Lirindja #02: The 90’s as we know it

This review was originally published on Kosovo 2.0.  Available here in English, Albanian, and Serbian. 

In case you missed it, the second edition of the zine Lirindja launched last month at Dit’ e Nat’ in Prishtina. This time, the zine chose the 1990s as its topic, presenting a collection of short stories, essays, and poetry that took that decade as their theme. All of Lirindja’s writers are from Kosovo, and come from the generation that lived through the repressions of the ‘90s as children, and entered adulthood in the newly minted republic of Kosovo.

In Sokol Ferizi’s short story “The 14-Year-Old Groom Sisyphus In The Lap Of Sin,” he describes his generation as the “first generation to grow up and continue to live with a mental separation between before and after the war. [We are] the first generation that feels nothing for history, or Yugoslavia, or an organized family and society.”

Written in a Kosovar Gheg dialect that is both approachable and familiar, the stories engage the reader with their evocation of memories that seem to capture the childhood of the generation born in the late ‘80s. This is the generation who were too young to understand that Kosovo was falling apart at the seams, but old enough to understand that they were Albanian, and hence dangerous.

There’s a melancholy sweetness that permeates the stories, an understanding of how the ‘90s of the Dodona Puppet Theater, the Kras sweets shop, and the trees of Taukbashqe were also a time when Albanians adults didn’t venture outside without good reason for fear of being stopped by a Serbian police patrol. The children of the ‘90s could not, at the time, have understood the dull, constant, day-to-day worry that marred the lives of that era’s adults.

“Try and explain the facts of life to 5-year-old: Segregation. Embargo. War. Inflation. As children, we didn’t need Monopoly money, the dinars with their zeros, their endless zeros, filled that role very well.” – Lura Limani, “Kiki”

An honest, straightforward account of a troubled era, Lirindja’s second edition offers a window into how the events of the ‘90s shaped the memories of an entire generation. It tells the stories of the children who were told that everything would be better after the war, and captures the adult reality that followed. It makes one miss the easy reassurances of youth.

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