“What are memories? Life lived with emotions, with all the weapons that keep it alive, with all the norms and canons which the assembly of centuries has created.
Once I have written eight stanzas about MEMORIES. And, as far as I remember, I said:
“O memories, o my life! Come out of there from where you’ve been thrown gathered with your determination, without any crush or threat, come out just as you were registered on the unending reel of my magnetic-brain. I need you now!”
Why did I ask for my memories to come out, to come out just as they were gathered from the emotions, visions, images, scenes, dramas, tragedies, tragi-comedies of my life? Because then when I wrote these stanzas, I was interned on the deserted island of Ustica, there on that lonesome bank, far from Sicily, far from Palermo. And the person separated from life, or better termed dead, because dead is he that lives with memories, winds his magnetic-brain and passes time quietly, by counting the steps of his feet and of his thought, of his heart and of his experience.
What remains in memory, has passed through the screen of years, of worries, and of dreams, of bare reality and of the deep footprints of emotions, images, visions, landscapes, hands, eyes, hearts, voices, lamentations, songs, dances, intrigues, passions, preoccupations, loves, flirtations, languages, sounds, daily shows on the endless screen of life . . .”
-Petro Marko, excerpt from autobiography, Interview with Myself
Across the street, mom and I saw a big sign that read: Petro Marko Library. We mentioned it to Uncle Ibrahim who proudly and confidently said Petro Marko is from Vlora. But who is Petro Marko anyway? Petro Marko (1913 – 1991) is an Albanian writer. I have read his autobiography. It is full of adventure. His opinion of himself is that he is a special person, shrouded in mystery. He is also a rebel. And no one can have Petro Marko. For example, one day, after graduating high school, he was leaning up against a wall in Tirana. He was jobless, sharing a shack with a few buddies, and next to starving. A government official, a big shot, pulled up to him with his car driven by a chauffeur.
He rolled down the window and said to Petro: “Sonny, why aren’t you eating lunch?” Petro replied: “May you eat for all of us, your Excellency!” But that big shot had a big heart. He was impressed and he made arrangements for Petro to go to a village in the south and work as a teacher. Later in life, Petro found himself in France. While there he got an innocent English girl to fall in love with him. But of course that could not work. She cried after him in letters, he says, and sadly, she wound up living in a huge estate with her wealthy grandma, a lonely maid for her entire life. But enough about Petro Marko. This is about me! We made it off the main street. It was dark but from what I could see Vlora did not look pretty on that night; broken sidewalks, dirty roads, and old, decaying apartments.
excerpt from my travel diary: Albania: A Visit Back Home (2012)