Biography Millosh Gjergj Nikolla
Millosh Gjergj Nikolla (October 13, 1911 - August 26, 1938) was an Albanian poet born in ShkodÃ«r, Albania.
Migjeni, pen name of Millosh Gjergj Nikolla, was born in Shkodra.
In a letter of 12 January 1936 written to translator SkÃ«nder Luarasi (1900-1982) in Tirana, Migjeni announced, "I am about to send my songs to press. Since, while you were here, you promised that you would take charge of speaking to some publisher, â€˜Gutembergâ€™ for instance, I would now like to remind you of this promise, informing you that I am ready." Two days later, Migjeni received the transfer he had earlier requested to the mountain village of Puka and on 18 April 1936 began his activities as the headmaster of the run-down school there.
The clear mountain air did him some good, but the poverty and misery of the mountain tribes in and around Puka were even more overwhelming than that which he had experienced among the inhabitants of the coastal plain. Many of the children came to school barefoot and hungry, and teaching was interrupted for long periods of time because of outbreaks of contagious diseases, such as measles and mumps. After eighteen hard months in the mountains, the consumptive poet was obliged to put an end to his career as a teacher and as a writer, and to seek medical treatment in Turin in northern Italy where his sister Ollga was studying mathematics. He set out from Shkodra on 20 December 1937 and arrived in Turin before Christmas day. There he had hoped, after recovery, to register and study at the Faculty of Arts. The breakthrough in the treatment of tuberculosis, however, was to come a decade too late for Migjeni. After five months at San Luigi sanatorium near Turin, Migjeni was transferred to the Waldensian hospital in Torre Pellice where he died on 26 August 1938. His demise at the age of twenty-six was a tragic loss for modern Albanian letters.
Migjeni made a promising start as a prose writer. He is the author of about twenty-four short prose sketches which he published in periodicals for the most part between the spring of 1933 and the spring of 1938. Ranging from one to five pages in length, these pieces are too short to constitute tales or short stories. Although he approached new themes with unprecedented cynicism and force, his sketches cannot all be considered great works of art from a literary point of view.
Migjeniâ€™s only volume of verse, Vargjet e lira, Tirana 1944 (Free verse), was composed over a three-year period from 1933 to 1935. A first edition of this slender and yet revolutionary collection, a total of thirty-five poems, was printed by the Gutemberg Press in Tirana in 1936 but was immediately banned by the authorities and never circulated. The second edition of 1944, undertaken by scholar KostaÃ§ Cipo (1892-1952) and the poetâ€™s sister Ollga, was more successful. It nonetheless omitted two poems, Parathanja e parathanjeve (Preface of prefaces) and Blasfemi (Blasphemy), which the publisher, Ismail Malâ€™Osmani, felt might offend the Church. The 1944 edition did, however, include eight other poems composed after the first edition had already gone to press.
The main theme of â€˜Free verse,â€™ as with Migjeniâ€™s prose, is misery and suffering. It is a poetry of acute social awareness and despair. Previous generations of poets had sung the beauties of the Albanian mountains and the sacred traditions of the nation, whereas Migjeni now opened his eyes to the harsh realities of life, to the appalling level of misery, disease and poverty he discovered all around him. He was a poet of despair who saw no way out, who cherished no hope that anything but death could put an end to suffering. "I suffer with the child whose father cannot buy him a toy. I suffer with the young man who burns with unslaked sexual desire. I suffer with the middle-aged man drowning in the apathy of life. I suffer with the old man who trembles at the prospect of death. I suffer with the peasant struggling with the soil. I suffer with the worker crushed by iron. I suffer with the sick suffering from all the diseases of the world... I suffer with man." Typical of the suffering and of the futility of human endeavour for Migjeni is Rezignata (Resignation), a poem in the longest cycle of the collection, KangÃ«t e mjerimit (Songs of poverty). Here the poet paints a grim portrait of our earthly existence: sombre nights, tears, smoke, thorns and mud. Rarely does a breath of fresh air or a vision of nature seep through the gloom. When nature does occur in the verse of Migjeni, then of course it is autumn.
If there is no hope, there are at least suffocated desires and wishes. Some poems, such as TÃ« birtÃ« e shekullit tÃ« ri (The sons of the new age), Zgjimi (Awakening), Kanga e rinis (Song of youth) and Kanga e tÃ« burgosunit (The prisonerâ€™s song), are assertively declamatory in a left-wing revolutionary manner. Here we discover Migjeni as a precursor of socialist verse or rather, in fact, as the zenith of genuine socialist verse in Albanian letters, long before the so-called liberation and socialist period from 1944 to 1990. Migjeni was, nonetheless, not a socialist or revolutionary poet in the political sense, despite the indignation and the occasional clenched fist he shows us. For this, he lacked the optimism as well as any sense of political commitment and activity. He was a product of the thirties, an age in which Albanian intellectuals, including Migjeni, were particularly fascinated by the West and in which, in Western Europe itself, the rival ideologies of communism and fascism were colliding for the first time in the Spanish Civil War. Migjeni was not entirely uninfluenced by the nascent philosophy of the right either. In TÃ« lindet njeriu (May the man be born) and particularly, in the Nietzschean dithyramb Trajtat e Mbinjeriut (The shape of the Superman), a strangled, crushed will transforms itself into "ardent desire for a new genius," for the Superman to come. To a Trotskyite friend, AndrÃ© Stefi, who had warned him that the communists would not forgive for such poems, Migjeni replied, "My work has a combative character, but for practical reasons, and taking into account our particular conditions, I must manoeuvre in disguise. I cannot explain these things to the [communist] groups, they must understand them for themselves. The publication of my works is dictated by the necessities of the social situation through which we are passing. As for myself, I consider my work to be a contribution to the union of the groups. AndrÃ©, my work will be achieved if I manage to live a little longer."
Part of the â€˜establishmentâ€™ which he felt was oblivious to and indeed responsible for the sufferings of humanity was the Church. Migjeniâ€™s religious education and his training for the Orthodox priesthood seem to have been entirely counterproductive, for he cherished neither an attachment to religion nor any particularly fond sentiments for the organized Church. God for Migjeni was a giant with granite fists crushing the will of man. Evidence of the repulsion he felt towards god and the Church are to be found in the two poems missing from the 1944 edition, Parathania e parathanieve (Preface of prefaces) with its cry of desperation "God! Where are you?", and Blasfemi (Blasphemy).
In Kanga skandaloze (Scandalous song), Migjeni expresses a morbid attraction to a pale nun and at the same time his defiance and rejection of her world. This poem is one which helps throw some light not only on Migjeniâ€™s attitude to religion but also on one of the more fascinating and least studied aspects in the life of the poet, his repressed heterosexuality.
Eroticism has certainly never been a prominent feature of Albanian literature at any period and one would be hard pressed to name any Albanian author who has expressed his intimate impulses and desires in verse or prose. Migjeni comes closest, though in an unwitting manner. It is generally assumed that the poet remained a virgin until his untimely death at the age of twenty-six. His verse and his prose abound with the figures of women, many of them unhappy prostitutes, for whom Migjeni betrays both pity and an open sexual interest. It is the tearful eyes and the red lips which catch his attention; the rest of the body is rarely described. For Migjeni, sex too means suffering. Passion and rapturous desire are ubiquitous in his verse, but equally present is the spectre of physical intimacy portrayed in terms of disgust and sorrow. It is but one of the many bestial faces of misery described in the 105-line Poema e mjerimit (Poem of poverty).
Though he did not publish a single book during his lifetime, Migjeniâ€™s works, which circulated privately and in the press of the period, were an immediate success. Migjeni paved the way for a modern literature in Albania. This literature was, however, soon to be nipped in the bud. Indeed the very year of the publication of â€˜Free Verseâ€™ saw the victory of Stalinism in Albania and the proclamation of the Peopleâ€™s Republic.
Many have speculated as to what contribution Migjeni might have made to Albanian letters had he managed to live longer. The question remains highly hypothetical, for this individualist voice of genuine social protest would no doubt have suffered the same fate as most Albanian writers of talent in the late forties, i.e. internment, imprisonment or execution. His early demise has at least preserved the writer for us undefiled.
Post-war Stalinist critics in Albania rather superficially proclaimed Migjeni as the precursor of socialist realism though they were unable to deal with many aspects of his life and work, in particular his Schopenhauerian pessimism, his sympathies with the West, his repressed sexuality, and the Nietzschean element in Trajtat e Mbinjeriut (The shape of the Superman), a poem conveniently left out of some post-war editions of his verse. While such critics have delighted in viewing Migjeni as a product of â€˜pre-liberationâ€™ Zogist Albania, it has become painfully evident that the poetâ€™s â€˜songs unsung,â€™ after half a century of communist dictatorship in Albania, are now more compelling than ever.