines. The poems are taken from four Albanian collections, published between 1992 and 1999.
       Editor Henry Israeli seems to have been the guiding hand behind most of the translations included here, but there were an awful lot of people involved: the copyright page lists no less than fifteen copyright claims, with what seems like every possible combination of translators. (Apparently translation from the Albanian is such a complicated task that no single individual can be entrusted with doing more than few pages of it.) The many (English) voices make for a less than ideal situation, but the collection does read fairly uniformly.
       The poetry is straightforward, the language simple, the verse free and not too heavy. The poems are fairly short, and neither too dense nor too expansive.
       Memory is a central focus in much of the collection:

       My black blood circulates, my black memory
turns back on itself
and drowns
in the primeval silence of creation.
       Memory churns to the fore elsewhere, history and past inescapable even in the poet's present.
       Much of the imagery is harsh, and often striking, but there are also descriptions that seem simply, utterly wrong. "Once Again about my Father" begins:
Forgive me, father, for writing this poem
that sounds like the creak of a door
against a pile of rags
in a room with cobwebs in its armpits
a cold so bitter it stops your blood
       Doors may creak, but how do they creak (differently, or at all) "against a pile of rags" ? With the room's armpits she probably means its corners -- but why "armpits" ? Where, then, are the room's corresponding arms ? (And though dark, and possibly dank, note that armpits are a corner of warmth that don't fit at all well with the frigidity that prevails throughout the rest of the poem.) It is also unclear where (or why) the (also less than ideally expressed) cold-complaint comes from .....
       Many of the poems are half-successes. "Half Past Three" offers a powerful picture, but also confuses with the image:
An ax strikes rhythmically
against the sequoia trunk
of world harmony.
       What is (or was) this trunk of world harmony ? Where can we find one ?
       Fresco is an interesting collection, though it does not entirely convince. There is enough that is striking here, that captures and conveys broad or simple sentiments, or even the weight of a great deal of history, but few of the poems satisfy in their entirety. (The absence of full roundedness may also be intentional, but it doesn't seem too be.)
       Still, the collection affords a glimpse of a largely unknown European culture, with Lleshanaku giving some sense of life there and how difficult it was for the individual to endure in such an environment. Fresco, with its useful introduction and afterword, offers a decent introduction to a clearly talented poet, despite the fact that her work has perhaps not quite broken through the immense barrier that is translation.

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Links:

Fresco: Reviews: Luljeta Lleshanaku: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku was born in 1968.

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© 2002-2009 the complete review

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