Review of Fluturim/Flight by Samuele Fioravanti

by Kleitia Vaso

In the past six months, I have been lucky enough to face five different canceled flights, remaining stuck for several hours  at various airports around Europe. During these last two unpleasant occurrences, sneering Destiny wanted to pay homage to a paradox: the first time I had just bought the novel Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, while the second time I had with me Fluturim/Flight by Kleitia Vaso.

My journey back was thrillingly bad but, as I could not sleep properly for 30 hours, Gods’ sardonic irony was my only comfort during a hopeless via crucis. Hence, I had the chance to read at once all the essays collected in Vaso’s book. Well, just the half in English, of course, as I can’t read the first half in Albanian which should just be a translation of the English section. Nevertheless, I suspect that Vaso's bitter sense of humor could have hidden some jokes or paragraphs which are not included in the English adaptation, just as Milorad Pavić did in his two version of the Dictionary of Kazhars, one dedicated to men and the other to women, or as Matvejević’s different versions of Druga Venecija in Croatian and Italian. We Mediterraneans are considered to be good tricksters since Odysseus’ wandering, but the writers from the Balkans seem particularly talented at it.

Reading Fluturim/Flight was not only very helpful, but also pretty fun. At the beginning I followed the theme-chain starting from an enchanting magnolia tree in a garden in Tirana, moving, then –in a sort of chlorophyllian dialogue– to the flowering parks in Istanbul. Kleitia Vaso seems to end up with interesting conversations with plants more often than with human beings.

Then, when the description of the Turkish former capital by Pamuk came up, with quotes from his famous İstanbul: Hatıralar ve Şehir, I thought I would find then a portrait of Tirana as the city of frustration and desire, as Pamuk's Istanbul was the metropolis of melancholia and nostalgia.

I was not completely wrong but what I actually discovered was slightly different. It is not Tirana itself the environment where desires and frustrations are clogged up in a whole urban and social landscape, it is just Vaso's book. Her collection suddenly seemed  like a map of frustrations and desires: a device where a layer of sarcasm lies upon an everlasting yearning, facing in any case a final bittersweet dissatisfaction.

And yet desire and frustration flow mirroring each other jut like the sky and the surface of the sea depicted in one of Vaso’s most personal essays included in this first edition.

I would even say that the interplay between desire and frustration seems not to  simply be one of the possible portraits of Tirana, but a removable architecture that Vaso is able to build wherever she makes a step or speaks a word. And now, despite my efforts, I have just been very clumsy, talking about the «architecture» of Vaso’s vision, as clumsy as the idiot who describes «the architecture of a glass» in the funniest essay of this collection about people trying to sound intellectual, for instance like writing  a review of the exquisite Fluturim/Flight without being able to read the Albanian version.

by Kleitia Vaso