Xhevahir Spahiu was born in Malind, a village in the district of Skrapari, Albania. He studied Albanian literature at the University of Tirana, from which he graduated in 1967. He has since worked as a journalist, teacher, publisher, poet and playwright.
In 1993 he became secretary of the Albanian Artists’ and Writers’ Association, whose president he has been since 1998.
For the decades of repression and hardship under totalitarian rule – and, perhaps, his own position in this – Xhevahir Spahiu feels it is his duty to atone. He believes he has failed, as well as being wronged himself. He says so in his poem ‘Borxhet e mia’ (‘My Debts’), in which he speaks not only to his loved ones and closest relatives but also to former, long-dead generations.
Spahiu’s poem ‘Fjala’ (‘The Word’) appears to reflect the sense of futility experienced by many Albanians after receiving their long-craved freedom of expression. Freedom of expression – especiallythe lack of it – has played a role in Spahiu’s own life as a poet. In 1979 his collection Zgjimi i thellësive (‘Awakening of the Depths’) was seized immediately after publication and shredded.
Spahiu often resorts to the mythical past, for instance when he revives the figure of Constantine (Kostandin in Albanian) in ‘still travelling after death’. This legendary medieval figure rises from the grave to retrieve his sister Doruntina from a distant country. The legend of Constantine also plays a central part in Kadare’s Who Brought Doruntina?
To Be with You
To touch your silence as one touches an object, To stare deep into those eyes, Where love drifts like a boat And not to want to be with you forever?
To walk with my arm around your shoulders And not to feel the roar of the blue waves, Lemon trees over my head? The boats like fires in the night?
To be with you, To laugh with you, And not to understand that the sea Is trying to escape its own conch?
To be with you? To be with you!
Out of the azure heavens the eagle swooped down one day Onto the flag.
The heart said to the hand: carve! And the hand carved it in stone.
The eagle from its refuge in the cliffs Penetrated the expanses of song.
Penetrated the hero's breast And replaced the heart.