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Writing as linguistic migration: Gëzim Hajdari in conversation with Emma Bond



Writing as linguistic migration: Gëzim Hajdari in conversation with Emma Bond

The Italian Cultural Institute is pleased to welcome Albanian-born poet Gëzim Hajdari, who will be joined in conversation by Emma Bond (University of St. Andrews); the discussion will also feature a reading of some of Hajdari’s poems.

As Anna Blasiak notes in her opening statement on “Italian poetry in English” in The Italian Riveter, in recent years there’s been a renewed interest among English-speaking readers for twentieth- and twenty-first-century Italian poets. Among such poets there are also those for whom Italian is not their first language: such is the case for Gëzim Hajdari, who has been living in Italy as an exile since 1992, when he was forced to leave his home country following the many threats he received due to his outspoken critique of the crimes perpetrated by the previous Hoxha nomenklatura. Since then, he has published numerous books and poetry collections in both Italian and Albanian.

In his poetry, Hajdari often draws upon the oral and epic traditions, longing for the choral quality expressed in them, and has come to see his own work as one long epic poem. His personal experience living in a foreign land has also shaped much of his writings and he is now considered one of the major voices of the Albanian migration to Italy. As such, Hajdari emphasizes the role of poetry as counter power and as a tool for resistance. Working in both Italian and Albanian, he prefers to speak of a “double language” rather than bilingualism and views his writing as a linguistic migration which goes in and out of the two languages, enriching them and offering the reader a new awareness.

Two poems from Hajdari’s collection Stigmata (Shearsman Books, 2016), translated by Cristina Viti, are among many other contributions included in The Italian Riveter, a magazine of Italian literature in English published by the European Literature Network thanks to the joint founding of the Italian Cultural Institutes in London, Edinburgh and Dublin.

The digital copy of the Italian issue of the Riveter is now free to download here, while physical copies can be ordered here.


Gëzim Hajdari was born in Hajdaraj, Albania in 1957 and is considered a leading figure among the migrant poets writing in Italian.

First trained as an accountant in Lushnjë, he went on to graduate in Albanian Language and Literature at the A. Xhuvani University in Elbasan and in Humanities at La Sapienza University in Rome. He fled his home country in 1992, after receiving multiple threats following his political activism and intense activity as a journalist. He has since been living in exile in Frosinone, an Italian town south of Rome which has granted him honorary citizenship for his literary merits.

Hajdari writes in both Albanian and Italian and has published numerous books, including various poetry collections, essays and travel writings; he has also worked as a translator (notably I canti dei nizam for Besa Editrice, 2012) and is director of the poetry series “Erranze” for Ensemble Edizioni (Rome). He has received numerous awards and his work has been translated into several languages, including English — Stigmata, translated by Cristina Viti (Shearsman Books, 2016) and Bitter Grass, translated by Ian Seed (Shearsman Books, 2020).

Emma Bond is Reader at the University of St Andrews (UK). Her research is centred on the transnational circulation of people, texts, and objects, publishing widely on transnational and migration literature; she has also worked on Italo Svevo, the literature of Trieste, and psychoanalysis.

In 2019 she founded the “Transnational Scotland” network, which explores the ties of colonialism within five Scottish Museums. She is now on a research leave to complete her new book Curating Words: Museum Practices in Contemporary Literature, after winning the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Languages and Literature in 2019.

Some of her previous publications include the monograph Writing Migration through the Body (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018) and two co-edited volumes: Il confine liquido: rapporti letterari e interculturali fra Italia e Albania (Besa Editrice, 2013) and Destination Italy: Representing Migration in Contemporary Media and Narrative (Peter Lang, 2018). She is also co-editor of the Transnational Italian Cultures series (Liverpool University Press) and section editor for Comparative Literature for Modern Languages Open.


The event will be in Italian with English translation. 



Date: Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Time: At 6:30 pm

Organized by : Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh

In collaboration with : European Literature Network and Italian Cultural Institutes in London and Dublin

Entrance : Free


Italian Institute of Culture, 82 Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9EW