Reading Pajtim Statovci’s Crossing/Tiranan Sydän … or The Unbearable Lightness of Being from Orient, Balkans, Communist Blok, Albania and a Coup de Théâtre. Part IV. (Romeo Kodra)

Occorre fare inizialmente un tale inventario.
Quaderni del carcere, Antonio Gramsci.

Aesthetics of Existence. The hegemonic discourse of neoliberal institutions have managed to extrapolate, decontextualize and domesticate Foucauldian or Deleuzian concepts and turn them in catchy slogans through which are filtered cultural industry productions of post-industrial societies. In this manner, processes of de-subjectivisation, de-individualisation or de-institutionalization are transformed, through dispositifs of political power, in prolific processes of ego production, which, in the case of Statovci’s narrator’s voice of Tiranan Sydän, regard a post-bourgeois class made of former homoeroticized migrants in Finnish contemporary society.

Tiranan Sydän‘s lack of novelty in terms of discourse as well as in linguistic terms attracts the attention on the absolute lack of resistance of the narrator’s voice, which seems as a fish in water, floating unperturbed the dispositif of power of narrative discourse, this last intended as a genre or metagenre (Bakhtin). There is no fugue outside of this discourse. There is no authentic transgression or desire of narrator’s voice. If there is any, it is through a hermetic, unsolved relationship with animals and myth intended as otherness or a supposed provocative homoerotisation of a relationship between two Albanian youngsters of the Nineties:

[H]e would be a respected brain surgeon who would save orphaned children, women, and the elderly, and I would do something else, I would assist him or get a job of my own unblocking drains, pipes, and sinks or building highways. (142)

which are teleologically already reality and easily achievable in Finland:

I imagine that if I had grown up in a country like this, I would have read so many books that I wouldn’t have been able to keep my eyes open, I would have gotten myself a university education and joined a respected profession, I would have lived the best life possible and made those closest to me positively burst with pride. (p.198)

Therefore, the I or the narrator’s voice, as a subject, is produced within the territory of the other, yet not through a process of subjectivization, opening a new discursive or linguistic territory to widen the existing one, but through a process of subjectification, wearing an already existing and recognizable mask of the territory of the other (migrant from former Eastern Blok/Orient/Balkan, belonging to Islamic religion, lgbtiq …etc.).

This production of subjectivity through self-subjectification in the territory of the other in contemporary Albanian literature as well as art is very common. The most famous in literature is the psychotic case of Ismail Kadare, the writer par excellence of the past state socialist regime, which beyond the 180 degree change of weltanschauung as consequence of the change of regime, has opportunistically re-written several passages of the past publications to tune in the same wavelength of the narrative discourse in power (Ke, Jing, “The four others in I. Kadare’s works : a study of the Albanian national identity.” link accessed on 06/01/2021).

However, in Statovci’s Tiranan Sydän towards the end the subjectification or giving to the other what the other expects becomes suspect because of its obviousness:

I sit down at the front of the church, pull my new pendant bearing the cross from my beg, and place it around my neck, and when a priest greets me by nodding in my direction with the subtlest of gestures, like a barely perceptible brushstroke, I feel as though I understand something essential about Finland: people here are not impolite, they are lovely, they like to be left in peace, and they don’t need anything extravagant around them. (p.202)

Coup de Théâtre. In two occasions I was almost, literally, throwing away Tiranan Sydän. The first was when I red something like “Poverty is a state of mind.” (p.150) which regarded Tirana of 1991; and the second “The drunks are a spectacle to behold. [U]npleasant, disgusting, and unforgivable.” (p.197) which regarded the Finnish context. Yet, the intentional stimulation of this kind of reader’s reaction (the theatrical gesture of throwing a book away), through banalities, clichés, prejudice, – which to me reminded Thomas Bernhard – demonstrates always a merit of the writer revealing its capacity to manage the dispositif of narrative discourse.

Statovci’s intentional abundant use of banalities, clichés, prejudice throughout Crossing is demonstrated by their dispersive function towards the Coup de Théâtre at quasi the end of the novel, when the main character/narrator, because of an opportunity to reach fast success and fame through participation in a talent show aired on a national TV station, re-invents ethnographically, without hesitation, its identity by changing the origins from a person belonging to a sexual minority group born in Albania to a similar categorized person born in Turkey, which, as contexts, for the general opinion of a Western neoliberal post-industrial society can be considered, if not the same, interchangeable.

At this point the whole narration is revealed as a theater within theater with three characteristics which effect the (birth of the) reader.

The first one regards the structure of the novel: the text ends with a rapprochement (familial or domestic pacification?) between the son and the mother (the other) as well as the re-appearance in the final scene of an animal/horse (the otherness). This final solution debilitates the effect of the rapid mutation of the main character’s identity revealing a sarcastic theatricality of the writer playing with the reader.

The second characteristic is the almost monological narrative discourse as a tool of reality creation of contexts where the main character/narrator is involved. Through this discourse the narrator is transformed in the main character, which creates for the reader fictional and semiotized realities (in Tirana, Rome, New York, Germany, etc.), where several characters are directly engaged confirming and completing the truthfulness of the fictional realities created by the narrator/main character.

The last characteristic, to conclude with these texts regarding Pajtim Statovci’s Tiranan Sydän, is the psychic and sociological effect on the reader, which empathizes, throughout the reading, with the narrator, the other characters or, as in my case, with the cultural or mythological aspects of life ridiculed by the narrator. In each empathetic case at stake for the reader are 1) the honor of belonging to a social category, status, construct or 2) its contrary, feeling imprisoned within these lasts, as well as 3) the truthfulness of the fictional reality. Statovci’s main preoccupation are the readers which empathize with the honor of belonging to something and somewhere and readers which feel imprisoned in any prefixed category rather then the readers which care about the qualitative aspects of the narrative discourse.