In June 2009, I announced the English version of Gazmend Kapllani’s first book “????? ?????????? ???????” (A Short Border Handbook), available in Greek and English. I strongly recommend that you buy it. It’s a highly personal, witty and often painful account of life as an Albanian immigrant in Greece. It is, perhaps, even more relevant today with the rise of racist violence that is occurring in downtown Athens at the moment. He talked to journalist Maya Jaggi from The Independent about an incident that occurred in the area of Aghios Panteleimonas when supporters of the extremist right-wing group Chrysi Avyi, tried to attack him at his book reading
Last weekend I stumbled across a far-right rally in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city. The signature cadences of an aspiring fascist demagogue, and the small crowd’s robotic chants, were unmistakable even before I caught sight of the capo sawing the air at the waterfront under a statue of Alexander the Great. The dark-uniformed neo-Nazis then paraded their Greek flags through town in the run-up to this Sunday’s European elections, flinging about leaflets stamped with a swastika-like Hellenic emblem and urging that “illegal immigrants” be sent home.
Gazmend Kapllani, a prominent Greek journalist born in Albania, believes it was supporters of the same neo-Nazi group, Chrysi Avyi or Golden Dawn, who tried to beat him up two weeks ago at a public reading of this memoir. It was held in Aghios Panteleimonas, effectively a migrant ghetto in central Athens named after the “saint of charity for all”. At Thessaloniki’s book fair, Kapllani told me that he had taken refuge in a nearby house for several hours while some 20 neo-Nazis rampaged – unhindered by police – terrorising children in a playground, then blogging that they had cleared the district of “scum” like him. Earlier, an Orthodox priest was attacked for distributing food, and his church firebombed.
Gazmend Kapllani has a second book out now called “?? ???? ??????” (My Name is Europe), published by Livani Publishing. It is being presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair and will be available in English in the near future. I will update you when that happens. Follow this link to read an extract from the book in English.
Review for A Short Border Handbook from The Guardian
Sketched with a light hand and a heavy heart … Kapllani is at his best on the devastating effects of tyranny and its aftermath, where Albanians tear the statues down “like orphaned children robbing the corpse of a false and terrifying father”. But he is universally relevant when he talks about the subtleties of the immigrant’s life… One of the pleasures of this is the author’s honesty, but one of its shocks is that it exposes a struggle for dignity in a wealthy, multicultural EU. We think of walls and borders as something either in the past or in the Middle East. Kapllani brings borders closer to home and ruffles our notions of 21st-century Europe and the price some pay to live in it
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