The Bllok, a new note book inspired from a the legendary blloks of pre democratic Albania. Hard back, printed cover. Hand bound and sewn, 192 pages, 9 x 14 cm, with an expandable inner pocket. Also available
Bllok © the story
«Little Fatos was not of a kind to be easily discouraged. He “borrowed” master beshkim’s bllok in search of compromising contents, a first step in his revenge against an unjust punishment.
But all he found were stories, one story after the other, stories he had never heard, not even when spying on his aunt and uncle whispering behind the curtain separating their beds. »
Excerpt Tregimet e fshati tim by Xhoni Lushnje, 1989.
What little Fatos held in his hands was one of the notebooks that most Albanians carried with them.
Locked between Greece, the ex Yugoslavian republics and the Adriatic, Albania is the land of myth and raphsodies. Between 1949 and 1992, the country was ruled by Enver Hoxha’s collectvist regime who decided all that should be said and done.
Notebooks, “bllok” or “blloqe shënimesh” in albanian, were rare and expensive. It was left to individuals to make their own, binding toghether the blank sheets left over from the children’s exercise books. The cover was often made out of what was commonly used as wrapping paper : newspapers or leftovers of printing tests sheets of the regime’s propaganda magazines.
Every Albanian had his own “bllok” used as telephone book or as diary. Others filled them with stories or proverbs, such as master Beshkim.
Many legends on the Bllok are told in the cafes sipping raki during the frequent power failures in the long winter nights. One of them relates that it inspired Mao’s Red book.
There are stories of Blloks bound for glorious destinies, crossing the borders of this mysterious and isolated country in the most fascinating ways, to become editorial successes in Eastern Europe, such as the poet Bregan Shehu or the novellist Endri Arapi. Many are still wondering around, like messages in a bottle waiting for a reader.
After the fall of the regime they were treasured by their owners as a symbol of intimacy in times when anything private was seen as a sign of individualism, a daring crime in collectivist societies. In more recent times Edi Rama, mayor of the capital, is known to have used one for his first sketches of Tirana’s colorful facades.
We discovered the Bllok when Ylljet Aliçka, the author of the aword winning « slogans de pierre » (slogans in stone), showed us his small personal collection he keeps in his cabinet in the Albanian Embassy in Paris.
When we stumbled across printing plates of the covers of old propaganda magazines in a small printer’s workshop in the north of Albania, it was simply impossible to resist the temptation to bring back to life this symbol of balkan genius and the Albanian quest for the small and simple pleasures of liberty.
Po Paris © 2010