Bajraj authored more than 25 volumes of poetry, with his work translated to multiple languages, including English, German, Spanish, Danish, Serbian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Turkish and Polish. Throughout his career, Xhevdet was also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Kosovo Writers’ Society award for best poetry book, the Goliardos International Prize for Poetry, and the Katarina Josipi Award. After his arrival in Mexico, Xhevdet Bajraj began teaching creative writing at the The Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City.
Philippe Olle-Laprune, Director of Casa Refugio and writer, reflects on the news of Xhevdet Bajraj’s death:
The Kosovo-born poet Xhevdet Bajraj arrived with his family in Mexico in July 1999. He had just come from a terrible war and knew grief, tears, and suffering; at that time the International Parliament of Writers invited him to come in residence at the Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl in Mexico City, which had just opened its doors. Together with his wife Vjollca, and his two sons Gent and Lorik, they slowly began to get used to their new environment. The younger ones, of course, were quicker to learn Spanish and discover the virtues of the new place. But they all quickly succumbed to the charm of Mexico City and rebuilt their lives with enthusiasm. It was not without pain and nostalgia, but gradually they became happy ‘chilangos’.
After his arrival, a collection of Xhevdet's works was translated into Spanish and readers soon realised the value of this author, the strength of his words and the power of his texts. His presence in Mexico allowed a double evolution: on the one hand, the initial nightmares gave way to more nostalgic images, less marked by savagery and, on the other hand, he began to change his working method, even writing in Spanish. In fact, his first book was simply translated from Albanian into Spanish. He took it upon himself, together with Vjollca, to translate the second one, which was then revised by a poet friend. And the third book, more marked by smiles and ironic tenderness, was written directly in Spanish, once again with the help of a Mexican poet. In it, he recounts glimpses of daily life in his neighbourhood, the Colonia Roma, to the rhythm walking his dog, with a funny and sensitive tone. He was then selected to be part of an anthology of Mexican poets.
Xhevdet had chosen to stay in Mexico and the Casa Refugio team helped him get a job at the University of the City of Mexico (UACM). On the morning of his first class, he came to greet the team with a smile, pointing out that he had not finished his schooling and that he was now going to teach poetry to the local youth... He quickly became a figure within the university, very popular with his colleagues and students. With finesse he approached the works of renowned poets, without aggression, but with accuracy and without concession. He was the first guest of the Casa Refugio to make this choice, to live in Mexico, and he always had the tact to welcome newcomers with generosity, behaving like a big brother and, sometimes, with reserve when he did not approve of certain ideas or behaviour. But he always had the honesty to refuse hypocrisy while not hurting anyone. Exile was a condition that he carried with him. It comes with its own set of wounds and forced tolerance. An exile like him could not condemn an interlocutor based on a simple intuition: he had that sense of tolerance which rises against all fanaticism, including the most minute. He liked to ask for advice and listen to opinions before making up his mind.
Illness took him away on the 22nd of June. His absence is mourned by all his many friends. Xhevdet had a sense of humour and friendship. Testimonies have been accumulating for days to remind us how much he was loved and respected.
Our thoughts go to Xhevdet’s family and friends at this difficult time.