Gjekë Marinaj : biography
Gjekë Marinaj is an Albanian-American poet, writer, translator, literary critic, and founder of the Protonism Theory. Currently living in the United States, he has been the first president of the Society of Albanian-American Writers, established in 2001 and has published several books of poetry, prose, and literary criticism. In 2008, Marinaj was awarded the Pjetër Arbnori Award for literature by QNK part of the Ministry of Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports of Albania.
Recognitions and critical reception
Marinaj is a recipient of the Pjetër Arbnori Prize for literature from QNK, part of the Albanian Ministry of Culture, in 2008.
Marinaj published his poem entitled "Horses" in the Albanian paper of record, Drita, which at first glance, it read like a simple poem about farm animals, but was actually a satirical social and political commentary about the Albanian people being herded and corralled by an oppressive communist regime. The poem appeared in Drita on August 19, 1990, and the response was immediate and overwhelming, because the sheer audacity of publishing such a clearly subversive poem in a national publication amazed the Albanians (and soon after the international community as well). " Within hours, copies of Drita sold out across the country, so people took to scrawling the poem on scraps of paper and passing it to one another in the subways and on the streets and months later, protesters chanted the poem through megaphones during anti-government demonstrations. Seen from this point of view, "Marinaj’s words inspired freedom, helped defeat communism in Albania." Nevertheless, "having seen other poets hanged in the city's center for voicing similar notions of freedom and liberty, Marinaj knew that he had to leave the country immediately; packed a few of his favorite books, told his friends and family that he was going on vacation, and set off on an eight-hour hike over the mountains and into Yugoslavia."
Education in America
After his education in Albania, Marinaj earned an associate's degree in science from Brookhaven College, in 2001. He continued his education at the University of Texas at Dallas where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2006 with a bachelor's in literary studies, and a master's degree in the same subject in 2008. Three years later, he received a certificate in Holocaust Studies from the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies.
Doctor of Philosophy
The University of Texas at Dallas awarded Marinaj a PhD in 2012. His dissertation which focus on the history and philosophy of oral poetry in the Balkans and on the Translation Theory is titled "Oral Poetry in Albanian and Other Balkan Cultures: Translating the Labyrinths of Untranslatability".
Marinaj has published several books of poetry, journalism, and literary criticism. His three books of poetry include (Do Not Depart From Me), (Infinite), and (Prayer on the Eighth Day of the Week). In addition, he has published a book of author interviews titled (The Other Side of the Mirror), a book of selected articles and essays titled (Some things can’t be kept secret), and one book of literary criticism titled (Protonism: theory into practice).
Marinaj, who has served as guest editor of the Translation Review, has translated several books from English to Albanian, and two from Albanian to English, including a collection of Albanian oral epic poetry (with Frederick Turner (poet)) and has edited more than a dozen books in both languages.
While perusing his new life in America, Marinaj continued working as a freelance journalist for the Albanian media; his freelance work included interviews of President George Herbert Walker Bush, the ninth and current President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres, and world-renowned soccer player Pelé.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Marinaj's Protonism Theory seeks to "promote peace and positive thinking" through literary criticism. Protonism Theory proposes that there are strong and weak points in every piece of literature but argues that a critic’s personal interests and biases influence how much focus those points receive. Marinaj founded the Protonism Theory in 2005 as a response to the flood of unduly negative criticism in East European academia following the collapse of communism and as a response, he developed Protonism to provide a common ground from which critics could evaluate a literary work more objectively. Protonism works along five central principles: truth, inquiry, restitution, protonismiotics, and ethics.
Early life and career
Born in 1965 in the Malësi e Madhe District of northern Albania, Marinaj started his writing career as a restricted correspondent publishing in a number of Albanian media outlets, first in local newspapers in Shkodra, then in a series of Albanian national publications including Zëri i Rinisë ("The Voice of Youth"), Luftëtari ("The Fighter"), Vullnetari ("The Volunteer"), and Drita (The Light). In August 1990, Marinaj published an anti-communist satiric poem entitled "Horses" (original ) and aware of his imminent arrest from the communist regime, on September 12, 1990, Marinaj escaped authorities by illegally crossing the Albanian-Yugoslavian border and fled first to Yugoslavia and later on to the United States. He arrived in San Diego in July 1991, then went to Richardson, Texas. In 2001, Marinaj founded the Albanian-American Writers Association and served as president until 2009.
Marinaj teaches English and Communications, among other courses, at Richland College, since 2001.
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