Thursday, September 27, 2018

Elsie versus Hutchings

I've seen an earlier version of this book ("Historical Dictionary of Albania"), published in 1996 and written by an entirely different author, Raymond Hutchings. In 2004, series editor Jon Woronoff decided to replace Hutchings with Robert Elsie for the new edition. It's not clear why.

I haven't seen the Elsie editions (there are several now), but judging by the preview, there are some important differences between Hutchings and Elsie. The former was strongly pro-Albanian and anti-Serb, and sounded opinionated in general (not necessarily a bad thing). Elsie sounds more “objective”. I noticed that Hutchings emphasizes the pro-Communist factions of the Bektashi, a heterodox Muslim order in Albania, while Elsie emphasizes the anti-Communist ones. In general, Elsie's entries are longer. Also, his editions mention the 1997 unrest in Albania, triggered by the collapse of pyramid schemes. Hutchings wrote before this central event in post-Communist Albanian history had taken place.

Woronoff points out in a preface to the 2004 edition that very few Westerners have specialist knowledge of Albania, and that it was difficult to find somebody suitable to write a historical dictionary like this! Hutchings' old edition doesn't seem to be available from Amazon at the present time, but if you can, procuring both may not be such a bad idea…

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