Caravaggio’s Dagger – Review by Kadrush Radogoshi, Distinguished Kosovar Poet, Novelist, and Essayist

I met Kadrush Radogoshi through my own literary activities in Edmonton, and we have spent time together in his acquainting me of his biography, oeuvre, stylistic dispositions and preferences, the awards for and reviews of his work, and the history of his selection of Edmonton as the Canadian city to reside in.

Kadrush Radogoshi, with his published works, at Norquest College, Edmonton (Courtesy: Edmonton Journal)

Kadrush Radogoshi, with his published works, at Norquest College, Edmonton (Courtesy: Edmonton Journal)

Mr. Radogoshi’s work is written in Albanian. Although it is not a language I know, I am able to appreciate his approach to structure and content, in particular his essays on the Kosovo War, which he experienced directly, and the architecture of his poetic work, which is constructed not as collections of poetry but as works in verse.

Mr. Radogoshi departed his homeland for deeply personal reasons related entirely to the need for creative and personal freedom that can be exercised in a mature democracy. Born in Gjakova in western Kosovo, Mr. Radogoshi there completed his secondary education and study at its teachers’ college. He completed postgraduate studies in Prishtina, the capital, at its Faculty of Philosophy, to receive a Master of Arts in literature.

He worked as a teacher from 1969 to 1981, whereafter he was repeatedly imprisoned under section 133 of the Yugoslav criminal law forbidding freedom of speech. When Kosovo’s nascent autonomy was revoked by Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević, Mr. Radogoshi was one of 237 Albanian intellectuals arrested and imprisoned, and for 18 years, unable to practice his occupation, he was unemployed and politically persecuted.

After the last war in Kosovo (1998-99), Mr. Radogoshi worked as a professor of literature until 2010, when he emigrated to Canada with his family. During this time he served as president (2007-09) and vice-president (2005-07) of the Writers’ Union of Kosovo. In addition to his editorship (1979-86) of the literary magazine, Paths, he also edited many books in different literary genres.

Mr. Radogoshi has published poems, short stories, novels, a play, essays, and literary criticism; and is the winner of many literary prizes and awards in his homeland. His publications include:

  • Between the Silence and the Song (poems, 1981)
  • On the Crossroad (poems, 1984)
  • The Poetics of Albanian Contemporary Novels (literary criticism, 1985)
  • Necrology for Sodom (poems, 1991)
  • The Artistic Life of Ilir the Bereaved (novel, 1993)
  • Interpretations (literary criticism, 1993)
  • The Heraldry of Sorrow (poems, 1997)
  • Homo Dardanicus (novel, 2000)
  • Through the Literary Universe (literary criticism, 2003, winner of the Pjetër Bogdani Prize, the highest prize for literature in Kosovo)
  • The Roof of the Soul is Leaking (poems, 2004, winner of the Poetic Table Y. Elshani prize)
  • Orpheus from Venice (poems, 2005)
  • Through the Circles of Serb Hell (non-fiction, 2005, winner of the Gjakova Public Library award)
  • Smiling Sorrows (poems, 2006)
  • Semantics of the Other Bank (literary criticism, 2008, Pegasi best book prize, Gjirokastër, Albania)
  • Çabrat Anthology – A Devout Session (poems, 2008, Kosovo Best Poetry Book Prize, 2009).
131128 With Kadrush Radogoshi (Photo: Gloria Steel)

With Kadrush Radogoshi, at Audreys Bookstore in Edmonton, 28 November 2013 (Photo: Gloria Steel)

This is his review of my book, Caravaggio’s Dagger:

A Poetic Spirit Raised Above Living Reality

Hendrik Slegtenhorst is an eloquent Canadian author in several areas such as music, communities, local government, heritage preservation, and especially in poetry. He is a diligent poet, writer and brilliant public speaker. He is inter alia an author of an unusual poetry collection, Caravaggio’s Dagger. This title is a symbolic frame for an authentic authorial poetic system undoubtedly based on a significant philosophical and aesthetic knowledge, based on ethical values and humanism.

This author has chosen the best poems from six completed collections of poetry to create his book Caravaggio’s Dagger. The first and the most important characteristic of this book is coherent structure. Influenced by the perfect harmony of musical works (Beethoven, Schubert, etc.), which are present in the book as epigrams, and also influenced by faultless harmony of Roman architecture with its fabulous arches, Hendrik Slegtenhorst is a master of building hierarchical levels of the structure of the book. Second, these levels begin from figures of speech, placed in specific contexts, and continue with diverse verses and strophes. Third, poems are organized in cycles based on thematic criteria. Last but not least, cycles are organized in the book based on the philosophy of permanent confrontation of opposing ethical categories (good and evil), contrasting aesthetical categories (beauty and ugliness), and contrasting social-psychological categories (humanism and anti- humanism).

Slegtenhorst’s preferred themes are universal themes such as war, life, childhood, love, death, but the point of view is very specific and believable. The poetic character or speaker in this poetry collection is a cosmopolitan man who traveled across the world, and his experience is so rich. This universal spirit is individualized in poetry. It means that this poetic spirit is raised above living reality.

The poems of Caravaggio’s Dagger will impose themselves on readers to read them more than once because they have a magic combination of consciousness and unconsciousness, and above all they have salient feature of catharsis, which is known since ancient Greek tragedy. This important feature ensures continuous reception by passionate readers of poetry.

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