The Paradoxes of Kosovo in the Theatre of Jeton Neziraj
Anna Maria Monteverdi
At the core of this essay are the paradoxes of Kosovo, the youngest country in Europe as reflected in the theatre of Jeton Neziraj from Pristina, one of the most representative playwrights in the Balkans. Neziraj’s controversial and often censored texts, written in an absurd and ironic style, deal with current and burning social topics in Kosovo, the paradoxical realm of instability, controlled ethnic minorities, religious fundamentalism, nationalism, racism, immigration, homophobia, and corruption. For his plays, he has been blamed as ‘antipatriotic’, ‘Yugonostalgic’, and a ‘betrayer of national interests’. This essay includes interviews with the author, reflections on the contrasts and suffering of this ‘newborn’ country, and descriptions of the theatre performances directed by Blerta Rrustemi Neziraj.
Keywords: theatre in Kosovo, Jeton Neziraj, post-war Kosovo, Balkan conflict, political plays
I paradossi del Kosovo, il più giovane Paese europeo nel teatro del drammaturgo Jeton Neziraj di Pristina, uno dei più rappresentativi e politici autori dei nuovi Balcani, sono al centro del saggio di Anna Maria Monteverdi. I suoi controversi testi spesso censurati dalle autorità, trattano con stile surreale, di attuali e scottanti tematiche: minoranze etniche, fondamentalismi religiosi, nazionalismi, razzismo, immigrazione, omofobia e corruzione per il quale viene etichettato come ‘antipatriottico’, ‘Yugonostalgico’, ‘detrattore degli interessi nazionali’. Il saggio contiene interviste all’autore, riflessioni sui contrasti e sulle sofferenze del nuovo Stato e descrizioni degli spettacoli diretti da Blerta Rrustemi Neziraj.
Parole chiave: Teatro in Kosovo, Jeton Neziraj, il dopoguerra in Kosovo, il conflitto nei Balcani, drammaturgia politica
The Paradoxes of Kosovo in the Theatre of Jeton Neziraj
My plays are full of dreams, and full of failed dreams.
Just as the Europe today.
Jeton Neziraj: a dissonant artist
Post-war societies suffer from the consequences, paradoxes and absurdities deriving from rapid changes and transformations. Social and political repercussions after the atrocities committed during the war in former Yugoslavia have shaken up the pre-established orders. Besides humanitarian and reconstruction support, cultural and artistic interventionism has contributed significantly to raising social awareness, i.e., it becomes a tool to enlighten and to denounce several war and post-war phenomena, giving also a substantial contribution to the reconciliation process.
The 41-year-old award-winning Kosovar playwright Jeton Neziraj, former director of the National Theatre of Prishtina, is an activist and a severe critic of nationalist politics; thanks to him, theatre plays an important role in the construction of the identity of Kosovo. Neziraj is engaged in various campaigns to promote an alternative culture; he has gathered in Prishtina a group of young, creative people around his association Qendra Multimedia, resisting to both the nationalism and the commercial clichés imposed by cultural colonisation.1 He is the courageous voice in the theatre of the new Kosovo, and the author of controversial political comedies that have been translated and performed all across Europe, as well as in the United States. Like many other Kosovar artists and professionals, members of Neziraj’s company have been denied access to the EU due to current visa restrictions.
The political and social developments in Kosovo, whose independence is not recognised by a number of countries yet, have had a direct impact on his work; his goal is ‘to disturb the quiet of the audience’: ‘Something must change within them, just as something changes within the author when he writes the drama, I want them to be agitated, to feel pain, to feel hate, anxiety, enthusiasm, empathy, optimism or desperation’.2
Even though he is marginalised by the media, his fame has spread to Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France, where his texts have been staged, thanks to artistic residencies. Through the systematic use of metaphors, Jeton Neziraj resolutely addresses the paradoxes and absurdities of the political and social contradictions of his country, which is why the German theatre journal Theater der Zeit and the radio station Deutschlandfunk Kultur have called him the Kafka of the Balkans. He touches taboo subjects (refugee repatriation, human rights abuses, ethnic minorities, religious fundamentalism, nationalism, racism, immigration, homophobia and corruption); for this, he has been stigmatised in Kosovo as ‘antipatriotic’, ‘Yugonostalgic’, and a ‘betrayer of national interests’.
A political graffiti in Prishtina. Photographer: Alessandro Di Naro
His political commitment and statements have not been without consequences: for some of his projects created to promote cross-cultural cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo, and for his collaboration with Saša Ilić on the Serbian-Kosovar anthology From Prishtina, with Love / From Belgrade with Love, he lost his position as artistic director of the National Theatre of Kosovo in 2011. His play titled Bordel Balkan, an indictment of post-war crimes, directed by András Urbán in 2017,3 has had a huge echo in the media, because of the strong and violent protests from veterans of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who wanted to stop the premiere and threatened Neziraj, claiming that the play denigrated the KLA’s war and ‘bastardised’ the national values.
Neziraj’s critique of nationalist government propaganda – which does not even spare the theatre – is at the centre of his reflection, and underlines the importance of art in an independent and democratic society. According to Neziraj, the new theatre scene in Kosovo has to give up any anchorage in the past and in the divisions of the conflict; it must definitely be an instrument for overcoming trauma, for reconstruction, for a new dialogue and a new identity.4 Theatre becomes a natural platform for dialogue among people, a bridge between cultures that would never meet otherwise. For instance, Neziraj has collaborated with the famous Belgrade-based Centre for Cultural Decontamination, directed by the Serbian intellectual, cultural activist and dramaturge Borka Pavićević. The project Encyclopaedia of the Alive – An Artistic Intervention in Serbia and Kosovo Realities is the most recent result of the transnational artistic cooperation between Qendra Multimedia and CZKD.
The political nature of Neziraj’s work relies on revealing the ambiguity of History and its irreducibility to a coherent narrative; it can only be exposed in an ironically distorted, sarcastically deformed style, creating surreal but possible worlds. This is not a documentary theatre, because the characters are not recognised as belonging to a specific society; however the circumstances, the places, and the social dynamics are recognisable, even where drama takes on the apparently innocuous form of a fairy tale or of a musical comedy, a cabaret, even a burlesque or the ancient costumes of a cathartic Greek tragedy. The dramatization of real facts (with an eccentric shift towards the paradox and an ironic glance to the contradictions of politics and the evident social disharmonies) is his stylistic cipher. Neziraj puts at the centre of his texts a gallery of characters that are emblematic of a condition that is not only social and political, but also and above all geographical. The circumstances in which they live (wars, abuses, prohibitions, persecutions, ethnic and sexual discrimination) put their everyday lives always at the mercy of unforeseen catastrophic deviations. Peer Gynt from Kosovo is a paradigmatic history of European migration: his naive hero from Kosovo wanders across Europe where, rejected by many countries, he experiences the difference between the dream of freedom and its reality. In Yue Madeleine Yue a young Roma comes back from Germany to Kosovo to seek a worthy existence, and she is injured at an abusive construction site; while she is fighting for her life, her father fights for justice against bureaucracy and racism.
The missing people – killed as soldiers in war, or deportees or victims – and the ‘forced disappearances’ (individuals arrested and taken away with no information given as to their whereabouts or conditions) are some of the most dramatic issues of post-war Kosovo:5 they are at the core of two theatrical projects created by Neziraj in 2006. It is at the peak of the crisis when theatre intervenes with its highest function, as a powerful tool to offer a moment of solidarity, listening, understanding and partial or temporary suspension of pain; on the one hand, theatre serves a very human purpose, on the other, it creates a sad mosaic of suffering, working with the lives and fates of people who have faced its traumas.6
What characterizes Neziraj’s texts is a black humour that takes on history, government policy, religion, and social conventions: the man who makes his woman wear a burqa and then does not recognise her in the midst of too many veiled women; the actor who must read the speech on the independence of Kosovo but agonises because nobody has told him when this coveted independence will be. In 55 shades of gay (2017) a gay couple applies to get married in a conservative provincial town that is deeply homophobic. They make their request at a time when the Italian company Don Bosco has begun building a condom factory in the town. Director, Blerta Rrustemi Neziraj created a stage festooned with condom balloons and pink neon. In The Hypocrites or the English Patient (2018), an attack on Kosovo’s failing health care system, a medic removes vital organs from patients who are unaware, believing that they have been suffering from a routine surgical operation, but finding themselves without their liver or kidney.7 In a play with four actors and some pigs and some cows and some horses and a prime minister and a milk cow and some local and international inspectors8 the entire political class in Kosovo, (‘journalists, artists, market traders, lumberjacks, workers, virgin women, old women, thieves, supporters of terrorism, patriots and everyone else, are all mobilised and working day and night, like ants’) to meet the standards that Europe has set as a condition of entry, and to do this better and faster than Serbia. In their effort to meet these conditions, the owners of the slaughterhouse make a Kafkian journey through a nonsense bureaucracy, dealing with officials who give absurd suggestions: ‘Devoted Muslims, please eat pork. We have to build Kosovo’s road to Europe together. We’re going to eat pork from now onward. Pork will be our traditional food. On our flag, instead of an eagle, we’ll place a pig. National pigs are our road toward the EU’.
Neziraj explains the motivation for this ‘black humour’ in his texts; after all, society is a comedy of the absurd in dark colours:
I have been asked a number of times about the comical side and especially the ‘black humour’ in my play and whether this is appropriate for such a ‘sensitive’ topic. I believe black humour exists in every society, but in the Balkans it can be present in the most tragic of situations. Also, on top of this perhaps ‘cultural’ inclination toward black humour, I tend to view most relations between religion and politics as completely comical. Take, for example, the absurd debate in Switzerland over permitting or prohibiting minarets, or the media storm a few years ago in America concerning that feckless clergyman who announced he was planning to burn the Koran in public, or the media circus started by Erdogan, the president of Turkey, on the prohibition of alcohol – and so many other cases like this – aren’t they perfect examples of comedy?9
How to recount the dire consequences of war? The most ancient Greek tragedy, that of Aeschylus, with its dilemma between fault and destiny, can help. Bordel Balkan is based on the Oresteia by Aeschylus, and transformed in a new context, that of the post-war Balkans:
The post-war period in ancient Greece, the post-war period in the Balkans (after 1990) and a parallel between these two significantly divergent historical moments is drawn to remind us of the resemblance of war as a concept, as a machinery of destruction that brings power to those who speak loudest. Agamemnon’s welcoming anthem is a very popular Kosovar Albanian patriotic song, with lyrics changed into unveiling ‘In-Yer-Face,’ sharply piercing words that stigmatise the glorification of a pure war.10
A Balkan modern hotel is the setting for the tragedy, and is the true face of the Balkan, according to the author, with its old-fashioned charm and a bustle of ambiguous people, from prostitutes to servants who clean the dirt that keeps accumulating, to war veterans. There is blood to be washed away. Not old blood, but new, the result of revenge and internal reprisals. Agamemnon, the commander, is not a hero at all, he has mistreated his wife who will kill him, helped by his beloved Aegistus, a pacifist poet. The war is causing another war. We are inside an Elizabethan revenge play, or a bloody Shakespearean tragedy of the early period:
War is a game, mum.
I bet that they lived better on the front than we did here.
They shot two bullets, and then had two days of fun.
And if at some point they shot more than two bullets, there’d be no end to the orgies.
(J. Neziraj, Bordel Balkan)
The six paradoxes of Kosovo
1. The ‘normalized’ chaotic post-war Kosovo
A frog named Fito runs away from a mad city where violence rules and everything is allowed to those who have money; during his trip he arrives in a corrupt city, which is none other than Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo. Propelled by an ideal of love and utopian claims, Fito is nevertheless swallowed by a cow, which in his stomach has a newspaper containing the headlines of Kosovo’s domestic politics, the Prime Minister’s statements about how to become a millionaire in six months, and the latest news from Gaza. Fito is eventually set free, along with manure, in the new city, which is very similar to Mahagonny, symbol of a degenerate society and of capitalism’s deceit, from Brecht’s and Weil’s opera. There, he finds the complete collapse of all moral authority, and is likely to be crushed and burned. But no fireman rescues Fito from the flames. An episode of racism or maybe of marginalization?
Hello fire brigade? Do you hear me? A frog… a poor frog is suffering.
What? You don’t save frogs?
How come? But that’s racism! That isn’t humane!
(Diffraction#1. In paradise artists can fly)
Diffraction#1. In paradise artists can fly11 is a musical performance directed and composed by Gabriele Marangoni for string ensemble, accordion, percussion and soprano, with a fantastic plot written by Jeton Neziraj. It is the first chapter of a series of artistic investigations about diversion and dissonance, in order to study the particular social and historical conditions that cause very significant changes in human beings, as happens during mass migration and post-war violent turmoil. This fictitious comedy of nonsense, conceived as a music theatre piece, lets the audience enter for a while, through dissonant sound suggestions, into a context made of diffractions (the physical phenomenon of the deviation of sound waves, when they encounter an obstacle). According to the authors this is the Balkan war, from which Kosovo was born as the youngest European country, rich in contradictions and social and political problems.12 What better metaphor than diffraction to talk about the current conditions of Kosovo, after the 1999 war, subjected to a real operation of “restyling”, ‘decaffeination’,13 and ‘political engineering’?
The election of representatives, who allegedly are the perpetrators of war crimes;14 the recent question of the radicalization of the Muslim youth and returning foreign IS fighters; the presence of a political system pervasively stained by corruption; and the rights of ethnic minorities, are some of the issues present in the plays by Jeton Neziraj, always very critical of the political élite. ‘Kosovo is still governed by a caste of corrupt politicians, most of them former commanders who became rich after the war. It is a caste of politicians who once helped the liberation of Kosovo, but today keep it hostage with their voracity for power and pillage’, says Neziraj.15
Newborn Monument (sculpture in Prishtina, designed by Fisnik Ismaili, 2008). Photographer: Alessandro Di Naro
Marangoni composed special music that produces estrangement and disorientation, and translates into noise, rumours, distorted sound and voices, impromptu gestures and continuously broken actions and phrases, the political tensions and the metropolitan concerns of Prishtina. It is the musical basis of a story between alienation and allegory, in which we read a criticism of society: can theatre represent the restlessness, the desire for freedom, as a continuous wave that suffers a tragic deviation? Diffraction is the message that infiltrates the cracks; it goes beyond the obstacles, beyond the walls, and these walls are in Gaza or in Mitrovica.16
The presence of an international military contingent, originally born as ‘transitional’, but which has been permanently present in the country since the Security Council Resolution 1244, appears to be definitely anachronistic and dissonant.17 The desire which the frog feels, sensing that a utopia of freedom is hiding in a country that compels citizens to have a visa when travelling to the European Union, will lead him into the dark, to silence, to an inarticulate cry, to dumbness: the rich and powerful will cut off his tongue but then, they will proclaim him a prophet. It seems the sad fate of much of the intellectual class of Kosovo Neziraj writes, ‘Of course, as a writer, I am particularly interested in finding these voices that this country and its society neglects or sent away. When I say voices I mean marginalised social groups, unpleasant or compromising developments, or deeper problems of society, such as corruption or war crimes, which neither the state nor its citizens have the courage to tackle’.18 That is the cost of having the courage to tell the truth in the theatre. According to Neziraj, a police presence has been necessary for almost every play that his theatre has staged in the last five or six years in Kosovo or Serbia. However, even in that situation Neziraj keeps his sense of ironic humour: ‘Threats, debates, critics, and attempts at censorship have only shown how important the job that we are doing is. They have shown that theatre still matters’.19
The romantic and courageous frog wants to see reality beyond his protected swamp, but his useless and ridiculous search does not end well. The mocking image of the hero-frog that has dignity in front of troops and corrupt politicians, recalls some allegorical characters imagined by Aristophanes and Italo Calvino. The disturbances, the electronic noise, the highs, the hisses, the prolonged whisperings foreseen in the score of Diffraction#1, are an extreme attempt to ‘sound the city’, a crazy city where social disparity and prejudices, ethnic quarrels, and domestic violence coexist. The urban development of the capital is dissonant after the end of the bloody conflict, with a swirling progression (so called ‘turbo-urbanism’) that makes Prishtina a chaotic city, without a definite architectural style.20
The continuous makeover of Prishtina in the compulsive and irrational post-war rebuilding, devoid of a real master plan, is at the core of Neziraj’s tragicomedy Yue Madeline Yue, which tells a story of a Roma family sent back to Kosovo from Germany after the war: little Madeline died after falling into an uncovered excavation pit by a company conducting an illegal construction. It was based on true story. But the most felt dissonance in Neziraj’s text is evidently the conflictual relationship that is still alive between Serbia and Kosovo, since Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Suggestions of a territorial swap between Kosovo and Serbia, with Kosovo receiving the Presevo Valley with its Albanian majority population in Southern Serbia, and Serbia getting the Serb-majority Northern Kosovo, have become increasingly controversial recently. The road to integration or to a normalisation of relations is progressing, but slowly.21 Neziraj points to the historic Brussels Agreement of 2014 between Kosovo and Serbia. More propaganda rather than a true general will for reconciliation:
‘The historic agreement’, ‘the new decisive moment in Serbia and Kosovo relations’ and ‘the push on the road to Euro integrations’, have been some of the epithets given to the Agreement reached on April 19th 2014 in Brussels. The Agreement solved some of the current political problems, but citizens are aware that for the improvement of their everyday lives they will need to wait for a long time. This Agreement, which was hard to reach, will also be difficult to implement. Citizens on both sides desire normal lives and the solution of local problems. The consequences of violence are so hard, that there will a long road ahead to reach the normalisation of Serbian and Albanian relations.22
2. Between extremism and blindness: the fanaticism that obscures vision (and reason)
The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower was written by Neziraj during an artistic residence in France, in Val de Reuil. In 2011 the text had its world première in Sarajevo where it opened the international Festival Mess; in 2012 Blerta Rrustemi Neziraj directed a new production in the National Theatre of Kosovo. In this play, the author deals with the very urgent issue of terrorism as a consequence of global religious and political conflicts; a generalised fear of religious fanaticism, together with its symbols, is taking root in Europe. Neziraj ironically explores both the causes of such fanaticism and its exacerbation. He creates a perfect dramaturgical machine that spares no one as it dismantles, piece by piece, not only stereotypes, misunderstandings, and prejudice with respect to Islam, but the myth of a ‘tolerant’ Europe as well. Two clumsy terrorists want to destroy the emblem of Europe because a French man goes around Paris lifting the veils of women wearing a burka: actually the man only tries to find the woman he loves, whom he cannot find among a thousand others behind the veil.
Jeton Neziraj: The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower (Teatri Kombëtar i Kosovës, Prishtina, 2013). Director: Blerta Rrustemi Neziraj. Performer: Shengyl Ismaili. Photographer: Alessandro Di Naro
Neziraj’s whole drama is a question of points of view, of altered or blurred glances, of non-crystalline visions, of veils that do not allow to see the hardening of dazed looks, and are filters that prevent us from reading reality. The direction of Blerta Neziraj combines the acting of the actors with that of shadow puppets behind a screen. The vocal score for the actors composed by Gabriele Marangoni is a rhythmic accompaniment to the story, giving a musical backbone, in which ritual gestures and a non-naturalistic mimicry are performed. Compared to fanatical terrorists, blinded by religion, the woman who voluntarily chooses to wear a burka can see and has the freedom to act and choose; the song sung by the veiled protagonist (with the significant title I see) corresponds to Hamlet’s words: ‘I have inside what is not shown’.
Blerta Neziraj shows an affirmation of women’s rights and an aversion to a religious radicalism that is dangerously advancing in Kosovo, one of the countries at high risk of terrorism due to the worrying phenomenon of returning young Kosovars who went to fight for ISIS. At the end, the only tower that will be destroyed is the one made of tiles.
The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower seems to predict the tragedies of Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan in Paris, which happened some years after the first representation of the play. Neziraj says:
The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower addresses precisely these sensitive topics: religious fundamentalism and militarism, terrorism and individual freedoms. It is really scary to see that the bloodshed that was projected in this fictional theatre play is now becoming a reality. Of course, this is not a new conflict that started just now, it has been here for many decades. But who could have thought that this conflict would now, in these modern times, become so deep and produce all this hate, all those cultural and religious divisions, misunderstandings, religious fanaticism, violence and terror? I think that Europe has underestimated the potential of religious fundamentalism. What is today happening in many parts of the globe is just madness. It is going beyond the imagination of the worst catastrophe that a writer could project. Of course, I am not an expert of those issues of religion and terrorism, and I am not sure I can give correct statements, but let me say that, in my opinion, religious fundamentalism is linked to poverty, to social instability and other social crises, and above all, it is linked to primitivism. Those are good grounds for people to be easily manipulated. Religious extremism is like nationalism. They are both fed by some ideologies that, in the end, benefit some leaders who in the end become rich, while those who were manipulated go even deeper into poverty and sorrow.23
3. Closed inside the home (with TV satellite dishes): The ‘parallel generation’ of the 1990s
In the period of the 1990s, after the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy (1989–1990) and during a very uncertain, violent and unstable time, the Albanians of Kosovo under the Milošević’s regime created their own institutions as part of a non-violent resistance movement; those institutions functioned separately from the public institutions which had been occupied by Milošević, whose repression had created an unfavourable climate, with thousands of Albanians removed from their jobs and the closing of schools and hospitals to Albanians. Kosovo lost all legislative and executive powers, including any sovereignty on local matters such as education; references to Albanian culture, literature and history were removed and replaced with Serbian references. Most theatres closed, the Albanian actors and directors were expelled, and all the shows produced had to go through the filter of censorship imposed by the new Serbian administration.
A semi-clandestine society and urban experience, marked by the struggle for survival and the strong sense of solidarity to keep life going on, developed in Kosovo despite Serbian persecution: a ‘shadow society’ created schools that taught in the Albanian language and operated separately from the public schools, which only admitted Serbian students. Private houses became schools, theatres, and art galleries. The aim of this ‘parallel education system’ was to strengthen Albanian students’ sense of national belonging, avoiding a real ‘cultural genocide’, that is to say, the deliberate process of the non-physical destruction of a nation.24
The issue of the intimate and private home which became shared space, the house as a metaphor for describing the city during the 1990’s in Prishtina, is at the core of The City is Everywhere, a recent art installation by Kosovar artist Eliza Hoxha, exhibited at the Biennale dell’Architettura (Venice, Kosovo Pavilion, 2018). Seventy-two satellite dishes inside the installation’s space are nothing but the symbol of life in Kosovo during those days; The City is Everywhere situates the public in a space populated by satellites and mirrors. Hoxha, born in Mitrovica in 1974, uses this acclaimed international artistic event to share with the young generations a dramatic story that she hopes will remain impressed in Kosovo’s collective memory:
These remind anyone who experienced this period in Kosovo of the two-hour Albanian news that would gather neighbours and relatives in front of the TV, the importance of MTV possibly more than anywhere else, and the value of information. An entrance point for citizens to understand what is happening outside their homes, and an escape point to connect with what is happening in the rest of the world. The city became a net of heterotopic spaces parallel to official public spaces and institutions. Every house provided a piece of a mirror of the city.25
Neziraj also remembers those years and his experience as a ‘parallel generation artist’:
I belong to the Kosovar generation that was educated in the ’90s. We are called the ‘parallel generation’, because we lived in a society that was parallel to the ‘official’ one, and we were educated in a school system that was parallel to the official one. Now, let me give you the short version of the story: I went to high school and to university in improvised buildings – in the cellars of houses, garages, mosques, churches, abandoned rooms and so on. It was a type of educational illegality.26
The only theatre where people could see plays in their own language was Dodona Theatre, known as the Theatre for Youth, Children and Dolls. As Albanian schools and institutions were closed, Dodona also became a temporary classroom, a meeting point for the Albanian community, the only real cultural window in Kosovo:
My relationship with the theater started as soon as I began to study dramaturgy in the parallel University of Prishtina in 1997. My passion grew from that time onwards, and it seems unlikely ever to be extinguished. The theater for me was – and remains – the freedom that was absent during that period of the ’90s; it was the window that was missing in the cellars where we studied playwriting. The theater was the strength to combat the fear of being imprisoned or being beaten by Serbian police. It was, in truth, the dream that kept me alive during the war in Kosovo in 1999.27
Despite the risk, the shows went on at the theatre and the actors usually slept inside the theatre, because going out at night and traveling was dangerous. The renowned actor and director Faruk Begolli described this phenomenon as ‘a certain protest against the violence, a certain manifestation of pride and dignity, a form of no surrender’.28 As Neziraj explains, in the general atmosphere of violence that dominated the outside, Dodona Theatre was a sort of ‘small oasis, a space where people could breathe freely and feel the sense of human dignity’.29 The Dodona Theatre continued its activity up to five days before the NATO bombing of Serbia. During those days, some unknown criminals killed a young actress of the Dodona Theatre, Adriana Abdullah, and wounded other members of the company.
4. The identity of Kosovo, the declaration of independence and the ‘shuttle diplomacy’
Post-war Kosovo has created various celebratory images in Prishtina such as the NATO museum, the Bill Clinton statue (with its boulevard) and the typographic sculpture called The Newborn Monument in front of the Palace of Youth and Sports. In a show One Flew over Kosovo Theatre,30 strongly opposed by public cultural institutions, Jeton Neziraj talks about ‘the national euphoria’ that spread over the country after the proclamation of independence which gave the author the label of ‘anti-national playwright’.
Here is the plot: while staging the most famous part of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a director and his theatre group are visited by the Prime Minister’s secretary, who tells them that they must produce a play for Kosovo’s independence (which has not yet come) containing the official Prime Minister’s speech. The exact date hasn’t been set because it has to suit everyone, the US and EU member states, as well as EULEX, KFOR and UNMIK. This is a mockery of the so called ‘shuttle diplomacy’, the movement of diplomats between countries whose leaders refuse to talk directly to each other in order to try to settle the argument between them. This kind of diplomacy has, indeed, slowed down the process of the recognition of Kosovo’s independence. During this real Beckettian wait, censorship sometimes intervenes, because yesterday’s enemies have become friends, and the stage technician decides to fulfil his miraculous and almost heroic mission: to fly over Kosovo, after repairing an old World War II airplane, and drop leaflets, stating ‘Recognize the independence of Kosovo’. As the independence day comes, it is too late, and the leading actor is caught drunk on stage.
Blerta Neziraj’s direction of the play brought to light the ridiculousness of those in power (with their servants) and the general situation: between satire and reality, after long waiting, the independence arrives, with the permission of the EU and the agreement of all the countries which are guests – not always so welcome – in Kosovo. Two musicians have crafted a rhythmic score for this play, which is absorbing, entertaining, and sometimes a bit crazy, just like the play: the soundtrack is that of the famous film Mission Impossible with an exhilarant Brechtian chorus of the acronyms of the EU countries military contingents and of the key words of this fragile independence:
The characters in this entirely political satire give meaning to a powerful denunciation of a system of government in Kosovo that has taken on the form of a USA protectorate.31 ‘Beyond the “national euphoria” of state creation’, says Neziraj, ‘the play tries to confront the public with the obstacles that Kosovo is currently facing and will face in the future, to show the long road we have to sovereignty and liberation from nationalistic ideologies, in order to create a true climate of democracy. That’s why there were attempts by the Kosovo government to censor this play’.32
5. The nationalistic syndrome, patriotism and national photoshopping
What does it mean to make theatre in a country which needs to be rebuilt? What is the margin of freedom, such as the constraints and limitations on the topics that can be chosen, and what should be the repertoire of a New Theatre in the paradoxical realm of ‘controlled instability’?
Even the theatre is not free from ‘the Balkan syndrome of nationalism’, suffering from direct and indirect political interference: there is strict control of production, of the authors, a sort of censorship under the guise of funding cuts. The Teatri Kombetar i Kosoves, the highest theatrical institution of the state, has developed a politically correct repertoire and its aim is to promote the mission of building the state, without provoking, but also without supporting a new dramaturgy that has the courage to tackle issues without nationalistic concern and big national and ideological topics:
In the name of national interest and in the name of patriotism, the art scene in Kosovo is very often being controlled and used by politics. This control is manifested in various ways: a selective allocation of the budget for art projects; the installation of political partisans and sycophants in public cultural institutions wherever possible; the encouragement of some sort of ‘patriotic art’; the direct control of public cultural institutions; the withholding of support for independent cultural initiatives; and even – in some cases – the censorship of the content of artistic productions. In a way, all of this has led art in Kosovo to carry on reproducing the same boring political discourse. In addition to this, an entire creative ‘army’ has been produced with the syndrome of being ‘national artists.’ They want to be artists, but they also want to be patriots. Above all, they want to be patriots. So, in their artistic creations, they take great pleasure in an ugly mixture of art with patriotism.33
The paradoxes of Kosovo society and politics and those of the theatre are basically similar: on the one hand, there is a State where the international military presence binds the country to restrictive rules, and on the other hand, a theatre subsidised by a State and which is not, for this reason, free to express itself as it would like.
The nationalist pride linked to the desired independence and the slow approach to the EU are accompanied by the well-calculated clean-up of the Kosovo self-image to show Europe, erasing old stains and new violence to avoid giving negative messages of a country that ‘does not deserve freedom’:
On the same day Kosovo declared its independence, the media reported on a marketing company financial scandal. But this news was quickly swept under the rug, so as not to ruin the jubilation brought upon by independence. For Kosovo to be seen as successful and healthy as it emerges as a newborn country, the blemishes of injustice and poverty are often covered, hidden, and forsaken. It’s like a form of national photoshopping.34
The Prishtina Half Marathon is an event organised by the Ministry for Culture and Sport; the first event was won by a Kosovar woman. In the short story Run, Lola, Run,35 Jeton Neziraj offers a double story: the marathon runner Lola who is going to reach the finish line as the winner of the first Kosovar marathon, and an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, who is in an ambulance after an illegal surgery in a hospital for a kidney transplant. The two are running towards different destinations and goals. The death of the patient is tragically due to the marathon, because his ambulance must stop during this competition, which is more important than anything else, even a human life, let alone that of an illegal immigrant. Everyone knows the face of the winner of the marathon from TV, but nothing will be known about the Bangladeshi who will be buried in an undisclosed field and whose body parts will survive somewhere in Europe in someone else’s body, with his kidney sold cheaply by the horror hospital. The paradox is even greater if we consider that the motto of this Marathon is ‘Run for Peace and Tolerance’. Lola has crossed the line and Kosovo has a heroine to be extolled on TV. The inconvenient truth of the incident will be hidden by the media.
According to Neziraj, the marathon in Run, Lola, Run takes a metaphorical meaning: ‘In some of my plays I have dealt with collateral damage – if I may call it that – caused during big and important events. Often, during the excitement of victory and the period of celebration that follows it, any smaller and inconvenient dramas reported by the state media will be ignored by the public’.36
6. Good Europeans only by staying in Kosovo. The cultural isolation and the visa liberalization process
Five EU members – Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Slovakia – oppose an independent Kosovo; this is why liberalising visa requirements for Kosovo passport-holders has been slow, and citizens of this area remain the only ones in Europe who still need visas in order to travel to the countries of the Schengen Area. Kosovo is the last country in the Balkan region that remains isolated. Kosovo residents, whatever their ethnicity, are trapped in a ‘visa ghetto’, when all other Balkan people, from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, are able to travel freely. The European Commission launched a visa liberalisation dialogue with Kosovo in January 2012, and in June it handed a roadmap to the Kosovo authorities: a list of the reforms Kosovo had to implement in order to get visa liberalisation, including border and migration management. After more than six years the European Commission has recently proposed visa liberalisation for Kosovo citizens; unfinished business includes the ratification of demarcation with Montenegro and the fight against corruption and organized crime.
Neziraj, like Eliza Hoxha, has his residence in Kosovo, unlike many artists, who mostly have decided to emigrate, given the problems of censorship and visa restrictions. Nevertheless, in the last 15 years, he has travelled across Europe to different festivals and theatres, but he is critical of the discriminatory treatment of Kosovar citizens:
To us, Kosovars, the visa regime has turned into a bugbear which aims to humble, humiliate and dehumanise us. This example shows how absurd the current Europe is. We are considered ‘good Europeans’ only by staying in Kosovo. It seems that the idea of us emigrating to somewhere in Europe terrifies the embassy bureaucrats in Kosovo. I could not point a finger at a specific embassy, because among them there were some officials and ambassadors who tried to help us. I made a general accusation, attacking the phenomenon and the racist approach.37
He said it was paradoxical that the EU granted him prestigious awards, such as The European of the Year Award, while denying his theatre group the right to travel to Europe. The irony was even greater due to the fact that the EU finances more than 90 per cent of the activities of Qendra Multimedia, which Neziraj leads. On two occasions the productions were unable to go ahead due to visa issues: ‘Somehow, slowly, we started to get used to the absurd rules and requirements regarding visa application procedures. For me, this is a worry because it makes a nonsense of our engagement in the so-called European values, which I think, we promote with our work and our shows’.38
Even though the social and political circumstances in Kosovo are rather bad, Neziraj hasn’t lost his optimism. Ironical optimism, anyway: ‘I cannot imagine myself in a different context as a playwright. It would be tragic to me not to be surrounded by Kosovo’s contradictions. This is an excellent atmosphere for a writer’.39
With more than twenty plays staged in Kosovo, in Europe and in the USA, Jeton Neziraj is with no doubt, one of the most original and most relevant political playwrights from the Balkan region today. His theatre, full of paradoxes and nonsenses, is an ideal space for an artistic, social and political dialogue between communities, even if it is perceived as a ‘bitter pill’ to be swallowed by public authorities, former military groups, or nationalists. His production is a real commentary on political corruption and hypocrisy; he has managed to tackle this reality through his artistic perspective and approach. His works have significantly contributed to highlighting the existing social barriers and taboos in Kosovo and in the Balkans.
- 1. Qendra multimedia was founded in 2002 in Kosovo. It is an independent cultural organization focused on art production and international cultural exchange. So far, Qendra has organized more than a hundred artistic projects in Kosovo and in Europe. Some of the main long-term projects are: International Literature Festival Polip; Forum Theatre in Kosovo; New Politics of Solidarity; Play for All; Balcan Can Contemporary. Qendra was the first Kosovar company to bring theatre productions from Kosovo to Belgrade after the war.
- 2. Jeton Neziraj, “What is seen as shocking today will not be in the future,” interview by Valmir Mehmetaj, Kosovo2.0, September 9, 2017.
- 3. András Urbán is the director of the Hungarian-language Theatre “Kosztolanyi Dezso” in Subotica (Serbia), a small town on the border of Vojvodina and Hungary; he has created The Desiré Central Station festival in Subotica. See: Nataša Gvozdenović, “Theatre as an entry and an exit point: Interview with András Urbán,” Maska 29, no. 165/168 (2014): 190–199.
- 4. See also: Jeton Neziraj and James Thompson, eds., Theatre and Nationalism: In place of War (Prishtina: Qendra, 2011).
- 5. It was estimated that 4,400 to 4,500 persons went missing during the conflict. In 2002 UNMIK founded the Office of Missing Persons and Forensics (OMPF).
- 6. Voices and The Longest Winter were produced by OMPF with the Centre for Children’s Theatre Development, directed in 2002 by Jeton Neziraj. See: Jeton Neziraj, “Theatre in a human mission,” in Voices. An interactive theatre initiative addressing the issue of the missing in Kosovo, ed. Jeton Neziraj and Andrew Zadel (Prishtina: Printing Press, 2006).
- 7. The premiere took place on 19 October 2018 in Prishtina: ‘It is about the failed health system in Kosovo, the degrading medical ethics that have collapsed almost entirely and remain one of the many disgraces of this society. The public hospital in Kosovo has become like a brothel. The majority of doctors have become businessmen who for the sake of a handful of money are willing to cut your body open, even when you don’t need to. They put stents in your heart when you don’t even need them. You could even wake up from an appendectomy to realize that your kidney has been removed as well’. Notes by Jeton Neziraj.
- 8. Directed by Blerta Neziraj and produced by Qendra Multimedia, Prishtina, 2015.
- 9. Jeton Neziraj, “Theater brings meaning to strange dreams,” introduction to The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower (Chappel Hill, North Carolina: Laertes book, 2018).
- 10. Fjolla Hoxha, “The Power Hunger: Jeton Neziraj’s Balkan Brothel,” TheThetheatreTimes.com, 1 May 2017, https://thetheatretimes.com/power-hunger-jeton-nezirajs-balkan-brothel/.
- 11. The world premiere of Diffraction#1. In Paradise Artists can fly (concept and composition by Gabriele Marangoni, text by Jeton Neziraj) was held in the Adriana Theatre in Ferizaj (Kosovo) on 13 November 2014 and further performances were presented in different cities in Kosovo and in Italy.
- 12. The Kosovo war (from 1998 to 1999) pitted an Albanian separatist armed group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against Serbia, after the president of Serbia, Slobodan Milošević, had revoked the autonomy granted to Kosovo as a province of Yugoslavia by the 1974 Constitution. By returning Kosovo to the status of a province of Serbia, Milošević also ordered the Albanian majority population of Kosovo to pledge an oath of loyalty to Serbia, causing massive layoffs of Albanians and the closing of schools and hospitals to Albanians. As the conflict worsened during 1998, with a brutal crackdown of the insurgents that targeted civilians, all international attempts to force Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević to back down failed, and NATO launched air strikes in March 1999. In the two months of the NATO campaign, hundreds of thousands of Albanians were expelled to Albania and Macedonia. The most authoritative account of losses during the war, conducted by the Humanitarian Law Centre, cites 13,000 deaths. After the Accord of Kumanovo in June 1999 that ended the war, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) authorised an international military presence to provide security and an international transitional administration. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, after an internationally negotiated plan, the Ahtisaari Settlement. The US and most members of the EU recognized Kosovo’s declaration of independence, but Serbia, Russia, China and five EU members (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain) did not. See also: Florian Bieber and Židas Daskalovski, Understanding the War in Kosovo (London: Psychology Press, 2003).
- 13. According to Slavoj Žižek, the process of independence of Kosovo was not a ‘real independence but a depoliticised independence. The present political and ideological conjuncture of the Republic of Kosovo is mostly a result of humanitarianism’. The thesis is that the independence of Kosovo is the negation of the political will of the people because its foundations are humanitarian: “The West wanted a decaffeinated Kosovo,” in Slavoj Žižek and Agon Hamza, From Myth to Symptom. The Case of Kosovo (Prishtina: KMD, 2015).
- 14. A 2010 dossier for the Council of Europe written by Swiss politician Dick Marty alleged that during and immediately after the war, members of the KLA committed crimes against ethnic minorities and political opponents (Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo, text approved by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 12 December 2010). In this dossier, Marty alleges that KLA leaders trafficked in human organs taken from Serb prisoners. Following this revelation, a special tribunal (Kosovo Specialist Chamber and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office) residing in The Hague, but under Kosovo laws, was established with a vote by Kosovo Parliament to judge war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between January 1998 and December 2000. The U N International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) tried several KLA members for their war crimes during the war, and acquitted all but two. See the book by the former Chief Prosecutor before the ICTY Carla Del Ponte, La caccia. Io e i criminali di guerra (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2008).
- 15. Jeton Neziraj, “Kosovars are only good Europeans if they stay home,” interview by Perparim Isufi, BalkanInsight, 6 August 2018, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kosovars-are-only-good-europeans-if-they-stay-home–07-30-2018.
- 16. Since the war ended in Kosovo, a Serb enclave in the northern half of the divided city of Mitrovica refuses to accept rule from the ethnic Albanian government in Prishtina, because they wanted to be a part of Serbia: the bridge over the river Ibar in the town of Mitrovica, guarded by international peacekeepers, has become a symbol of the divisions between Albanians on the south side and Serbs on the north. Some barricades manned by local Serbs were also erected to stop vehicles from crossing the Ibar.
- 17. The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was established in 1999, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244. UNMIK was restructured and reduced in 2008, but the NATO mission, KFOR, is still in charge of security.
- 18. Jeton Neziraj, “Theatre should be free,” interview by Shqipe Gjocaj, Voices and Ideas of Civil Society, 13 November 2018, http://www.erstestiftung.org/en/theatre-should-be-free/.
- 19. Neziraj,“Kosovars are only good Europeans if they stay home”.
- 20. ‘Since the war ended in 1999 Prishtina has rapidly grown, and disastrously. Buildings are rising in every quarter of the city, and no plan exists behind this great wave of construction. Prishtina’s transformation is generally regarded as a failed effort to become a Westernized city and the cityscape is burdened by both its neglected, omnipresent past, and its chaotically emergent future’. Gyler Mydyti, “Prishtina: the outcome of a ruined past, a chaotic present and an unplanned future,” Kosovo 2.0, no. 5, 2013.
- 21. Among the most serious episodes of this crisis between Serbia and Kosovo after the war is the Podujevo bus bombing: an attack on a bus carrying Serb civilians near the town of Podujevo, on 16 February 2001. The bombing killed twelve Serb civilians who were travelling to Gracanica and injured dozens more. Albanian extremists were suspected of being responsible for the attack (“Panel frees Albanian jailed for Kosovo bus bombing,” Reuters, 13 March 2009).
- 22. Jeton Neziraj, “How Jeton Neziraj is leading Kosovo’s emergence as Europe’s new theater and literary darling,” interview by Michael Barron, Culturaltrip.com, 2 August 2017.
- 23. Jeton Neziraj, “The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower. The Islamic terrorism as foreseen,” Teatro e critica, 14 January 2015. About The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower see also the documentary by Anna Maria Monteverdi, New Theatre in Kosovo (2014), https://www.raiplay.it/video/2017/03/Il-nuovo-teatro-in-Kosovo-ceed2b23-0332-400a-9e9f-40c3bf2806d5.html.
- 24. See: Besnik Pula, “The Emergence of the Kosovo Parallel State 1988–1992,” The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity 32, no. 4 (2004): 797–826.
- 25. Cristina Marì, “A sky of satellites connects Kosovo to the World one more Time,” Kosovo 2.0, 25 May 2018.
- 26. Jeton Neziraj, “Theatre brings meaning”.
- 27. Neziraj, “Theater brings meaning”.
- 28. Begolli in Shega A’Mula, “Dodona Theatre, a Symbol of Cultural Resistance”, BalkanInsight.com, 21 April 2010.
- 29. Jeton Neziraj, “Theatre in Kosovo: The challenges in the new state,” Studies in Theatre and Performance 31, no. 3 (2011).
- 30. Fluturimi mbi teatrin e Kosovës, directed by Blerta Neziraj and produced by Qendra Multimedia, Prishtina, 2012.
- 31. For more details about the play and the show, see Anna Monteverdi, “Il teatro di guerra del Kosovo,” La Repubblica, 23 January 2013.
- 32. Jeton Neziraj, “Kosovar Politics and Balkan Theatre,” interview by Margherita Russolello, Magazine Festival Vie, Modena, 2015.
- 33. Jeton Neziraj, “Art scene of Kosovo is in cultural isolation,” interview by Matija Mrakovčić, Kulturpunkt, 28 October 2017.
- 34. Neziraj, “How Jeton Neziraj is leading”.
- 35. The integral text is translated from Albanian by Alexandra Channer, https://theculturetrip.com/europe/kosovo/articles/jeton-neziraj-kosovar-short-story/. This short story is at the basis of his newest play The Hypocrites or The English Patient, premiered in Theatre Oda, Prishtina, in October 2018.
- 36. Michael Barron, “Kosovar Writer Jeton Neziraj’s Run, Lola, Run Intertwines a Marathon Scandal and Medical Emergency,” Theculturetrip.com, 31 July 2017. The organ trafficking network came to light in 2008 after a Turkish man collapsed at the Prishtina airport after having his kidney illegally removed. As the media reported, the Turkish doctor Yusuf Ercin Sonmez, labelled the ‘Turkish Frankenstein’, was suspected of performing the transplants at the clinic. The victims were often recruited from poor areas in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with the promise of a few thousand euros in exchange for their organs. Kosovo has recently asked Cyprus to extradite a man accused of organizing more than thirty illegal kidney removals and transplants at a clinic near Prishtina.
- 37. Neziraj, “Kosovars are only good Europeans if they stay home”.
- 38. Neziraj, “Kosovars are only good Europeans if they stay home”.
- 39. Natasha Tripney, “Jeton Neziraj: the playwright exploring Kosovo’s identity on stage,” TheStage.com.uk, 5 November 2018.
A’Mula, Shega. “Dodona Theatre, a Symbol of Cultural Resistance.” BalkanInsight.com, 21 April 2010. http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/dodona-theatre-a-symbol-of-cultural-resistance.
Barron, Michael. “Kosovar Writer Jeton Neziraj’s Run, Lola, Run Intertwines a Marathon Scandal and Medical Emergency.” Theculturetrip.com, 31 July 2017.
Bieber, Florian, and Židas Daskalovski. Understanding the War in Kosovo. London: Psychology Press, 2003.
Del Ponte, Carla. La caccia. Io e i criminali di guerra. Milano: Feltrinelli, 2008.
Di Lellio, Anna, ed. The Case for Kosova. Passage to Independence. New York: Anthem Press, 2006.
Gvozdenović, Nataša. “Theatre as an entry and an exit point: Interview with Andraš Urbán.” Maska 29, no. 165/168 (2014): 190–199.
Hoxha, Fjolla. “The Power Hunger: Jeton Neziraj’s Balkan Brothel.” TheThetheatreTimes.com, 1 May 2017. https://thetheatretimes.com/power-hunger-jeton-nezirajs-balkan-brothel/.
Judah, Tim. Kosovo: War and Revenge. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.
Latawsky, Paul, and Martin Smith. The Kosovo Crisis and the Evolution of the Post-Cold War European Security. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003.
Marì, Cristina. “A sky of satellites connects Kosovo to the World one more Time.” Kosovo 2.0, 25 May 2018.
Mckenna, Michael. “Let it be chaotic. The best plan for Prishtina is one of a city’s city: seemingly unplanned.” Kosovo 2.0, 3 June 2013.
Monteverdi, Anna Maria. “Il teatro di guerra del Kosovo.” La Repubblica, 23 January 2013.
–––––. New Theatre in Kosovo. Documentary film, 2014. https://www.raiplay.it/video/2017/03/Il-nuovo-teatro-in-Kosovo-ceed2b23-0332-400a-9e9f-40c3bf2806d5.html.
Monteverdi, Anna Maria, Giancarla Carboni, Monica Genesin, eds. La distruzione della Torre Eiffel di Jeton Neziraj (or. Shkatërrimi i Kullës Eiffel). La Spezia: Cut up, 2014.
Murru, Gianmarco. “Il nuovo teatro in Kosovo, le minoranze unite sul palco contro ogni nazionalismo.” Mediterraneaonline.eu, 27 June 2016.
Mydyti, Gyler. “Prishtina: the outcome of a ruined past, a chaotic present and an unplanned future.” Kosovo 2.0, no. 5, 2013.
Neziraj, Jeton. “Theatre in a human mission.” In Voices. An interactive theatre initiative addressing the issue of the missing in Kosovo, edited by Jeton Neziraj and Andrew Zadel. Prishtina: Printing Press, 2006.
–––––. “Theatre in Kosovo: The challenges in the new state.” Studies in Theatre and Performance 31, no. 3 (2011): 339–348.
–––––. Six Plays. Prishtina: Qendra, 2014.
–––––. “The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower. The Islamic terrorism as foreseen.” Teatro e critica, 14 January 2015.
–––––. “Kosovar Politics and Balkan Theatre.” Interview by Margherita Russolello. Magazine Festival Vie, Modena, 2015.
–––––. “How Jeton Neziraj is leading Kosovo’s emergence as Europe’s new theater and literary darling.” Interview by Michael Barron. Culturaltrip.com, 2 August 2017.
–––––. “What is seen as shocking today will not be in the future.” Interview by Valmir Mehmetaj. Kosovo 2.0, 9 September 2017.
–––––. “Art scene of Kosovo is in cultural isolation.” Interview by Matija Mrakovčić. Kulturpunkt, 28 October 2017.
–––––. “Theater brings meaning to strange dreams.” Introduction to The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Laertes book, 2018.
–––––. “Kosovars are only Good Europeans if they stay Home.” Interview by Perparim Isufi. BalkanInsight, 6 August 2018. http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kosovars-are-only-good-europeans-if-they-stay-home–07-30-2018.
–––––. “Theatre should be free.” Interview by Shqipe Gjocaj. Voices and Ideas of Civil Society, 13 November 2018, http://www.erstestiftung.org/en/theatre-should-be-free/.
Neziraj, Jeton, and James Thompson, eds. Theatre and Nationalism/In Place of War. Prishtina: Qendra, 2012.
Neziraj, Jeton, and Saša Ilić, eds. One Flew over the Kosovo Theater, An Anthology of contemporary Drama from Kosovo. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Laertes book, 2018.
Pula, Besnik. “The Emergence of the Kosovo Parallel State 1988–1992.” The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity 32, no. 4 (2004): 797–826.
Tripney, Natasha. “Jeton Neziraj: the playwright exploring Kosovo’s identity on stage.” TheStage.com.uk, 5 November 2018.
Žižek, Slavoj, and Agon Hamza. From Myth to Symptom. The case of Kosovo. Prishtina: Kmd, 2013.