WE FALL LIKE CHILDREN
By Xhevdet Bajraj
With translations from Albanian and Spanish by Ani Gjika and Alice Whitmore
How does a writer translate war? And when the war is over, how does the individual reconstruct his world from the ruins? . . . I first came to know Bajraj’s work by reading some of his poems in Albanian online. I was quickly drawn to the simplicity of language and the beautiful poems of intense desire. He lives in Mexico, in exile since the war in Kosovo, and a lot of his poetry is equally attentive to both the desire and the loneliness inherent in that fate.
— Ani Gjika, from her Note on the Translation, in Slaying the Mosquito, A Monodrama
Bajraj’s poems capture the troubled voice of the foreigner in a strange land; a place tethered, painfully and inextricably, to the past. Bajraj’s Mexico City, populated by fallen angels and the ghosts of the poet’s war-torn past, is an uneasy place, one in which even the most mundane of activities is tinged with darkness . . . The images he evokes are clean and beautiful, uncrowded, like deep, neat wounds. When translating these images, I sought to capture their innocence, their childlike beauty, which contrasts so starkly with the dark nightmares of Bajraj’s memory.
— Alice Whitmore, Translator’s Note, Five Poems by Xhevdet Bajraj, Seizure, Australia
Xhevdet Bajraj is a poet, dramatist, translator, and professor. His works of poetry, which total more than twenty volumes, have been translated into English, German, Spanish, Danish, Serbian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Turkish, and Polish. He has been the recipient of many awards and honors, among them, the prize for best book of poetry (both in 1993 and 2000), conferred by the Kosovo Writers’ Society; the Goliardos International Prize for Poetry in 2004; the 2010 Katarina Josipi award for best original drama written in Albanian; first prize at the Festival of Monodrama, Vlorë, Albania in 2013; and the award for the best book of poetry in 2015, presented at the Prishtina International Book Fair.
In May of 1999, Bajraj and his family were deported from Kosovo. Through the International Parliament of Writers and their program for persecuted writers, he was granted asylum and a fellowship at the Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl in Mexico. In the years since, he has become a full professor of creative writing and literature at the Autonomous University of Mexico City and been inducted into the Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte. In a parallel artistic universe, he appeared as a co-star of Aro Tolbukhin, In the Mind of the Killer, an Ariel award-winning film and Mexico’s submission to the 2003 Oscars.