26 May 1965 |
Malësi e Madhe District, Albania
|Period||2001 – present|
|Literary movement||Postmodern literature|
|Notable awards||Pjetër Arbnori
Gjekë Marinaj is an Albanian-American poet, writer, translator, literary critic, and founder of the Protonism Theory. Currently living in the United States, he has been the first president of the Society of Albanian-American Writers, established in 2001 and has published several books of poetry, prose, and literary criticism. In 2008, Marinaj was awarded the Pjetër Arbnori Award for literature by QNK part of the Ministry of Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports of Albania.
Early life and career
Born in 1965 in the Malësi e Madhe District of northern Albania, Marinaj started his writing career as a restricted correspondent publishing in a number of Albanian media outlets, first in local newspapers in Shkodra, then in a series of Albanian national publications including Zëri i Rinisë ("The Voice of Youth"), Luftëtari ("The Fighter"), Vullnetari ("The Volunteer"), and Drita (The Light). In August 1990, Marinaj published an anti-communist satiric poem entitled "Horses" (original Albanian: Kuajt) and aware of his imminent arrest from the communist regime, on September 12, 1990, Marinaj escaped authorities by illegally crossing the Albanian-Yugoslavian border and fled first to Yugoslavia and later on to the United States. He arrived in San Diego in July 1991, then went to Richardson, Texas. In 2001, Marinaj founded the Albanian-American Writers Association and served as president until 2009.
While perusing his new life in America, Marinaj continued working as a freelance journalist for the Albanian media; his freelance work included interviews with President George Herbert Walker Bush, the ninth and current President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres, and world-renowned soccer player Pelé.
Marinaj published his poem entitled "Horses" in the Albanian paper of record, Drita, which at first glance it read like a simple poem about farm animals, but was actually a satirical social and political commentary about the Albanian people being herded and corralled by an oppressive communist regime. "Horses" appeared in Drita on August 19, 1990, and the response was immediate and overwhelming. The sheer audacity of publishing such a clearly subversive poem in a national publication amazed the Albanians (and soon after the international community as well). " Within hours, copies of Drita sold out across the country, so people took to scrawling the poem on scraps of paper and passing it to one another in the subways and on the streets and months later, protesters chanted the poem through megaphones during anti-government demonstrations. Seen from this point of view, "Marinaj’s words inspired freedom, helped defeat communism in Albania." Nevertheless, "having seen other poets hanged in the city's center for voicing similar notions of freedom and liberty, Marinaj knew that he had to leave the country immediately; packed a few of his favorite books, told his friends and family that he was going on vacation, and set off on an eight-hour hike over the mountains and into Yugoslavia."
Education in America
After his education in Albania, Marinaj earned an associate's degree in science from Brookhaven College, in 2001. He continued his education at the University of Texas at Dallas where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2006 with a bachelor's in literary studies, and a master's degree in the same subject in 2008. Three years later, he received a certificate in Holocaust Studies from the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies.
Doctor of Philosophy
The University of Texas at Dallas awarded Marinaj a PhD in 2012. His dissertation which focus on the history and philosophy of oral poetry in the Balkans and on the Translation Theory is titled "Oral Poetry in Albanian and Other Balkan Cultures: Translating the Labyrinths of Untranslatability".
According to The Dallas Morning News, Marinaj's "Protonism Theory" seeks to "promote peace and positive thinking" through literary criticism. Protonism Theory proposes that there are strong and weak points in every piece of literature but argues that a critic’s personal interests and biases influence how much focus those points receive. Marinaj founded the Protonism Theory in 2005 as a response to the flood of unduly negative criticism in East European academia following the collapse of communism and as a response, he developed Protonism to provide a common ground from which critics could evaluate a literary work more objectively. Protonism works along five central principles: truth, inquiry, restitution, protonismiotics, and ethics.
Marinaj has published several books of poetry, journalism, and literary criticism. His three books of poetry include Mos më ik larg (Do Not Depart From Me), Infinit (Infinite), and Lutje në ditën e tetë të javës (Prayer on the Eighth Day of the Week). In addition, he has published a book of author interviews titled Ana tjetër e pasqyrës (The Other Side of the Mirror), a book of selected articles and essays titled Ca gjëra nuk mund të mbeten sekret (Some things can’t be kept secret), and one book of literary criticism titled Protonizmi: nga teoria në praktikë (Protonism: theory into practice).
Marinaj, who has served as guest editor of the Translation Review, has translated several books from English to Albanian, and two from Albanian to English, including a collection of Albanian oral epic poetry (with Frederick Turner (poet)) and has edited more than a dozen books in both languages.
Recognitions and critical reception
- Shin Yu Pai (July 21, 2007). "EDITOR'S NOTE". Locuspoint. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- Lindsey Bever (May 4, 2012). "Power of a poem" (PDF). Neighborgo. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Justin Stock (January 18, 2011). "Albanian-Americans Unite Through Love of the Written Word". StamfordPatch. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- "Professor and Student Cross the Balkans for Poetry". The University of Texas at Dallas. June 23, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- Gary Montgomery. "Public Profile". ALTA. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Shefqet Dibrani (December 15, 2003). "Sfidat e intelektualit" (in Albanian). Bota Sot. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
- Editorial. "testimonials". Illyria. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Brent Flynn (August 18, 2005). "Albanian writers recognize 2 from UTD for translating poet". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Gjekë Marinaj (January 26, 2008). "Këlliçi i mikorofonit sportiv bën 70 vjeç, në SHBA." (PDF) (in Albanian). Gazeta Shekulli. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- Eva Dore (November 11, 2011). "Fenomeni "Gjekë Marinaj"" (in Albanian). Shqip. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Eric Nicholson (February 28, 2010). "Award carries poetic justice" (PDF). UTD Mercury. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- "News Note". Brookhaven College. February 10, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
- UTD (December 6, 2012). "Doctoral degrees awarded by U.T. Dallas". University of Texasurl=http://www.utdallas.edu/dept/graddean/phds/phds1213.htm.
- Marius Dobrescu (August 2012). "Afinitatile culturale" (in Romanian). Prietenul Albanezului. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Afrim A. Rexhepi (December 2012). "Haiku and the theory of Protonism" (PDF) (in Macedonian). Spektar. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Preç Zogaj (December 3, 2012). "teoria që sheh bardhë dhe lart" (in Albanian). Mapo. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Jenni Gilmer (January 16, 2009). "This week’s RLC update – Marinaj awarded literature prize". Richland College - Media & Newsroom. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
- ATLA. "Public Profile". ALTA. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
- "translation review" "Guest Editor" (PDF). Translation Review. Fall 2008. Retrieved February 11, 2013.