A JOURNEY TO ELBASSAN
Today, I'm going to relate my travel impressions of Albania. And, first of all, I have to say that nothing is easier, is simpler than a journey to that land. Yet, to this end, it is essential to await the summer and the feast of St John. Only then, as night falls, the yearner after distant lands may, by leaping over the fires, find himself in any city he has ever wished.
Once, when night fell after a day of aching loneliness, a day when I'd lived far from the birds, I leapt over the fires that had been lit in some lowly district of Athens with a deep crav-ing for Albania in my heart. I leapt once, leapt twice. Nothing. The third time I found myself without more ado in Elbassan.
Elbassan is a large city, which I can describe in most detail by referring to a song - in an unknown language, of course - upon three notes that are repeated endlessly, monotonously, ever the same, from morning till night, on the flute played by the blind mendicant at the corner of the street.
The lanes - in Elbassan - are to an unimaginable degree narrow, and on every side loom enormous, bare walls that seem to reach up to the sky. Nowhere is any wicket to be seen, nor even the branch of a tree sticking out.
I wandered through the township with great curiosity. Peace reigned in my heart and, under my breath, I even sang a song from my childhood.
The people I met on my way were tall and wore fus-tanellas, long fustanellas down to the ground. Their step was slow, "majestic - I reflected - as it always is in the East". Oth-ers wore white fezzes on their heads, while still more wore large tragic women's hats with feathers.
Yet, suddenly, an inexpressible anxiety filled my heart. These people had no eyes! I'd noticed them: already their gaze had been troubling me! The fear caused me to halt, rooted me to the ground, for a while, for quite some time, there, absolutely motionless, speechless. And when I was somehow able to move, to run, at any rate to understand, I saw to my hor-ror when I took to following them, that on turning the corner they vanished like a dream…. Vanished, to appear again at the other corner from where they'd begun, calmly continuing their frightful stroll.
There was no longer any room for doubt. An incredible deception was being enacted at my expense. I realised that I'd become the unsuspecting victim of a foul and terrible plot. I straightaway saw the magnitude of my error, sank to the ground and wept bitterly.
Translated by David Connolly
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