Category Archives: Infobits

Welcome to Frosina’s Infobits section. Here you will find a wealth of ilittle-known or unusual nformation about Albania and the Albanians!

The Tradition of Classical Music In Albania

Author: Sotiraq Hroni

When Paloke Kurti (1860-1920) wrote the “The Unity of Albania March” in 1878, Albania was still a long way from establishing a classical or professional music tradition. Kurti was a musical amateur, singer, instrumentalist and composer educated in the popular music of his native city, Shkodra, in northern Albania. Albanian musical form took its first real steps

towards professionalism during the second decade of the 20th century with its main initiator, the Franciscan priest, Padre Martin Gjoka (1890-1940) who has the distinction of being the first person in Albania to compose classical music in different genres. Following the classical music tradition of Bach and Handel, Gjoka wrote polyphonic and choral works as well as an unfinished symphony. He can also be considered the first Albanian musician who showed serious interest in traditional Albanian folk music, mostly that of the deep mountainous areas which was less influenced by Eastern music. However, because of the lack of musical institutions and any system of professional music education, his works remained an isolated phenomena – they were performed mostly by amateurs and heard only in small circles. Nevertheless, thanks to Gjoka and a few other musicians of his time, Shkodra became the most important focus of musical life in Albania during the period between the two wars and, especially, after WWII. There, the first orchestral and choral groups were formed and the first musicals were staged, practices that later spread to the southern city of Korça. As a result, Shkodra became the center of education for some of the most distinguished representatives of the first generation of Albanian composers during the second half of the 1900s.

Preng Jakova (1917-1969), who studied clarinet at the Conservatory “Santa Cecilia” of Rome, wrote mostly vocal music. With his operas “Mrika” (1958) and, later, “Scanderbeg” (1968), he is known as the creator of the Albanian national opera. As a composer with lyric inspiration, he wrote under the influence of the traditional Italian opera of the 19th century and in the operatic style of belcanto, at the same time involving the intonations of Albanian songs and dances.

There is no doubt that the most famous composer in Albania of all the time is Çesk Zadeja (1927-1997), also born and raised in Shkodra, and rightly called the father of Albanian classical music. Zadeja graduated in music composition from the Conservatory “P.I. Tchaikovsky” in Moscow, and from 1956 until the end of his life, he propogated his artistic activities in Tirana. He was one of the founders of the Music Conservatory of Tirana, the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, and the Assembly of Songs and Dances. Equally important were Zadeja’s teaching activities as the founder of the Academy of Arts in Tirana and its professor of music composition for 30 years. Under his direction, well-known figures of Albanian classical music were educated. Zadeja’s musical repertoire spawned the formation of classical music tradition in Albania after he wrote his first symphony in 1956. He also composed two ballets, several concertos for instruments and orchestra, dozens of symphonic pieces, several sonnets, music for trio and quartet, etc. Zadeja’s compositions are distinguished for their polished technique and for the rational integration of intonational structures of rhythm and timbre of the most valued Albanian folk music.

During the second half of this century, Albanian music had to confront major challenges resulting from the absence of true professional tradition. This is one of the reasons that its musical development concentrated mainly on classic-romantic styles. The Albanian classical musical scene during 1950-1990 is replete with names such as Tish Daia (b. 1926), the composer of the first Albanian ballet “Halili and Hajria”, Nikolla Zoraqi (1928-1991), a composer with very wide and complex activities that include some short instrumental and vocal pieces for opera and ballet; Tonin Harapi (1925-1991), who was one of the first piano teachers at the national level; Feim Ibrahimi (1935-1997), who, with two concertos for piano during 1970-1980, played a sensitive role in the emancipation of the Albanian musical theatre; Shpetim Kushta (b. 1943), Thoma Gaqi (b. 1949) and others.

With the advent of democracy in 1990, Albanian music had to confront new challenges. Liberation from the constraints of state dictatorship and ideology resulted in the creation of completely new musical structures. Two important musical groups – “The Society of Music Professionals” and “The Society of New Albanian Music” – were formed during 1991-1992, and both became members of the most prestigious European and world musical organizations. Recruiting the best talents and performers of the country into these societies created a different environment for Albanian music and accelerated integration into the world contemporary music scene. Since 1992, the Society of New Albanian Music has organized annual Festivals of New Music while the Society of Music Professionals directs the concerts of New International Chamber Music. Among the composers who are most active in Albania today are Aleksander Peçi (b. 1951), Sokol Shupo (b. 1954), Vasil Tole (b. 1963), and Endri Sina (b. 1968).


Frosina thanks Sotiraq Hroni for supplying the above information and Migen Hasanaj for the translation from Albanian into English.

The compositions of Çesk Sadija, Tonin Harapi, Ramadam Sokoli, and other Albanian composers can be heard on the CD Disc titled “Kenge – Albanian Piano Music”, Guild GMCD 7257.

Albanian Woman in Head Cloth, Lewis Hine Ellis Island, 1905, Gelatin Silver print

Albanian Woman, Ellis Island

Lewis Hine captured an expression of wistful stoicism in his “Albanian Woman, Ellis Island” (1905).

Drawn from the collection of Arlette and Gus Kayafas, a 1998 exhibition titled “There is Nothing as Mysterious as a Fact Clearly Described” at the Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, Massachusetts, provided a fascinating chronology of photography and its emergence as an art form. Examples of photographic techniques such as daguerrrotypes, callotype negatives, salt prints, and cyanotypes were included.

The exhibition featured the work of well-known nineteenth and twentieth century photographers, with a strong focus on the work of four important teachers of photography: August Sanders, Eugene Atget, Lewis Hine, and Walker Evans. Works by female photographers Julia Margaret Cameron, Margaret Bourke-White, Diane Arbus, and Lee Friedlander were also an important presence in the exhibition.

Additional artists included Harold (Doc) Edgerton, Garry Winogrand, Olivia Parker, Helen Levitt, Aaron Siskend, and Harry Callahan. The exhibition was curated by Gus Kayafas who played an integral role in the field of photography as an assistant to both Doc Edgerton and Minor White. All of the photogaphs in the exhibit provided a direct and unmanipulated view of the world.*

“The photograph on the cover of the exhibition’s brochure was Lewis Hine’s 1905 ‘Albanian Woman with Head Cloth, Ellis Island.’ Wearing traditional clothes for her entry into the New World, she faces the camera directly. What might have been a mug shot isn’t, because Hines has captured an expression of wistful stoicism. She holds something back. You yearn to know what – and also what happened to her.” **

* Page 6, Exhibition Brochure, Fuller Museum of Art, Spring, 1998
** Art Review, Christine Tenin, The Boston Globe, June 16, 1998

Albanian Folkmusic

Author: Thomas Weden

Albanian music is available on several CDs. Here is a brief list:

Albania: Vocal and Instrumental Polyphony
Le Chant du Monde LDX 274897

Famille Lela de Permet / Polyphonies Vocales et…*
Label Bleu LBLC 2503

Folk Music of Albania
Topic TSCD 904

V.1 Music of the Balkans: Albania and the Central Balkans
FM Allegro 706

Silvana Licussi: Far From the Land of the Eagles
Lyrichord LYRCD 7413

Albanie: Polyphonies Vocales du Pays Lab/ Ensemble vocal de Gjirokastër
INEDIT 260065

Laver Bariu: Songs from the City of Roses *
GlobeStyle CD ORBD 091

Vocal Traditions of Albania*
Saydisc CD-SDL 421

Thanassis Moraitis: Arvanitic Songs **
FM Allegro 652

Music From Albania: Anthology of World Music *
(NEW) Rounder CD 5151

Kenge Nga Shqiperia dhe Austria: Songs from Albania and Austria Kultur
CD 51095-1 (hard to find).

Worth Noting:

Engendering Song: Singing & Subjectivity at Prespa Albanian Weddings by Jane C. Sugarman 395pp, Published by University of Chicago Press

“Combining photographs, song texts, and vibrant recordings of the music, this book is an innovative work, with a scholarly importance extending far beyond southeast European studies.” Includes a Compact Disc (CD) containing 24 musical selections.

* Highly Recommended
** “Arvaniti” is the Greek word for “Albanian”
Frosina thanks Thomas Weden of Tower Records, Boston, for helping to compile this list.

Lord Byron and his Albanian Costume

Author: Peter Rennie

Lord Byron in Albanian Costume

Lord Byron in Albanian Costume

Lord Byron’s visits to southern Albania in 1809 had made a great impression upon him. In the Albanians he found a peculiar charm which kindled his poetic imagination for exotic themes. In his notes to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage he wrote that the Albanians “struck me forcibly by their resemblance of the Highlanders of Scotland, in dress, figure and manner of living. Their very mountains seemed Caledonian, with a kinder climate. The kilt, though white; the spare, active form; their dialect, Celtic in its sound…”

In the summer of 1813 Byron put on the Albanian costume he had purchased four years earlier in Jannina and sat (or rather “stood”) to the fashionable portrait painter Thomas Phillips. The three-quarter length portrait depicts him in a crimson and gold velvet jacket with a red and gold and bluish-green striped shawl wound round his head like a turban, a white shirt with a large black jewel in a brooch at his throat and, cradling in his arms, a yataghan or sword with a purple-tinged hilt. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy as a “Portrait of a Nobleman in the dress of an Albanian.” It is now in the British Embassy in Athens. In 1835 and 1840 Phillips painted two copies of the portrait. The first in half-length was given by the artist’s son in 1862 to the National Portrait Gallery in London where it is on permanent display; the second, which was commissioned by John Murray, Byron’s publisher, is kept in the publishing firm’s premises in Albemarle Street, London.

And what became of the Albanian costume? After the Royal Academy exhibition, Byron sent it to Miss Mercer Elphinstone, a wealthy Scottish heiress, and it eventually passed into possession of the Lansdowne family and rediscovered in 1962, when a Byron scholar, Doris Langley Moore, went to the Landsdowne family home at Bowood House in Wiltshire to select items from the family collection for a costume museum she was establishing in Bath. In an article published in the Costume Society Journal in 1971 she describes her excitement when she came across a rich crimson velvet jacket and waistcoat. She recognized it as “Byron’s Albanian dress!” After having been on display at the Museum of Costume in Bath the costume was later returned to Bowood where it is still to be seen. Appropriately nearby are two mezzotints on a wall of the original recipient of the costume, Mercer Elphinstone, who has preserved a visible link between Byron and Albania.

Excerpted from BYRON AND THE ALBANIAN CONNECTION by Peter Rennie, The Anglo-Albanian Association, London.

The Albanian School of Venice

Author: Signorina Sandra Rossi

A relief sculpure

A relief sculpure commemorating the seiges of Scutari in 1474 and 1479. The Sultan, Mehmed II, turbanned and crowned and accompanied by his Grand Vizier, stands holding a scimitar below a cliff on which is perched the fort of Scutari.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the beautiful city of Venice in Italy was settled by progenitors of the Albanians, the Illyrian tribe of the Veneti, around 1200 BC. Equally interesting may be the fact that an Albanian School (Scuola Albanesi)in the sense of a lay confraternity dedicated to charitable works was established in Venice in 1479 by Albanian refugees who fled from the Turks after the fall of Shkodra, and that the famous Venetian artist, Carpaccio, was retained by them to paint the decorations of their building. Although the school building, now unmarked, exists today as a residential dwelling, it still retains its bas relief sculpture (shown below) over the front entrance commemorating the
Turkish seiges of Shkodra in 1474 and 1479.

Distinguished painters who emerged from that Albanian community in Venice were Mark Bazaiti, Viktor Karpaci, and Francesco Albani. Below is a description of the Albanian School:

“The Scuola di Santa Maria degli Albanesi had been founded in 1442 for the special benefit of the Albanian community. Following the fall of Scutari (Shkodra) to the Turks in 1479, a number of refugees fled to Venice, where they received assistance from the Signoria (Government of the Venetian Republic). In 1497 the group resolved to build a meeting-house next to the church of San Maurizio, observing that ‘even the Armenians have their own hostel and we have none.’

“When it came to the decoration of the building, Carpaccio was the chosen artist. His six scenes from the Life of the Virgin indicate, however, that other commissions may have had first priority on his attentions. The paintings for the Albanesi are of low quality by comparison with those of the Scuola di San Giorgi, and were probably carried out to a large degree by his workshop. A document of 1503 noted that the majority of the members were artisans and mariners, indicating that the financial resources of the Scuola were very meagre. Carpaccio must have been at the height of his fame during the years in which he painted for the Dalmatians and the Albanesi.

“In a final decorative flourish that documents their long memories and continuing concern for the fate of their homeland, the confratelli of the Albanesi completed the facade of their building around 1530 with a relief sculpure commemorating the seiges of Scutari in 1474 and 1479. The Sultan, Mehmed II, turbanned and crowned and accompanied by his Grand Vizier, stands holding a scimitar below a cliff on which is perched the fort of Scutari. The heroes of each battle — respectively, Antonio Loredan and Antonio da Lezze — were honored by the inclusion of their coats-of-arms. “*

* Pages 70-72, Venetian Narrative Painting in the Age of Carpaccio, Patricia Fortini Brown, Yale University Press, New Haven and London The Frosina Foundation wishes to express its gratitude to Signorina Sandra Rossi of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum Collection in Venice for providing access to the above information.

Lord Byron’s Albanian Costume On Exhibit at Bowood Estates

Author: Ms. Kate Fielden

Lord Byron

Lord Byron

During Lord Byron’s visit to Janina in southern Albania in 1809, he purchased an Albanian costume in which he sat or rather “stood” for the fashionable portrait painter, Thomas Phillips in the summer of 1813. The three-quarter length portrait titled “Portrait of a Nobleman in the dress of an Albanian” depicts Byron in a crimson and gold velvet jacket with a red and gold and bluish-green striped shawl wound round his head like a turban, a white shirt with a large black jewel in a brooch at his throat and, cradling in his arms, a yataghan or sword with a purple-tinged hilt. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy and is now in the British Embassy in Athens.

In 1835 and 1840 Phillips painted two copies of the portrait. The first in half-length was given by the artist’s son in 1862 to the National Portrait Gallery in London where it is on permanent display; the second, which was commissioned by John Murray, Byron’s publisher, is kept in the publishing firm’s premises in Albemarle Street, London.

And what became of the Albanian costume? Byron conducted a flirtatious correspondence with Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, daughter of Lord Keith, and in 1814, he gave her the Albanian costume suggesting she use it for fancy dress. It eventually passed into possession of the Lansdowne family and rediscovered in 1962, when a Byron scholar, Doris Langley Moore, went to the Landsdowne family home at Bowood House in Wiltshire to select items from the family collection for a costume museum she was establishing in Bath.

In an article published in the Costume Society Journal in 1971 Langley Moore describes her excitement when she came across a rich crimson velvet jacket and waistcoat. She recognized it as “Byron’s Albanian dress!” After having been on display at the Museum of Costume in Bath the Albanian costume was later returned to Bowood for exhibit purposes. Appropriately nearby are two mezzotints on a wall of the original recipient of the costume, Mercer Elphinstone, who has preserved a visible link between Byron and Albania.

Model wearing Byron's Albanian dress

Model wearing Byron’s Albanian dress

Bowood House & Gardens
Bowood was bought by the 2nd Earl of Shelburne in 1754, in a half-completed state and finished before 1760. Part of the house was demolished in 1955, and thre rest rearranged in a very happy transformation. Half of what remains is open to the public. The family inherited from their ancestor, Sir William Petty, “whatever degree of sense may have appeared in it, or whatever wealth is likely to remain with it.”

Petty’s widow became Baroness Shelburne, and it is their grandson who settled at Bowood, and their great-grandson who became the first Marquis of Lansdowne. It was he, better known as Shelburne, who befriended Joseph Priestly, the early chemist – who invented oxygen at Bowood. Shelburne also communicated with Johnson, Goldsmith, Hume and George Washington. His great political feat (as Prime Minister) was peace negotiated with the new, young United States in 1783. His son made a great art collection and a fine library, and his great-grandson was Governor-General of Canada and Viceroy of India, and Foreign Secretary.

Though initiating the Entente Cordiale with France in 1904, he also advocated Peace by Negotiation with Germany in 1917. The talents of this family enlighten the house, and their accumulation of centuries beautify the interior. Outside, there are 800 ha of grounds with handsome features — a Doric Temple, a pinetum and arboretum, and a most spectacular Cascade. The Adventure Playground is praised by its young users, and the quite separate Rhododendrum Gardens are open for six weeks during May and June. The 8th Marquess’ son, Lord Shelburne, took over management of Bowood in 1972. He opened the house and grounds to the public in 1975 and later converted the stables and grooms’ quarters into exhibition rooms. restaurant and gift shop. Also on exhibit at Bowood are Napoleon’s death mask, the glittering Keith jewels and an exceptional collection of English watercolors, including works by Bonington and Turner.

Frosina thanks Bowood’s Curator, Ms. Kate Fielden, for supplying the photo and Albanian costume information and Ms. Alison McGrain of Boston’s British Consulate-General for the description of Bowood House & Gardens

Mira KuÇuku/ Albanian Ceramicist Extraordinaire

Mira KuÇuku ceramics

Mira KuÇuku ceramics

Upon entering Mira Kuçuku’s exquisite gallery “Albqeramik” on Bulevardi Zhan D’Ark near the center of Albania’s capital, Tirana, it’s as if you’re suddenly transported to New York’s Park Avenue or Boston’s Newbury Street. Indeed, her gallery would fit in perfectly anywhere on those two elegant confluences of American haute culture. Its contemporary appearance and subtle decor provide an enchanting backdrop for the display of ceramic potteries and sculptures that Mira has hand-fashioned to tantalize both the eye and taste of the most discerning art critic and buyer. The gallery is divided into two rooms, the larger one as you enter where most of her works are on display, and then a smaller one just behind it which serves mainly as storage and some display of finished pieces.

Mira, a dark-haired attractive woman with bright eyes and a quick smile, is serious about her craftsmanship as she points out and describes features on several of her hand-made creations. Her work, encompassing a variety of sizes and shapes ranging from smaller, decorated potteries, plates, and sculptures to impressively-large, floor-standing vases, are distinguished by intricate appliques set off by warm, earth-colored glazes that are oven-fired to last for an eternity. She maintains a rigid work schedule to replenish the stock of the gallery and to fill especially commissioned projects and orders.

A prolific artist (no two pieces of Mira’s art are exactly alike), she keeps exploring new themes by frequently reaching back into her Albanian roots and culture. The ever-changing four seasons of the year are of great interest to her, and one of Mira’s favorite subjects is her young daughter, Bora, whose visage is rendered either in full-face or profile on various pieces as the perfect motif for Spring (Pranvera). A graduate of the Academy of the Figurative Arts in Tirana, Mira was employed for 17 years as a Modeling Sculptor at the Migjeni Arts facility until she established her own gallery/studio in 1993. Her ceramics are considered first-rank, and, unquestionably, they deserve to be exhibited at art and cultural centers in the USA and elsewhere.

With the advent of democracy in Albania in 1991 and the long-awaited freedom of artistic expression, Mira Kuçuku is already making her mark in several countries of Europe such as Denmark, Greece, and Croatia where her ceramic exhibitions garnered rave notices.

Excerpted from an article in LIRIA by Van Christo, October/November, 1995

The Scanderberg Operas by Vivaldi and Francouer

Author: Del Brebner

Antonio Vivaldi’s list of rarely-performed compositions includes an opera entitled Scanderbeg. that was originally performed at the Teatro de la Pergola in Florence, Italy on June 22, 1718. The occasion was the re-opening of the theatre, to this day a pearl among Florentine theatres. For the event Vivaldi had chosen to produce an opera, testimony to Vivaldi’s standing in the music world at that time. That Vivaldi had selected Scanderbeg as the subject of an opera especially composed for that momentous occasion confirms the impact that the Albanian folkhero still had on the civilized world almost 300 years after his heroic life. Only a few of the Vivaldi arias from the opera remain in Turin, Italy along with the libretto which is archived in a library in Bologna.

Another opera entitled Scanderbeg was composed by the 18th century French composer, Francois Francouer. It had been given in command performances before their majesties, King Louis XV and Queen Maria Charlotte Leszcynska of France at Fontainebleau on October 22, 1763. The entire opera has survived including both an original and revised version, librettos and musical scores. The complete works are housed in a library in Paris.*

The Scanderberg Operas

The Scanderberg Operas

According to data provided recently to Frosina by Peter Rennie of London’s Anglo-Albanian Association, there was a third opera about Scanderbeg composed by Bernard Germain le Comte de Lacepede (1765-1805), a French naturaliist, politician, and musician. Better known for his later political actrivities as President of the French Senate and of teh Grand Chancelier de la Legion d’honneur, Lacepede was also teh composer of five operas. One of these was Scanderbeg which was commissioned by a committe of the Academie Royale de Musique in 1785. The opera, however, was never performed since Lacepede for some reason has destroyed it.

Scanderbeg, the national hero of Albania and a military and political leader of international importance was born in 1405 in northern Albania to the Kastrioti family of feudal leaders, and as the child, Gjergj Kastrioti, he was taken as a hostage from his father, Gjon Kastrioti, to be raised and educated in Turkey and to serve in the Ottoman army. Under the name of Skënder (meaning Alexander, after Alexander the Great), he gained distinction in fighting in the Balkans and Asia Minor. He was awarded the title of Bey (Lord of the Land), adopting the name Scanderbeg (Albanian: Skënderbeu) which he retained all his life.

In 1443, he led a revolt in Krujë (northern Albania) against the Ottomans and scored repeated victories over them usually against great numerical odds. His successes were due to his knowledge of Turkish military tactics, his own sound tactics and strategy, brilliant leadership, the mountaineous terrain, and the support of the Albanian people. The revolt ultimately failed because of the overwhelming odds ranged against it and because of Scanderbeg’s death in 1468. The revolt’s astonishing achievements have ever since inspired and heartened Albanians everywhere they are located in the world.**

From 1983 until 1986, Van Christo conducted an extensive search that led him to various archival sources in Italy and France where he eventually retrieved copies of both the Vivaldi and Francouer Scanderbeg operas. He will donate them to several libraries including The School for the Arts at Boston University and the Fan Noli Library in Boston.

* Excerpted from “Van Christo Uncovers Two 18th Century Musical Treasures Celebrating Albania’s Geatest Hero” by Del Brebner, DIELLI, March 1, 1986
** Page 200 Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchins, The Scarecrow Press , Inc., Lanham, MD and London, 1996

Ferid Murad: Albanian-American Nobel Prize Winner

Prof. Ferid Murad

Prof. Ferid Murad

, born in the US, son of an Albanian moslem immigrant father and an American Baptist mother, was awarded the Nobel prize in Medicine in 1998. He received his M.D. Degree in 1965 from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, from which he also received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology that same year. Among other awards/honors that Dr. Murad has earned are the Ciba Award – American Heart Assoc. (1988); NIDDK Bd. of Scientific Counselors (1990-1994) (Chairman, 1993-1994); Lasker Award for Basic Research (1996); Member National Academy of Sciences (1997); Member Inst. of Med. National Academy of Sciences (1998). He is the author/co-author of some 334 medical/scientific publications. The following article about Dr. Murad was excerpted from The Jerusalem Post, November 29, 1998:

“Dr. Ferid Murad, chairman of the department of integrative biology and pharmacology at the University of Texas (Houston) Medical School, will receive the Nobel prize along with Robert Furchgott of the State University of New York and Louis Ignarro of the University of Californa at Los Angeles. All three, working independently in Texas, California, and New York, have spent decades conducting basic research on nitric oxide (NO). Not only did their discoveries lead to the use of Viagra for treating impotence, they have now found that NO – which in minute quantities acts as the body’s most important signaling molecule – is profoundly involved in blood pressure, heart function, infections, lung problems, and the defense of the body against tumors, as well as having the potential to treat disease.

Although his father was an Albanian Moslem and his mother an American Baptist, Murad became an Episcopalian and married Carol, a Presbyterian teacher who is the mother of their five grown children. “My parents had a tiny restaurant in our home town of Whiting, Indiana, and I used to wash dishes and wait on tables to cover the cost of my medical studies. I didn’t write down what people ate – I memorized the details as a kind of game, and I think that helped me later in my scientific work.”

When Dr. Fathi Arafat, president of the Palestinian Red Crescent, learned that Murad had come to Jerusalem to lecture, he informed his brother, Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, who invited Murad to Gaza for a 30-minute weekend meeting.

Murad, whose university is the largest medical research institution in the world, noted that NO has the ability to dilate blood vessels and relax smooth muscle tissue; this led to its application in the anti-impotence pill (Viagra). But he also predicted that NO will be relevent in the fight against cancer, Alzeimer’s disease, heart disease and many other conditions. Altho researchers have long known various details about NO, in 1977 Murad discovered that nitroglycarin pills – used by heart patients for a century – work because they release NO. The colorless, odorless gas signals blood vessels to relax, which lowers blood pressure and relieves the pain of angina pectoris. “For years, colleagues said I was crazy to invest so much time and effort in NO,” Murad recalled. “But I was certain right from the beginning.”

Ironically, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite (a product in which the explosion-prone nitroglycarin is curbed by being absorbed in a porous soil) became ill with heart disease, and his doctor prescribed nitroglycarin. Nobel refused to take it, knowing that it caused headache and dismissing the possibility that it could eliminate chest pain.

Murad, who works 16 to 18 hours a day, noted that since the Nobel prize announcement, he has been overwhelmed by queries and invitations to collaborate in important research projects. “I used to get 5 or 10 applications a month; now I receive an average of 15 a week. I’m no more brilliant or stupid than I was before the announcement – but now everybody’s listening,” he said with a smile.”

Fatos Lubonja: Albania’s Vaclav Havel?

Author: Tina Rosenberg

Fatos Lubojna

Fatos Lubojna

Few have done more to struggle for and constructively criticize Albania’sdemocracy than Fatos Lubonja, writer, editor of the quarterly journal Përpjekja, and now representative of the Forum for Democracy, that is attempting to replace confrontation with dialogue in Albania’s political life. In his 1995 writing, Lubonja presciently analyzed what he calls “the vicious circle of depotism and defence” which he blames for the difficulty in implanting civic freedoms in Albanian society: “It is precisely because of the Albanian individual, being at the beck and call of the patriach and the clan, has little scope for expression, that he has often displayed either compliance, which has created a closed society, or been prone to violent outbreaks in the shape of devastating acts of parricide…”

Lubonja’s judgement is backed with the moral authority of 17 years in communist prisons, and a family history of intellectual resistance. His father, Todi, for many years general director of Albanian Radio-Tellevision, was imprisoned on 1973 following a clampdown by Enver Hoxha on “liberalism” in the arts. Fatos’s mother, Liri, was interned in a remote village while her husband and son were in prison, and she too has written a book about her exile, Far Away, Among People, which portrays the wretched life of the Albanian peasantry.

At age 23, Fatos was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment for “agitation and propaganda” after police found his diaries, which contained criticisms of Hoxha, in his uncle’s attic. He began serving his sentence in the copper mine of Spaç. In 1979, while still incarcerated, Lubonja faced a second accusation, this time of having created a “counterrevolutionary organization” alongside nine other prisoners, and was sentenced to a further 25 years. He has described his trial and the circumstances surrounding it in a documentary novel called The Second Sentence, published in Tirana in 1996. Like all Lubonja’s prison writings, The Second Sentence is remarkably free of bitterness and resentment. It is a memorial to Lubonja’s fellow defendants, three of whom were shot, and records a fearful journey through the moral labyrinth of the totalitarian world.

Following his release from prison in 1991, Lubonja became involved in human rights, and went on to found the quarterly journal “Përpjekja (Endeavor)” in 1994. The journal, Lubonja says, “aims to bring a critical spirit into Albanian culture, and conceives culture not to be a closed archive, but a means of understanding reality.” Përpjekja carries short stories, poetry, literary and cultural criticism, and articles critical of Albanian political developments, and has fast earned a reputation as the foremost Albanian cultural review. A book-length English-language anthology of Përpjekja, entitled “Endeavor” was published in Tirana in May, containing work by Lubonja and leading intellectuals from Albania and Kosova, including Bashkim Shehu, Edi Rama, Ardian Klosi, and Shkëlzen Maliqi.

In January 1997, public fury rose when popular pyramid investment schemes collapsed devastating the Albanian economy. Lubonja and other intellectuals published a memorandum calling for free elections, and warned, ” A people who are not allowed to correct the institutions of the state by a free ballot and through their opposition will do so with fire.” With two other former political prisoners, Lubonja bcame a representative of the Forum of Democracy calling for peaceful dialogue in Albania’s increasingly polarized political climate.

The Forum’s attempts to organize peaceful demonstrations in February, under the slogan, “Flowers instead of stones” has several times led to the detainment of Lubonja and other coalition leaders. “These”, Lubonja writes, “are the times when a person must consume extraordinary quantities of spiritual energy to preserve himself and not to surrender to negative emotions such as fear and terror, which not only cost him his clarity of mind but also his dignity, and make him give way to evil.”

— Excerpted from the article “Leading the Endeavor” by John Hodgson, Transitions, June, 1997


Albania, the Nation Without Heroes / Why Its Own Vaclav Havel Is an Intellectual Ignored
If most Westerners had to choose one person to symbolize Eastern Europe’s emergence from Communism, it would be Vaclav Havel, one of a generation of Western-oriented intellectuals and writers who were dissidents and political prisoners under Communism and then continued to provide moral and sometimes political guidance after Communism fell. Then there is Albania, and Fatos Lubonja. He is the author of two novels, numerous essays and a diary and stories from prison. He uses his prison experiences — the murder of a cellmate’s cat, the joy of a prisoner released from shackles into the relative liberty of solitary confinement — to write about freedom and dignity … he has helped found Albania’s first human rights group. In Endeavor, the remarkable journal he edits, he argues for a more critical, tolerant and European Albania. Mr. Lubonja is all the more isolated because most of Albania’s intellectuals now live in America, France, and Italy. Some left to make a living they cannot make in Albania, others to be free of Mr. Berisha’s thugs. Mr. Lubonja stays because he thinks intellectuals must build a European political culture and show Albanians that not everyone in public life is there to get rich.

— Excerpted from Editorial Notebook by Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, December 13, 1997