The recent anniversary of the fall of Constantinople is bitter, and the thought takes me back to what hurt me. And I say, now I can answer to Ismail Kadare, now is the time. For months now I am bothered by the text he wrote in the magazine "Nouvel Observateur" (now L'Obs) when, last year, the magazine gave to a large number of writers the same subject: "April 29, Good Friday", because that was the birthday of the magazine and every writer could freely write whatever he wanted.
Coincidentally, April 29th was Good Friday in the year 1453, the last Good Friday that the psalm "Today is hanging ..." was chanted in Hagia Sophia, the still glorious even tearful, with emperor Constantine Palaiologos wearing the mournful Divitisio as the day demanded and the people chanting with the priest the Akathist, while the besieger Turks ruthlessly bombed the City with their seven enormous canons and the huge Bombard of Orban.
I am not at all certain that it was a "coincidence" and the fact that: Albanian writer Ismail Kadare chose Hagia Sophia for his subject.
He writes in his text that on that day, Good Friday 1994, he was allegedly writing a text for "Drita" magazine entitled "The Church of Hagia Sophia". Among other things, he writes: "This text is entitled 'The Church of Hagia Sophia' and refers to the conversion of this famous building into a mosque". "It seems to me" - he continues - "a global concern of our time: The world's two largest religions housed in the same building."
And after talking about how this could be done, he goes on: "But this time I'm right. I think in Tirana at least four institutions will be working to discover the symbolism of this story: the Albanian Orthodox Archbishopric, the Directorate of Muslim Faith, and the two ambassadors, of Greece and Turkey, countries to which this renowned Basilica is associated with".
Certainly, the official response to this article by Ismail Kadare, if there was one, it would not be given by me, but by some responsible agency of our country. But in a literary context, and in replying to Mr. Kadare as a writer-to-writer, I would like to tell him not to underestimate our sensitivity. He, as a writer, has the freedom of speech to say what he wants. But I too, with the same right to freedom of speech, reply to him that his speech is profane, impolite and disrespectful. And that he can not touch symbols so great and so sacred to a people, symbols that were sanctified by sacrifice. The fact that Hagia Sophia is silent and dark and lives in the night of her legend for five hundred years, with her chandeliers shaking and her mosaics weeping in the dark, is another matter. It belongs to the facts of History. But to speak literally about the church's fate today, that is sacrilegious. And if such a time ever comes, then the issue will not be with the Albanian archbishop and the Greek or Turkish ambassador, but, I believe, with the Christians throughout the world, and above all the Western, which will, at a minimum, soothe the historical shame, for abandoning Paleologos when he was left alone and helpless in his ultimate agony.
These are things that, no matter how time may cover them, remain unchanged. Because historical memory is not the books we were given to read. It is this mystical sanctuary that the soul carries from its wandering through time. In the solitude of time, which wrapped Hagia Sophia and raised it as a Symbol, transformed its marbles and gold into a sparkling soul throughout the centuries.
Published in Kathimarini newspaper and the Nea Hestia magazine