Books to Read Before Visiting Albania

Books to Read Before Visiting Albania

TIRANA, January 15

Books are a great way to prepare for a visit to a foreign country. While online travel guides and maps, and language on the go apps assist the traveler to get to know the next destination before heading out to a different place. Books make the first introduction to new cultures and help travelers understand why a country is a way it is.
For those planning to travel to Albania this year or in the future, here’s a list of books (memoirs, fiction, history) by Albanian and international writers that lived or traveled through Albania during the last centuries. The books can be read online or in a printed edition

Lord Byron: Letters on Albania, 1809-1810

Lord Byron on Albanian Dress
Lord Byron on Albanian Dress, credit: commons. wikimedia

British romantic poet, whose poetry captured the imagination of Europe, set out on a grand tour of the Mediterranean in 1809 and reached Albania in autumn. His impression on Albania was reflected on the second canto of his autobiographical poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’

Fierce are Albania’s children, yet they lack
Not virtues, were those virtues more mature.
Where is the foe that ever saw their back?
Who can so well the toil of war endure? 580
Their native fastnesses not more secure
Than they in doubtful time of troublous need:
Their wrath how deadly! but their friendship sure,
When Gratitude or Valour bids them bleed,
Unshaken rushing on where’er their chief may lead.

From Byron’s Letter wrote on Prevesa, November 12, 1809

“I shall never forget the singular scene on entering Tepaleen (Tepelena) at five in the afternoon as the sun was going down,” Byron wrote on a letter to his mother while adding “The Albanians in their dresses (the most magnificent in the world, consisting of a long white kilt, gold worked cloak, crimson velvet gold laced jacket and waistcoat, silver-mounted pistols and daggers), the Tartars with their high caps, the Turks in their vast pelisses and turbans, the soldiers and black slaves with the horses, the former stretched in groupes in an immense open gallery in front of the palace, the latter placed in a kind of cloister below it, two hundred steeds ready caparisoned to move in a moment, couriers entering or passing out with dispatches, the kettle drums beating, boys calling the hour from the minaret of the mosque, altogether, with the singular appearance of the building itself, formed a new and delightful spectacle to a stranger.”

Journals of a Landscape Painter in Albania, Etc

Edward Lear Albania
Edward Lear & Painting of Gjirokastra

By Edward Lear, 1812 – 1888
This is one of the most notable illustrated travel books by the English painter, writer, and poet Edward Lear. In the autumn of 1848, he traveled to Albania on an originally unplanned journey. His paintings are important as they provide an important record of life in Albania during the mid-nineteenth century. He describes in detail the architecture, traditional costumes, the hundreds of pelicans of Zverneci, the strange fashion of women in Gjirokastra, and much more. Read Albania through the Eyes of Edward Lear for more memories and paintings from all over Albania.

High Albania by Edith Durham

Edith Durham
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The illustrated book published in 1909 includes details on folklore, custom, and tradition from the Albanian Mountains following an eight-month tour and material from previous visits to Albania.
“The wanderer from the West stands awestruck amongst them, filled with vague memories of the cradle of his race, saying, “This did I do some thousands of years ago; thus did I lie in wait for mine enemy; so thought I and so acted I in the beginning of Time,” from Chapter I, The Land of Living Past.

“The land is one so little known to English travellers that I have given rather a comprehensive view of it as a whole than details of any special branch of study, and have reported what the people themselves said rather than put forward views of my own–which are but those of an outsider. Of outsiders’ views on Balkan problems we are, most of us, tired,” Durham wrote on the preface.

It’s interesting to find out that places, valleys, rivers, and torrents are the same that Durham described in her book more than a century ago.

Broken April
Chronicle in the Stone
The Place of Dreams
And other books by
Ismail Kadare

Ismail Kadare
Ismail Kadare, credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ismail Kadare is a leading literary figure in Albania. His novels are translated into more than 45 different languages. These three novels tell about different parts of Albania’s history. Death and death etiquette, war, blood feud, the other, social rules, totalitarian oppression, traditional laws, humor, childhood, unknown worlds are written in a simple, yet mesmerizing style.

Wildest Province: SOE in the Land of the Eagle
Roderick Bailey

SOE in the Land of the Eagle
SOE in the Land of the Eagle, Albanian Translation, Credit: British Embassy

“In 1943, at the height of the Second World War, small teams of elite British soldiers began parachuting into the mountains of Axis-occupied Albania. Their orders were to find and arm bands of local guerillas and harass the enemy as best they could. Roderick Bailey draws on interviews with survivors, long-hidden diaries and declassified files to tell the full story of this remarkable corner of SOE history.”

Studies in Modern Albanian Literature and Culture
Robert Elsie

Robert Elsie
Robert Elsie

This is a compilation of Elsie’s book reviews and two articles, all published between summer 1985 and spring 1995. The first article ‘Evolution and Revolution in Modern Albanian Literature’ is an introduction to Albanian literature, while the second ‘The Last Albanian Waiter; Impressions from a Journey to Kosovo’ tells about Kosovo under the Serbian hegemony.
The book consists of book reviews by Albanian authors in Albania, Kosovo, and Abroad.

Elsie’s website boasts an immense collection of Albanian literature from folk tales to modern days poetry.


Bonus for our reader: A selection of old postcards that show How did Albania Look like One Century Ago?

© Invest in Albania

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