Viktor Canosinaj

Portrait Viktor Canosinaj
© Ali Gandtschi

Viktor Canosinaj was born in Vlorë, a south Albanian port on the Adriatic coast, in 1960. After completing his studies in literature, he worked as a teacher, journalist and news editor. He also worked as a childcare worker in an SOS children’s village. He was publishing poems and short prose pieces as a young man in the seventies. In the early eighties his first children’s book was published, followed in 1989 by his first novel for adults, which was awarded a national Prize. After the fall of Communism, Canosinaj emerged as one of Albania’s most popular authors of books for children and young people.

Alongside the elements of fantasy and adventure that characterise his books, the author has focused his attention on the process of transformation in his home country since the 1990 overthrow of the Communist regime, which ended a period of isolation that had lasted for decades. The daily life of the uprooted nation, their mental and physical scars, and the drama of broken families form the basis of his works. Canosinaj, as one of Albania’s major authors of literature for children as well as adults, focuses on how, during phases of change, the weakest members of society – women and children – become the victims of human trafficking, prostitution, drugs and criminality. One of his best known novels is »Meriyll« (2000), which made its way onto the IBBY honour list in 2002. After the death of her mother, 14 year-old Meri has to take responsibility for the household and her younger siblings, while her unemployed father battles against alcoholism. She succeeds in salvaging her lost youth with the help of her friend Sid. Canosinaj reveals the tough parallel world of his central character through stark language, making a plea for children’s rights, the protection of families and humanity – not without touching upon the universal adolescent experiences of first love and sexuality. His novel »Ata kërkonin lumturinë« (1997; t: They were seeking happiness) addresses the effects of that era of Balkan history which was marked by mass emigration, the flow of refugees and a new conflict, which was resolved by an international peace mission. The author tells the story of a group of Albanian children who seek their fortune in the Western world. Hiding under a military vehicle, they manage to reach a ferry bound for Italy. Except for Spartak, whose story the author continues in another book for adolescents, all of the runaways return to their homeland, disappointed.

This is how Victor Canosinaj deals with the prevailing taboo, the tragic universe of the post-Communist generation, in Albanian literature, and composes a »hymn dedicated to the family, the love between parent and child and the human resistance to […] violence and terror« (IBBY Albania). The author lives in Tirana and works for the Albanian Parliament.

© international literature festival berlin