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Pjeter Bogdani, the father of the Albanian prose

  • 5/31/2021 1:40 PM
Pjeter Bogdani, the father of the Albanian prose

Pjetër Bogdani is the most original writer of early literature in Albania. He is the author of the “The Band of the Prophets” in 1685, the first prose work of substance written originally in Albanian.
Bogdani was born in Gur i Hasit near Prizren about 1630, and was educated in the traditions of the Catholic church to which he devoted all his energy. From 1651 to 1654 he served as a parish priest in Pult and from 1654 to 1656 studied at the College of the Propaganda Fide in Rome where he graduated as a doctor of philosophy and theology. In 1656, he was named Bishop of Shkodra, a post he held for twenty-one years, and was also appointed Administrator of the Archdiocese of Antivari until 1671.
In 1677, he succeeded his uncle as Archbishop of Skopje and Administrator of the Kingdom of Serbia. His religious zeal and patriotic fervor kept him at odds with Turkish forces, and in the atmosphere of war and confusion which reigned, he was obliged to flee to Ragusa (Dubrovnik), from where he continued on to Venice and Padua, taking his manuscripts with him.
 In Padua he was cordially received by Cardinal Gregorio Barbarigo (1622-1697), whom he had served in Rome. He had also founded a printing press in Padua, the Tipografia del Seminario, which served the needs of oriental languages and had fonts for Hebrew, Arabic and Armenian. 
Bogdani returned to the Balkans in March 1686 and spent the next years promoting resistance to the armies of the Ottoman Empire, in particular in Kosova. He contributed a force of 6,000 Albanian soldiers to the Austrian army which had arrived in Prishtina and accompanied it to capture Prizren. There, however, he and much of his army were met by another equally formidable adversary, the plague. Bogdani returned to Prishtina but succumbed to the disease there in December 1689. His nephew Gjergj reported in 1698 that his uncle's remains were later exhumed by Turkish and Tartar soldiers and fed to the dogs in the middle of the square in Prishtina. He is one of the great figures of early Albanian culture, the writer often referred to as the father of Albanian prose.
It was in Padua in 1685 that the Cuneus Prophetarum, his vast treatise on theology, was published in Albanian and Italian with the assistance of Cardinal Barbarigo. 
The Cuneus Prophetarum was printed in the Latin alphabet as used in Italian, with the addition of the same Cyrillic characters employed by Pjetër Budi and Frang Bardhi. (Elsie)
The Cuneus Prophetarum was published in two parallel columns, one in Albanian and one in Italian, and is divided into two volumes, each with four sections. 
The Cuneus Prophetarum is considered to be the masterpiece of early Albanian literature and is the first work in Albanian of full artistic and literary quality. In scope, it covers philosophy, theology and science (with digressions on geography, astronomy, physics and history). With its poetry and literary prose, it touches on questions of aesthetic and literary theory. It is a humanist work of the Baroque Age steeped in the philosophical traditions of Plato, Aristotle, St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. Bogdani's fundamental philosophical aim is knowledge of God, an unraveling of the problem of existence, for which he strives with reason and intellect.
Bogdani's talents are certainly most evident in his prose. In his work we encounter for the first time what may be considered an Albanian literary language. As such, he may justly bear the title of father of Albanian prose. His modest religious poetry is, nonetheless, not devoid of interest. The corpus of his verse are the Songs of the Ten Sibyls (the Cumaean, Libyan, Delphic, Persian, Erythraean, Samian, Cumanian, Hellespontic, Phrygian and Tiburtine), which are imbued with the Baroque penchant for religious themes and Biblical allusions.