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book cover Mud Sweeter Than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania

Mud Sweeter Than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania- Book Review

Feb 10, 2022

Voices of Communist Albania through oral history

book cover Mud Sweeter Than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania
Mud Sweeter Than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania

Mud Sweeter Than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania oral histories

Mud Sweeter Than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania is a collection of oral histories by the Polish journalist Margo Rejmer. This book is a glimpse into the personal experiences of Albanians during the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and his repressive apparatus that ruled Albania from 1945 to 1991.

Albania has been tossed in a sea outside its control due to its small size and position between great empires. To more fully understand the title Mud Sweeter Than Honey, one must understand two things.

First, Albania was under Ottoman rule for 400 years. Then, from 1878 until 1912, larger neighboring countries tried to carve it up for themselves. Even after becoming an independent nation in 1912, Albania went through a rocky three decades. It was ruled by the despotic King Zog, occupied by Italy, and briefly controlled by Germany at the end of World War 2. These turbulent times witnessed the awakening of Albanian Nationalism.

Second, the closing period of World War 2 saw the Albanian communists fighting both nazi Germany and the Albanian anti-communist force Balli Kombetar. At the close of the war, the communists prevailed. But, instead of the celebration and hope for a prosperous future, the Albanian people were immediately crushed under Hoxha’s paranoid and brutal consolidation of power. Then followed a mind boggling dictatorship for the next 46 years. His vision of a great Albanian nation did not square with the brutal physical and surreal psychological warfare conducted upon his own people.

Therefore, you have a people with an ancient language and homeland, struggling for autonomy during the birth of Albanian nationalism, suddenly cast into the most horrific and misguided version of this emergent vision of Albania. Hoxha used the concept of a great Albanian nation to crush the people of that very nation, while forcing them to simultaneously deny that it was happening to them. This, to me, is the context and underlying tension of the title Mud Sweeter Than Honey.

I love you, muddy Albanian soil!

I love you, muddy Albanian soil

Magic,

Sweet as honey,

Bitter as wormwood,

I love you

Ferociously,

Desperately,

Like a wolf loves the forest,

Like a wave loves a wave,

Like mud loves mud!

Mitrush Kuteli, “The Muddy Albanian soil,” 1944

translated by Robert Elsie

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