An overview of the book ‘The Invisible Victory’, authored by Mujë Buçpapaj, a renowned poet and scholar from Albania, a country known for its natural and cultural heritage

About the Author

Poet Mujë Buçpapaj, born in Tropoja, Albania (1962), graduated from the branch of Albanian Language and Literature, University of Tirana (1986). In the years 1991-1992, he studied for two years for feature film script at Kinostudio “Alshqiperia e Re”, Tirana, today “Albafilmi” (considered as post-master’s studies), as well as completed many other qualifications of the cultural spectrum in country and abroad. Mujë Buçpapaj is a doctor of literary sciences with a thesis on the survival of Albanian poetry during the communist censorship, defended at the Institute of Linguistics and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Albania. He is one of the founders of political pluralism and the free press in Albania (1990) and a journalist for many years in the most popular newspapers in Tirana. He is the head of the literary and cultural newspaper “Nacional”, the “Nacional” Publishing House and the Studies and National Projects.

Mujë Buçpapaj, a renowned poet and scholar from Albania
Mujë Buçpapaj, a renowned poet and scholar from Albania

Buçpapaj is one of the most prominent exponents of contemporary Albanian poetry

In the years 1991-2005 he was co-founder and journalist of the first opposition newspaper in the country after 50 years of communist dictatorship “Rilindja Demokratike” and founder of the newspaper “Tribuna Demokratike.”

In the years 2005-2009 he was the director of the International Cultural Center in Tirana, while in the years 2010-2014 he was the Director of the Albanian Copyright Office in Tirana. After the year 2014 and onwards, he took charge of the “Nacional” Publications and the “Nacional” newspaper. Currently, he is also a lecturer at “Luarasi” University in Tirana, where he teaches the subject of Academic Writing.

He is the author of many books on literature and poetics, hundreds of journalistic writings, criticisms, essays, studies including those on regional problems

Buçpapaj is one of the most prominent exponents of contemporary Albanian poetry with the greatest national and international success, respectively published in several foreign languages and honored with several prestigious international awards from Greece to the USA and one of the most prominent managers of culture in the country. Drafter of cultural policies.

He is the lead organizer of many international conferences held in Tirana on the problems of art, literature and copyright.

He is the author of many study books on literature and poetics, but also of hundreds of journalistic writings, criticisms, essays, studies including those on regional problems, national security as well as on the management of art in market conditions, cultural policies and national strategy of culture. He is known as one of the strongest public debaters on the problems of the Albanian transition, regional political developments, and democracy as a whole. He is the founder of the newspaper/magazine “Nacional” and its director. He lives, works and creates in Tirana, together with his wife and two daughters.

He can be contacted at Email: bucpapaj@yahoo.com

His poems were translated in English by Claude C. FREEMAN III and Ukë Zenel BUÇPAPAJ


            …The river’s memory  

            Hiding in the smell of leaves…

If you know what it feels like to be home, Mujë Buçpapaj’s ‘The Invisible Victory’ will break your heart. It is a beautiful, intimate portrait of a people and a landscape torn by war—and of the scars that remain. Buçpapaj becomes the haunting voice of multitudes, both living and dead, who experienced the war in Kosovo. He focuses on the connection between the men, women and children and their homeland. The poems that constitute The Invisible Victory are the jagged, glittering fragments of the poet’s heart lying raw and scattered between nations. The human spirit is what unifies the poems—the longing for home as it once was and for people who are now lost and the utter sadness in knowing it is only a memory.  The brokenness reflects the hearts of the poet’s brothers and sisters of friends, families, enemies, and what is human in each of us.  All suffered together; they were and are unified in their pain, and pain and brokenness are part of what unifies The Invisible Victory.

Inherent in the poems is a longing for a lost past that has not begun to fade from the reaches of memory

The book begins with suffering and ends with its prospect, a final poem consisting of prophesy and history interwoven. The most prominent emotion in the book is the poet’s sadness, and his is the sadness of nations. The most intimate emotion, however, is the poet’s sheer determination to preserve the freedom of expression for the good of all nations. In writing the book, he lives that passion, and the “invisible victory” becomes the defeat of any fear which might impede proclamation of the truth.  Showing his love for his homeland and his gift for brilliant, vivid imagery and metaphor, Buçpapaj interweaves concepts of home and those who remember home and, in doing so, touches what is human in us all.

Inherent in the poems is a longing for a lost past that has not begun to fade from the reaches of memory, but rather, that is separated only by a thin, yet immovable curtain of time.  Buçpapaj examines the substance of time through the poetic medium as though hopeful that he will find some loophole through which he might rescue all that was lost to him.  Ironically, the collection begins with the image of the sunset in “The Invisible Victory”- the beginning of the end – and it ends with a poem titled “This Is Just the Beginning,” which opens with an image of the devil’s son reigning on a throne of fire and closes with a sad and frightening prospect: the harvest has come and death waits.  The final stanza reads: “Farewell / You people remaining / At the beginning.”  It seems to be saying that all the hellish experience documented in the book is only a precursor to what is to come.  Interestingly, both “The Invisible Victory” and “This Is Just the Beginning” are written in the past tense.  The collection is interspersed with brief, imagistic poems much like stills from the action of mind and memory.  They force the reader to stop, take a step back, and to gaze in awe at what simply is, while realizing that any single moment is timeless.

Buçpapaj occasionally speaks in the first person, gradually bringing his own loss and grief to the surface of the work.  In the title poem, which also opens the collection, the poet makes himself known as an integral part of his world and its circumstances:

I was also

Under the cracked skin

Of the sun’s

Rusty clothes

Measuring the colour

Of corn fields (from ‘The Invisible Victory’)

The sun is setting, and there is an ominous implication in the fact that the poem is written in the past tense: “Life / Wasn’t enough for Man / To do good.”  The poet speaks from beyond this time, and his tone is brimming with a nearly breathless melancholy; in it, we hear the mournful echo as the sun disappears: too late, it’s too late, too late.

Initially, the first person persona seems somewhat distant from events, albeit saddened by what he has witnessed.  It is not long, however, before the narrator’s references to himself become intimate and raw, thus making the personal more universal:

O God

It seems to me

Instead of my Homeland

I have left a field

Of men

Devoid of sight

Behind the plane’s door (from ‘Dirty Fantasy’)

It is when Buçpapaj makes himself most visible in his poems that I can also hear the voices of an entire nation of people. “A Letter to my Mother” is the longest and one of the strongest poems in the collection. Buçpapaj lives right on the surface of this poem, and it contains some of the most touching passages in the book. Buçpapaj’s very tears have pooled in the midst of its lines:

Dear Mother

I spent a black winter

In the womb of curse

Where death finds

Man in solitude

With roads wrapped round his head [. . .]

And because of the heavy field

I left one of my legs

And my youngest daughter’s tears

In dust

Buçpapaj’s words are filled with a fiery sadness.  He is bold and unapologetic in his grief.  In “The Night Over Kosova,” he tells of the hate-sparked fires which destroyed homes, hearts, and such beauty.  Buçpapaj mourns in tears and flame, and through him, his nation finds a voice.

“A Letter to my Mother” is the longest and one of the strongest poems in the collection.

Buçpapaj’s poems are generally short, usually less than a page, and they tend to end suddenly, with strong, yet understated aphorisms, the effect of which is startling—much like the effect of the war’s losses on the people.  This is no accident.  It also pulls the reader’s attention to the poignant conclusion of each poem.  Characteristically short lines work well with this technique; the devices reflect each other in form and in effect.  Short lines, at times, have the effect of making the speaker sound as though he is gasping for breath, as though wounded or exhausted (as he is in “A Letter to My Mother”).  The short, enjambed lines combined with virtually nonexistent punctuation can also accelerate the reading of the poem, and this effect, combined with the often sudden conclusions, leaves us somewhat dizzy—like running off the edge of the earth into space—at which point we realize what Buçpapaj had in mind all along: to yank the solid foundation from beneath us in order to make us feel what he and so many others felt at the great losses they suffered.  With the poems’ conclusions, and often within the poems as well, one finds oneself soaring off the edge of the earth in defiance of gravity, and this changes one’s conception of “necessary” footing, just as the great losses due to war must have affected those who suffered it.

What charms me most about this book is the way Buçpapaj employs such fresh, stunning images within his metaphor.  I have selected only three of the numerous examples from the book. They speak for themselves:


Had fallen from the trees

Down on school children’s bags

The sound of the hearth’s ashes

Rolling round the world (from ‘Kosovë 1999’)

The Big Marsh

Still eating land from under

The ribs of the dead (from ‘The Field of Tplani’)

Having the colour of North Winds

The river was the wind’s portrait

Standing over trees (From ‘The Wind’s Portrait’)

Buçpapaj employs everything he loves and everything he hates in order to paint a precise portrait of his broken heart.  The pages overflow with sunsets, mountains, birds, books, and corn fields.  But we also see abandoned ruins, exodus engulfed in darkness, the muddy, frozen hands of children, and the dead beneath a tangle of burnt, labyrinthine roads of a ravaged land.  The dead remind us that, despite the season of renewal, some of the most valuable losses will never be regained. As the poet writes in “Total Disillusion,” “Homeland has abandoned / His own home.”

The poems are haunted, as the poet’s heart is haunted – riddled with ghosts of the lost and an atmosphere of appalled, exhausted silence.  In the shivers of the poet’s heart, we see the dead:

Those already weeping

In graves

Are at the bottom of the meadow

Beaten by winds

And afraid of cows (from ‘Ghastly Silence’)

O abandoned trains

Take me to the dead

Weeping under the rain

We have to reconcile them (from ‘The Southern Trains’)

Despite the fact that the book ends with the prospect of destruction, I do not sense a fear of that destruction.  Rather, there is victory in the written word and its freeing power:

Here rests our dream

That forbidden freedom had collapsed [. . .]

We’ll go to the ruins to unbury FREEDOM

And feed on IT our papers written

Amidst mud

On the day we defeated fear (from ‘The Square’)

“Fear had conquered the world,” the poet says in “Black Fear.”  Perhaps, then, the invisible victory is in overcoming fear and thus freeing the spirit of mankind to profess the truth—which is precisely what Buçpapaj does in writing The Invisible Victory.

Hope hasn’t abandoned me

In this ward of horror

Light a wooden fire

Over this desolate world

Say prayers for me in Albanian

For I am alive and

I don’t want to lose (from ‘A Letter to my Mother’) 

In poems such as “The Wind’s Statue,” we find another irony: the violence was aimed at the poet, as he stands for all who require freedom of expression.  Yet the voices of the people survived in him, while the people themselves were murdered.  The victory is evident in the fact that, despite their deaths, they were not silenced, and that is because one survivor with a voice and a gift was not afraid.  Many more after me will sing praises of Mujë Buçpapaj’s great work.  The Invisible Victory is a gorgeous, timeless victory.


Field of solitude remaining

Ripe corn

Sprouting from children’s hands

Sun falling in marsh

Writing in vapour

Blowing wind

The girl giving in

In tall grass

Shrouded only by shadow

Love coming

From begging

Unspoken victories

Do not exist

But Harvesting

Is in forgetting waters


Not enough

For Men

For Men

To do good


Colour of Northern storm

River winds portrait

Into standing trees

Man built

The other side of life and river

Between rain and field

But wind will have its say

Village’s messages

Distant mountains

Receiving flying bird

From marshes

Dreams fleeing

Village’s sad face

Losing forever the way


To the trembling of the Populars

Season of my home

Winds winding reminding

We are found ageing


Our dream

That freedom lost

In war won once

Resting here

Broken spirit of victory

Smoking wood of living tree

Fire in the city


Rushing through

Wind’s blazing window

Here rests our freedom


To enter our world

Dream now only

No hands reaching

Sunset shuttering

Upon our invisible jail

We return to our ruins

Where Freedom was buried

We eat it

From our poems

We will have it

The day we defeated fear


Angela KostaContributed by Albania-born poetess and writer Angela Kosta, currently based in Italy.


Also read: The Book – He’s Alive by Dibran Fylli 


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