Translated from Macedonian: Milan Damjanoski
The appetite of the Macedonian literary public needs to be constantly satisfied with new works by authors that shall replenish and refresh the rich and large opus created by contemporary Macedonian writers. That is why I think that it was more than necessary to welcome the publication of the novel To Whom Does Jon Belong? by the writer, playwright, actor and professor at the Faculty of Drama – Refet Abazi. First written in Albanian and published in 2006, its Macedonian translation has finally seen the light of day. To Whom Does Jon Belong? is a deeply human story, whose narrative focus lies on the essence of a young man who is trying to piece together his life in front of our very eyes. The author leads us on a path between the real and the imaginary, revealing along the way all his essential and ontological doubts, ultimately creating a microcosm of his own, one that entices us to re-read this book again and again.
From the first chapter bearing the same title as the novel, we get to know Jon through the eyes of the omniscient narrator. He is a seven year old boy in touch with the world around him. Through a rainy and imaginative story, centred around the dominant event of being struck by thunder, he will be given an insight into the power to perceive a world that is unknown to him, but one that he will get to know later. A world that may not exist, a fictional and surreal world, yet one that is quite visible and powerful. From a reader’s point of view, it is fascinating to follow how Abazi manages to enter the world of a seven-year old child, succeeding in projecting all that is unspoken and unsaid through his scores of verbal music that win you over with their simplicity.
The main question posed in the title, that of identity, personal identity and one’s own existence represents the main interpretative axis of the book. Starting from the second story in the book about the dog Baljua and its dedication to a child, the stories told by Jon’s father are woven into the gentle and carefully crafted fabric of the novel, introducing with each new chapter the process of Jon’s growing up, his youth, his first loves, all the way to the more serious period of his life. The novel ends with a powerful conversation between the father and the daughter, and the idea to make a feature film out of the life story of her grandfather, i.e. Jon’s Father. The narrator guides us in a very precise, careful and almost imperceptible manner through the life of Jon, his family and all the major events of it, thus making the novel a subtle biography closely related to the search to discover oneself.
The classic form of narration does not impede the modernistic form of the novel. In fact, it only serves to prove that literature needs a simple, narrative and logical line of thought to be able to tell all the stories it is capable of. That is another reason why I state that the publication of the novel To Whom Does Jon Belong? by Refet Abazi is of great importance. Throughout his long career and work as an actor, writer, playwright and primarily as a professor, Abazi has tried to bring to us intimate, human, everyday stories, to make us truly see humans and all their doubts, to note down each and every restless moment of personal discovery, while all the time telling his stories in a simple, magical and relatable manner, as stories that any reader would recognize as their own.