Culture Supplement

"Goca e Kaçaniku", the first historical Albanian novel

In Albanian culture, "Goca e Kaçaniku" is important, because it is the first historical novel in Albanian literature, and, also, the first opera of Kosovo. Although Milto Sotir Gurra is among the least known authors, his novella is the most popular. There is no other Albanian novel that comes close to it in terms of popularity. Therefore, "Kaçanik's Oyster" is a phenomenon in our literature, culture and life. It is not a great work of literature, but it is an extremely popular work

The forgotten author

Milto Sotir Gurra was born on May 16, 1884, in Marjan of Opari (Korçë) and died in Tirana in 1972. He was one of the well-known patriots and writers of the time. He has published the magazines "Shkëndija", "Zekthi" and "Mituria", as well as the works: "Rrëfenjë", "Kur rilindej Albania", "Desire", etc. Many of his writings have been published under the pseudonyms Nomadhi, Gjon Zeza and D. Toçkas. Also, he brought authors such as Ludvig Holberg, Viktor Hygo, Aleksandër Pushkin, Ivan Turgeniev, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, etc. into the Albanian language.

He spent the most creative years of his life abroad: first in Odesa, by the Black Sea, and then in America, Istanbul, Sofia and Constanta. He lived mainly in exile, therefore the dominant theme of his stories is exile.

Milto S. Gurra has published the books: "Goca e malësësi: refenjë" (1911), "The foundations of Albanian patriotism" (1934), "Plagët e kurbetit" (1938) and "Plagët e krësë" (1944). In 1959, Bedri Dedja and Nasho Jorgaqi selected some of his fairy tales, stories and dialogues, and published them under the title "The weathered old man"; in 1971, under the editing and selection of Rexhep Qosje, his book "Stories" was published in Pristina; a year later, in 1972, the book "Selected Stories" was published in Tirana. After his death, the books (selections) were also published: "Desire" (1974) and "Dashurija e Matilda" (2003).

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Milto Sotir Gurra (1884 -1972)

Throat Oyster

The novella "Goca e Kaçaniku" (which will be published these days, by the Bard Books publishing house) is taken from the book "Goca e Kaçaniku e tyrena" (published by Ngrehina Typografike "Gurakuqi", Tirana, 1944), where including the stories: "Matilda's Love", "On the Altar of Love" and "From the Front of the War".

This romance talks about our Thermopylae, but it doesn't focus on our Leonidas (Idriz Seferin, who led the Battle of the Gorge, not even Isa Boletin, who was the leader of the Kosovar uprisings), but on an oyster, which if used in the form of a gage, or the dialect of the place where the event takes place, would be called Çika e Kaçanik.

The merit of the author is that in the epic myth of the uprising (of a Spartan battle), he introduced the lyrical element (love). Thus, we simultaneously recognize the uprising of the Albanians against the Young Turks, and the love of two mountain youths. From the myth that the battle produced, we know that the river from Guri i Shpu'm through the Gorge was reddened by the bloody fight between the Albanians and the Turks, so much so that even the horses swam through the blood, while from the mouth of the Brave we understand why the Albanians fought against the Turks in 1910: "Weapons taken from us, the rights we have had for hundreds of years, taken from us; you are paying us as much as you want, you don't even have a mind to make us; the school doesn't open for us because you don't want us to wake up. Why do you want to take our honor, when you didn't leave us anything unsaid?"

Pafika's lover does not have a name, but as we can guess, in front of Vash (beauty) there is always a Brave (bravery). This binomial in Albanian literature has always produced stories based on four motifs: beauty, love, honor and bravery.

Creating a novel of ideas and ideals, the author is not tired of finding names for the characters. In the entire novel we have only one person's name (Pafika) and one place name (Toponym Trimor). Both names are invented (neologisms) by the author: Trimor, place of the brave, and Pafika, an ideal that does not go out. In fact, she fades away (withers, dies), but her love, beauty and honesty will remain in the collective memory. These are the three pafikura of Pafika.

As the author says in the introduction, the first title of the novel was "Goca e Malësi". However, after the famous battle between the Albanian insurgents and the Young Turks, Kaçanik became a legend, it became the most famous place in Gegni, it became simultaneously the Sparta and Thermopylae of Albania as a whole. Therefore, the author replaced Malesia with Kaçanik, which, for him, was the heart of Gegnia and bravery.

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Battle of Kaçanik

Intertext and influence

The novel is built on the clichés of the time: the main characters are Trimi and Vasha, their meeting place (the topos of this literature) is the village kroi, and the idea of ​​honor as an ideal of beauty and love is defended. Pafika is beautiful and honest; she loves only once.

This novel has the signs of romantic literature that were later inherited by Lasgushi. For example, the novel talks about Trim and Vasha who see each other and fall in love at the village hall (as in Lasgushi's poem). Also, the Goca is a kind of Tringe of Fishta, who, with the help of the Brave, preserves his honor, fighting with the enemy who intends to dishonor him. The brave is killed, the maiden withers. This also reminds you of the popular song "N'drrasse to veku", which may even have been inspired by this novel (Pafika's craft is the work of the vek; she withers and dies lamenting her son).

Based on this novella, the first Kosovar opera "Goca e Kaçaniku" was composed by Rauf Dhomi, with a libretto by Ajmone Dhomi. Also, after this novel, poems were written and anthologies published with this title (the best known and most performed poem is Bedri Hysa's "Ploja e Grykës". Also, in Kaçanik, there was a cafe-bar named Pafika, after the name of the novel's heroine. Today, some girls from Kaçanik bear the name Pafika, just as many boys from Kaçanik bear the name Trimor (the toponym of the novel), as well as the son of the composer of the opera based on this novel.

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Idriz Seferi with the Albanian insurgents

In all Albanian literature, there is nothing more paradoxical than the popularity of Pafika and Proka, two characters so loved and so well known that come from two below average works by two almost unknown authors. These two characters are like brother and sister, they come from patriotic parents (Gurra and Papajani), but untalented; they grow up as helpless characters (which arouse pity in the reader), fall in love but have no luck, and die of love.

Of course, Rauf Dhomi's opera has great merit in Pafika's popularity, while in Proka's, Isa Qosje's film. Without the help of these mediums (opera and film), these characters would have been forgotten like their authors.

In Albanian culture, "Goca e Kaçaniku" is important, because it is the first historical novel in Albanian literature, and, also, the first opera of Kosovo. Although Milto Sotir Gurra is among the least known authors, his novella is the most popular. There is no other Albanian novel that comes close to it in terms of popularity.

Therefore, "Kaçanik's Oyster" is a phenomenon in our literature, culture and life. It is not a great work of literature, but it is an extremely popular work. More or less like those works that Umberto Eco called "pre-literary masterpieces", this novella in the hierarchy of values ​​did not take place, but was embraced by the masses like a legend.

The novel was written a year after the famous battle of Kaçanik, a battle that gave birth to many of my songs, which gave this small town epic proportions, so much so that it can be freely said that, as much as the battle took place later in Kosovo, none none of them reached legendary proportions.

So, a lyrical account of an epic time, within a historical framework, was guaranteed to succeed. Just as the battle of Thermopylae fulfills the patriotic desire of the Greeks, the Battle of the Gorge also feeds the pride of the Albanians. It was this sense of pride that made the novel famous, and it is not the novel that made the battle famous. The author, although clumsy in writing, seems to have been skilled and able to measure the patriotic pulse of the reader. The popularity of the work depends on that pulse.