Kadare, Ismail 1936-
Kadare, Ismail 1936-
Surname is pronounced "keh DAH ray"; born January 28, 1936, in Gjirokaster, Albania; received political asylum in France, 1990; father, a civil servant; married; wife's name Elena; children: two daughters. Education: University of Tirana (Albania), teacher's diploma, 1956; conducted advanced studies at Gorky Institute (Moscow), c. 1956-61.
Writer, novelist, short-story writer, and poet.
Man Booker International Prize, 2005, for his body of work.
Gjenerali i ushtrise se vdekur, Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1963, English translation by Derek Coltman published as The General of the Dead Army: A Novel, W.H. Allen (London, England), 1971, Grossman (New York, NY), 1972, New Amsterdam Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Perbindeshi (title means "The Monster"), originally published in Nentori (literary journal), vol. 12, November, 1965, Shtepia Botuese e Lidhjes se Shkrimtareve (Tirana, Albania), 1991.
The Wedding (published in Albanian as Dasma), English translation by Ali Cungu, Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1968, (New York, NY), 1972.
Keshtjella, originally published c. 1970, Rilindja (Prishtine), 1976, English translation by Pavli Qesku published as The Castle, Gamma (New York, NY), c. 1980, published as Keshtjella: daullet e shiut, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2003.
Kronike ne gur, (Tirana, Albania), 1971, English translation published as Chronicle in Stone, Meredith Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Dimri i vetmise se madh (title means "The Great Winter"), Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1973, published as Dimri i madh, 1981.
Nentori i nje kryeqyti, Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1975.
Ura me tri harqe: triptik me nje intermexo, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1978, English translation by John Hodgson published as The Three-Arched Bridge, New Amsterdam (Franklin, NY), 1995.
Gjakftohtesia: Novela, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1980.
Kush e solli doruntinen (title means "Who Brought Doruntine Back?"), (Tirana, Albania), 1980, English translation by Jon Rothschild published as Doruntine, New Amsterdam (New York, NY), 1988.
Viti I mbrapshte (title means, "The Dark Year"), (Tirana, Albania), 1980, reprinted, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2003.
Krushqit jane te ngrire (title means, "The Wedding Procession Turned into Ice"), (Tirana, Albania), 1980.
Prilli I thyer, (Tirana, Albania), 1980, English translation published as Broken April, New Amsterdam (New York, NY), 1990.
Nenpunesi I pallatit te enderrave (title means "Employee of the Palace of Dreams"), (Tirana, Albania), 1980, English translation by Barbara Bray published as The Palace of Dreams, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
Nje dosje per Homerin (also known as Dosja H; title means "The H Dossier"), (Tirana, Albania), 1980, Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1990, English translation by Barbara Bray published as The File on H, Arcade (New York, NY), 1998.
Le crepuscule des dieux de la steppe (title means, "The Twilight of the Gods of the Steppe"), Fayard (Paris, France), 1981.
La niche de la honte, French translation by Jusuf Vrioni, Fayard (Paris, France), c. 1984.
Nata me hene (title means "A Moonlit Night"), (Tirana, Albania), 1985, reprinted, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2004.
Koncert ne fund te dimrit (title means "Concert at the End of Winter"), Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1988, English translation by Barbara Bray published as The Concert: A Novel, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Piramida, (Tirana, Albania), 1992, English translation by David Bellos published as The Pyramid, Arcade (New York, NY), 1996.
Hija (title means "The Shadow"), (Tirana, Albania), French translation by Jusuf Vrioni published as L'ombre, Fayard, 1994, published as Hija: shenime te nje kineasti te deshtuar, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2003
Spiritus: roman me kaos, zblesee dhe cmeers, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1996.
Shkaba, Cabej (Tirana, Albania), 1996.
Pallati i Endrrave: Versioni Perfundimtar, Dukagjini (Peje, Albania), 1996.
Kusheriri i Engjevjve, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1997.
Kasnecet e Shiut, Dukagjini (Peje, Albania), 1997.
Tri Kenge Zie per Kosoven: Novela, (title means "Three Elegies for Kosovo"), Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1998.
Kombi Shqiptar ne Prag te Mijevjecarit te Trete, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1998.
(With Denis Fernàndez-Recatalà) Temps Barbares: de l'Albanie au Kosovo: Entretiens, Archipel (Paris, France), 1999.
Vjedhja e Gjumit Mbreteror: Tregime, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1999.
Qorrfermani: Roman,Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1999.
Ra ky Mort e u Pame: Ditar per Kosoven, Artikuj Letra, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1999.
Ikja e Shtergut, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 1999.
(With Denis Fernàndez-Recatalà) Kohe Barbare: Nga Shqiperia ne Kosove, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2000.
Breznite e Hankonateve: Roman, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2000.
Lulet e ftohta te marsit, (title means "Cold Flowers of March") Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2000.
(With Ukshin Hoti) Bisede Permes Hekurash, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2000.
Elegy for Kosovo, Time Warner Trade Publishing (New York, NY), 2000.
Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, translation by David Bellos, Arcade (New York, NY), 2002.
Jeta, loja dhe vdekja e Lul Mazrekut, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2002.
Vajza e Agamemnonit, Shtepia Botuese "55" (Tirana, Albania), 2003.
Pasardhesi, Shtepia Botuese "55" (Tirana, Albania), 2003.
The Successor, translated from the French edition by David Bellos, Arcade (New York, NY), 2005.
Çështje të marrëzisë: roman, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2005.
Also author of The Twilight, 1976, and The Niche of Shame, 1978. Novels have been translated into Croation, Czech, Danish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Swedish.
Qyteti i jugut (title means "The Southern City"), Shtepia Botonjese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1967.
Sjellesi I fatkeqesise (title means "Caravan of Veils"), [Tirana, Albania], 1980.
Invitation a un concert officiel et autre recits (title means "Invitation to an Official Concert and Other Stories"), Fayard (Paris, France), 1985.
La Grande Muraille, suivi de Le firman aveugle (short stories, includes "The Great Wall" and "The Blind Fireman"), French translation by Jusuf Vrioni, Fayard (Paris, France), 1993.
Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories, translated from the French of Tedi Papavrami and Jusuf Vrioni by David Bellos, Arcade (New York, NY), 2006.
Motive me diell: vjersha dhe poema, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), c. 1969.
Koha: vjersha dhe poema, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1976.
Ne muzeun e armeve: poeme, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1978.
Poezi, Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1979.
(Introduction and notes by Eric Faye) Oeuvres: Tome onzième, French translation from Albanian by Jusuf Vrioni, Tedi Papavrami, and Alexandre Zotos, Fayard (Paris, France), 2002.
Ca pika shiu rane mbi qelq: dyzet poezi te zgjedhura, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2003.
(With Ali Podrimja) Eni vjen pej Camerie: antologji poetike, Arberia & Rozafa (Tirana, Albania), 2004.
Kristal: 60 poezi të zgjedhura, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2004.
Pa formë është qielli: 100 poezi dhe poema të zgjedhura, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2005.
Also author of Frymezimet kjaloshare, 1954; Buzeqeshje mbi bote, 1980; The Sixties; and Insufficient Time.
CRITICISM AND ESSAYS
Autobiografia e popullit ne vargje, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1980, English translation published as The Autobiography of the People in Verse, 8 Nentori (Tirana, Albania), 1987.
Eskili, ky humbes i madh (title means "Aeschylus, the Great Loser"), French translation by Alexandre Zotos published as Eschyle ou l'eternel perdant, Fayard (Paris, France), 1988, Shtepia Botuese 8 Nentori (Tirana, Albania), 1990.
Ftese ne studio (title means "Invitation to the Studio"), Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1990.
Ardhja e Migjenit ne letersine shqipe (title means "The Arrival of Migjeni in Albanian Literature"), (Tirana, Albania), 1991.
La legende des legendes (title means "The Legend of Legends"), Flammarion (Paris, France), 1995.
Visage des Balkans (title means "Visages of Balkans"), Ecrits de lumiere (Paris, France), 1995.
Poshterimi ne Ballkan: sprove, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2004.
Also author of Pranvera shqiptare (title means "The Albanian Spring"), c. 1991.
Gjemojne kontinentet: vjersha, Shtepia Botonjese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1967.
Ismail Kadare, (Tirana, Albania), 1976.
Emblema e dikurshme: tregime e novela, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1977.
Keshtjella dhe helmi: pjese teatrale, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1977.
On the Lay of the Knights, 8 Nentori (Tirana, Albania), 1979.
Vepra letrare (title means "Works"), twelve volumes, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1981.
Fjalet e gjuhes se zjarrte: antologji e poeteve te rilindjes, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1982.
Koha e shkrimeve: tregime, novela, pershkrime (title means "Epoch of Writings"; collection of two novels, eight short stories, and three travel sketches), Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1986.
Entretiens avec Eric Faye (interview; title means "Conversations with Eric Faye"), J. Corti (Paris, France), 1991.
Endrra mashtruese: tregime e novela, Shtepia Botuese Naim Frasheri (Tirana, Albania), 1991.
Gjirokaster, la ville de pierre, photographs by Etienne Revault, Editions Michalon (Paris, France), 1997.
(With Denis Fernàndez-Recatalà) Les quatre interprètes, Stock (Paris, France), 2003.
(With Gilles de Rapper; preface by Christian Bromberger) L'Albanie: entre la légende et l'histoire, Actes sud (Arles, France), 2004.
Dantja i pashmangshëm ose nje histori e shkurtër e shqipërisë me Dante Aligierin: sprovë, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2005.
Leteiorkeiombim me presidentin, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2005.
Hamleti, princi i vështirë: sprovë, Onufri (Tirana, Albania), 2006.
Behind the Sun was adapted for film by Brazilian director Walter Salles.
Ismail Kadare has been one of the most prominent writers of the Eastern European country of Albania since he first began publishing literary works in the 1960s. A prolific author who has composed poetry, short stories, and volumes of criticism in addition to his many highly regarded novels, Kadare is one of the few Albanian writers whose works have been translated and read in other countries. In a country rigidly ruled by a Stalinist regime from the end of World War II until the early 1990s, Kadare's writings have stood out as some of the few examples of Albanian literature that did not follow the strictures of social realism, a genre devoted to propagating Marxist ideology. Instead, Kadare has offered historical and contemporary tales that range from lyrical portraits of the Albanian people, drawing upon both the history and folklore of the culture, to scathing parodies of totalitarian rule. Although he was often praised as a champion of Albanian nationalism during the reign of Communist leader Enver Hoxha, Kadare did encounter run-ins with government censorship under Hoxha and his successor, Ramiz Alia. Citing increasing pressures and threats from Albania's secret police during the reign of Alia, Kadare sought political asylum in France and moved with his family to Paris in 1990.
Kadare was born in the city of Gjirokaster in southern Albania, the town that was also the birthplace of Enver Hoxha. The son of a civil servant, Kadare grew up during a time of tumultuous political struggle and the hardships of war—experiences that would later resurface in his writings. Albania was a relatively new country in the 1930s, having declared independence in 1912 after four centuries of Turkish rule. The young and weak nation was easily overrun by foreign forces, particularly those of Italy, during World War I. After the removal of the Italians, a stronger national identity began to form under the Albanian ruler who named himself King Zog in 1928. But World War II brought the return of Italian occupying forces, along with the armies of Nazi Germany, leading to the flight of Zog from the country in 1939. A Communist resistance group that had been formed to oppose the occupation took control of the country with the retreat of the Axis powers in 1944. The Stalinist supporter Enver Hoxha emerged as the nation's leader at this time, beginning a communist dictatorship that would last until his death in 1985.
Under Hoxha, Albania was first politically aligned with the country of Yugoslavia, but broke ties with that country when it left the Soviet bloc in 1948. Albanian allegiance was then declared with the Soviet Union, and the country became a formal member of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. It was because of this political scenario that Kadare, after earning a teaching degree at Tirana University in 1956, was able to accept a scholarship to the Gorky Institute in Moscow. There he studied world literature until political events intervened. With the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, the USSR had begun to take a conciliatory stance toward the country of Yugoslavia, a move opposed by Hoxha's government. These differences led Albania to sever ties with the Soviets and to become an ally of Communist China in 1961. Therefore, in 1961 Kadare left Moscow to return to Albania.
Kadare quickly established a reputation as an important author back in his homeland. His book The General of the Dead Army: A Novel appeared in 1963 and an English translation was released in England and the United States in the early 1970s, making it the first Albanian novel to be published in America. The title of the book refers to a foreign general (identified by critics as an Italian) who is sent to Albania twenty years after World War II to recover the remains of his country's soldiers who were killed in battle there. At first confident and in control of his grisly task, the general begins to question his work and his identity as he reflects upon the horrors of war. He further is subject to the hostility Albanians harbor against their former oppressors. The burden of guilt that the general struggles against is represented by his belief that he has been placed under a malignant curse. When the bones of the highest ranking officer killed in Albania, Colonel Z, are discovered, the general, having lost his sanity, flings them into a mountain stream with the belief that this act will rid him of the spell.
The General of the Dead Army became Kadare's most popular novel within his native country as well as his most well-known work outside of Albania. The government of Hoxha endorsed the book, despite its lack of obvious support of Communist ideology, because the work was viewed as containing a powerful nationalist theme. By portraying Albanians as a strong, moral people, in contrast to the immorality and instability of the foreign characters, some critics noted, Kadare was able to gain official acceptance for his anti-war novel. But his novel works on several other levels as well, as reviewers have observed. New York Times Book Review contributor Ken Kalfus noted the way in which Kadare "accommodates his former government's nationalist ideology, yet at the same time draws a nuanced, troubling portrait of the Albanian people."
Reviewers were also impressed with the artistic merit of Kadare's writing in The General of the Dead Army. Robert Elsie, critiquing the work in World Literature Today, also acknowledged that "The General of the Dead Army is a step forward in Albanian letters. Gray storm clouds, mud, and the humdrum reality of everyday life [contrast] sharply with the otherwise obligatory sunshine and blithe victories of social real- ism." Kadare's "accumulation of detail and rather stylized conversations" in the book create "a slightly surreal mood" according to a Kirkus Reviews critic. Publishers Weekly contributor Barbara Bannon lauded the novel as "a stern reminder of the futility and tragedy of war, a remarkable exposition of guilt," and "an impressive, sustained act of imagination."
Kadare's next publication was a 1964 collection of short stories titled The Southern City. In contrast to his earlier novel, in which evil and sorrow are seen as troubles brought to Albania from outside sources, the tales in this volume explore the problems inherent to the country, particularly the clash between ancient customs and modern communist policies. This book, like The General of the Dead Army, was sanctioned by the Communist rulers of Albania at the time of its publication. This was probably due to the fact that some of the stories, such as "In the Cafe," show Albanian popular traditions to be harmful and the new Communist policies to be liberating. "In the Cafe" depicts two men who meet to secretly make a marriage arrangement for their children, even though such matchmaking has been declared illegal by the Communist government. Their negotiations, which represent an ancient cultural practice, are eventually broken up by government agents. But other stories seemed to be critical of Communist rule and pointed to the hypocrisy of leaders. "Winter Season at the Cafe Riviera," for example, is about a man who openly questions Communist Party members who engage in the forbidden matchmaking deals and is fired from his job for his statement.
The theme of matchmaking is featured in another of Kadare's works from the 1960s titled The Wedding, first published in Albania in 1968. The narrative focuses on Katrina, a young woman from the mountainous northern region of the country, an area considered to be more backwards than the more urban south. Katrina has been promised in marriage through a match made by her father with a local family. But when the Communist authorities assign Katrina and other young people to a railroad camp in the south, she is enlightened about the freedoms that young people are ensured through party policies. The girl decides to reject the match that her family has made for her and instead marries a fellow worker with whom she has fallen in love. The author demonstrates the severe repercussions that accompany a broken promise in traditional Albanian society with a scene of Katrina's father meeting the matchmaker near the site of the wedding festivities in a bloody encounter.
The acceptance of Kadare and his works by the Albanian government was highlighted in 1970 when he became a member of the country's legislative body, the People's Assembly. His comfortable relationship with Party officials also allowed him to travel and publish outside Albania—a rare privilege in a country considered to be one of the most isolated in the world at that time. By the early 1970s, although he held no position as such, he was considered to be the official writer of Albania. The success of his novel Chronicle in Stone, released in his country in 1971, helped to secure this reputation. This semi-autobiographical story takes readers into the often magical world of a young boy living in what appears to be the city of Gjirokaster, Albania, during World War II. Over the course of the novel, the narrator grows from a child who is horrified by the sight of sheep being slaughtered to an adolescent who has become immune to the violence and chaos that war brings to his hometown. But his imaginative, youthful view of the people and elements, particularly the stone that makes up the city, creates a nostalgic look at the old ways of Albania that were destroyed by the invasion of both foreign and modern forces. The boy's fascination with the gleaming metal airplanes that are brought in by occupying armies, contrasted with a local inventor's dreamy creation of a delicate aircraft powered by perpetual motion, the murder by military men of a woman who has carried on the tradition of painting the faces of young brides, the arm of a British pilot that falls from the sky, and an outbreak of troublesome magic in the city which is interpreted as a sign of impending disaster, all contribute to an atmosphere some critics likened to the magical realism of South American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The characters are finally forced to leave this unique world, however, when they evacuate the city in the face of a German invasion.
Chronicle in Stone is one of Kadare's most praised works. Upon its translation into English in the late 1980s, it received a number of laudatory reviews from critics. Leonie Caldecott, critiquing the novel in the New York Times Book Review, observed that the events of the story can be seen as an encapsulation of Albania's historical struggles. "The boy is in some sense merely reliving the history of his people, who down the centuries have shrugged off the coming and going of invading armies," wrote the reviewer. Nation contributor Evan Eisenberg, noting Kadare's use of magical themes, declared that "it is remarkable that his images, no matter how farfetched, so rarely seem strained or arbitrary or avant-garde." Caldecott also admired the balance struck by the author, commenting that "the triumph of Chronicle in Stone … is that it does not need to depart from the esthestically satisfying unities of time, space and action in order to achieve this beguiling conjunction of realism and fantasy." Savkar Altinel, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, also wrote that Kadare's techniques were not particularly idiosyncratic and in fact maintained that comparisons to Garcia Marquez were unjustified. "The pleasures of this text are, by and large, conventional ones," noted Altinel. Discussing the novel in the New Yorker, John Updike appreciated the appearance of a quality work from a region not known for its great literature. Updike praised Chronicle in Stone as "no mere curiosity but a thoroughly enchanting novel—sophisticated and accomplished in its poetic prose and narrative deftness, yet drawing resonance from its roots in one of Europe's most primitive societies."
Kadare's favored status with Albanian officials suddenly disappeared with the publication of a satirical poem about the country's bureaucracy, "The Red Pashas," published in 1975. Not only was the author forced into internal exile in a small central Albanian village, he was also forbidden to publish anything for a number of years. This censorship finally abated in 1978 with the publication of Kadare's novel The Three-Arched Bridge. Perhaps in order to quiet the suspicions of censors, the author set his novel several hundred years in the past, in medieval Albania. During a time of increasing distrust of the Turks who are moving into the area, a bridge being built by the foreigners over a local river becomes the target of mysterious sabotage, which the townspeople blame on supernatural water naiads. When a man is found murdered and plastered into the bridge foundation, the assumption is that this was an immurement—a traditional Albanian practice in which a human sacrifice is made to appease the evil spirits haunting the structure. The monk who begins to investigate the murder, and who serves as the narrator of the novel, ultimately discovers that the Turks have used this legend to cover their assassination of the local man who had been vandalizing the bridge.
Reviewing the English translation of the novel in the New York Times, Patrick McGrath found The Three-Arched Bridge to be "a profoundly atmospheric book" which contains both striking descriptions of the grim physical setting as well as an insightful portrayal of political and social tension during this historical period. "The novel is a reflection on the complex interactions of myth, cash and power in a time of political divisiveness and instability," wrote McGrath. The critic continued: "It is at the same time an utterly captivating yarn: strange, vivid, ominous, macabre and wise." A Publishers Weekly contributor acknowledged Kadare as "a terrific writer" with a "gift for ominous parable."
Kadare's relationship with Albanian officials continued to fluctuate in the 1980s. He began the decade with a number of accepted works with historical settings. One of these was The File on H, a 1980 novel about two Irish-American folklorists who explore northern Albania in the 1930s in search of a link between traditional songs of the area and Homeric verse. Their activities draw the attention of a bumbling local politician and an Albanian secret agent; they also raise the suspicion of villagers, who eventually sabotage the scholars' project.
The year 1980 also saw the publication of Kadare's novel Doruntine, a supernatural mystery based on a fairy tale from the region. Again returning to medieval times, the author recounts the tale of a family whose daughter, Doruntine, has married and moved to Bohemia. The mother has lost all her other children but one, her son Constantine. Worried about losing her only daughter, she makes Constantine promise that he will bring his sister back to her if she ever desires it. Although Constantine eventually dies, Doruntine returns one night, saying that her brother has brought her there in accordance with his promise. Doruntine and her mother die soon afterward, apparently from the shock of the idea that Constantine rose from the dead to fulfill his pledge. An official by the name of Captain Stres is given the task of preparing a report on the unusual events. In the course of his investigation, the captain "uncovers some blood truths at the core of an Albanian soul gripped by passionate belief in God, mystery, clan, and honor," asserted Stephan Salisbury in the New York Times Book Review. In a World Literature Today review, Robert Elsie called the novel "legendary in the purest sense" with an "atmosphere of medieval intrigue." Times Literary Supplement contributor Savkar Altinel suggested that in addition to being a "melancholy tale of love and loss," Doruntine also serves as an "ingenious parable about Albania," in its presentation of the nation's religious tensions and fear of foreigners.
Kadare delves into another dark side of Albanian culture in Broken April. Set in twentieth-century Albania, the novel follows the members of a northern family involved in an ancient bloody feud guided by a traditional code known as the Kanun. A newly married couple from the south arrives on the scene for their honeymoon, partly in order for the intellectual husband to get a first-hand glimpse at the rural culture he has been studying. The romantic world the scholar has imagined ends up being much more violent and dangerous than his expectations. The wife grows disillusioned with her husband when she, too, sees the contrast between the reality of the peasants' world and her husband's idyllic representations. With this story, stated Savkar Altinel in the Times Literary Supplement, Kadare "has produced not just a sad and beautiful tale but also a powerful allegory about pre-Communist Albania with its downtrodden masses, its blood-sucking ruling class, its ineffectual men of science in the service of feudal institutions, and its cloistered intelligentsia ignorant of social realities." Merle Rubin, critiquing the book in the Christian Science Monitor, found it to be "a precise and delicate balance of wonder and horror, simplicity and irony." New York Times contributor Herbert Mitgang hailed Broken April as a work that established Kadare "as a major international novelist": "Broken April is written with masterly simplicity in a bardic style."
Another widely reviewed book that first appeared in Albania in 1980 was Kadare's highly controversial novel The Palace of Dreams. Described as an "explicit and fantastic fable of totalitarianism" by Imogen Forster in the Times Literary Supplement, the novel was banned in Albania shortly after its release. "The Palace of Dreams" of the title is a bureaucratic entity in the hypothetical United Ottoman States. A young man named Mark-Alem Quprill is assigned to the Palace, where he becomes one of the many employees involved with cataloguing and interpreting the reports of dreams from citizens of every corner of the empire. The supposed purpose of the dream documentation is to watch for signs of "master dreams" that signify potential anti-government threats. As he reaches higher levels of authority in the Palace, Mark-Alem finds himself less and less able to appreciate the joys of the real world. Bettina L. Knapp, writing in World Literature Today, admired the work's "ingenious plot" and averred that while "the novel is humorous" it is also "to be taken seriously." Observer critic Sally Laird lauded the anti-utopian story for the way "it reminds us that hell, like love, can always be imagined afresh."
After the publication and subsequent censorship of Palace of Dreams, Kadare's literary output slowed somewhat. His next novel, Twilight of the Gods of the Steppe, a parody of the Russian Communist Party and government based on his personal experiences at the Gorky Institute, appeared in 1981, but he did not produce another major fiction work until 1985. In that year he released a collection of short stories entitled Invitation to an Official Concert and Other Stories. Reviewing the collection, Bettina L. Knapp in World Literature Today remarked that Kadare "writes with pith and point."
When Albanian leader Hoxha died, he was succeeded by Ramiz Alia. Many citizens of Albania hoped that the new leader would reform the totalitarian policies that had dominated the country since World War II, but Alia failed to live up to their expectations. Kadare became a central figure in calls for democratic reforms in the late 1980s, at the same time continuing to put out books that continued to poke at the flaws in the Communist system.
In 1988 he published The Concert: A Novel, which parodied the close relationship between Albania and communist China, a relationship that Albania had ended in the 1970s. Kadare alternates between events in Albania and China, focusing on a cast of characters ranging from Albanian diplomats to Chinese spies and even Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung. While spoofing the often bizarre tactics of the Chinese, Kadare also shows an Albanian family trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life in the face of the changes brought about by the interactions of the two countries. Bill Marx, writing in the Nation described the novel as "a brilliant fable about an attempt to imprison the unconscious mind." Sybil S. Steinberg, in a Publishers Weekly critique, called the novel a "subversively inventive satire" that highlights "Kadare's mordantly ironic vision." While citing some awkward aspects of the novel, New York Times Book Review writer Robert D. Kaplan argued that the work remained a valuable one: "Mr. Kadare makes us understand the secret of how a totalitarian regime survives: terror breeds isolation, and that isolation denies the inhabitants a crucial perspective, without which it's hard for them to realize just how abnormal their society is." Julian Duplain, reviewing The Concert for the Times Literary Supplement, found the work to be "superb" as "a portrait of the isolation of the old Albania."
Over the next two years, Kadare spoke out against government control of literature on a number of occasions. In the winter of 1990 he had a personal meeting with Ramiz Alia, from which he emerged hopeful that the leader would soon enact reforms allowing for a wider range of freedoms. His tone changed a few months later after he received a letter from Alia which Kadare characterized as "idiotic" in a Vanity Fair article by Jean-Christophe Castelli. This disappointment, combined with apparent threats from the Albanian secret police, led to his defection to France that same year. Only six months later, Albania joined the trend of Eastern bloc countries who threw off their totalitarian communist systems.
In 1992 Kadare released The Pyramid, another parable, this time concerning the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. Originally published serially in short story form in an Albanian newspaper in 1990, The Pyramid, Robert Elsie explained in World Literature Today, "can only be understood properly if read as a political allegory." Bruce Bawer, reviewing the novel in the New York Times Book Review, found the analogy between Egypt and Albania effective: "Like cold-war-era Albanians, the people who dwelt on the banks of the Nile four and a half millenniums ago had relatively little interaction with other nations; like the long time Albanian strongman, Enver Hoxha, the Pharaohs were rulers whose authority was absolute." Bawer also wrote that "the book … adds up to a haunting meditation on the matter-of-fact brutality of political despotism, the harshness of life among the humble and powerless, and the vastness, ubiquity and stonelike permanence of death, which treats all humanity as equals." Ian Thomson in the Spectator stated: "The Pyramid is a fine, creepy read and one can only marvel at how Ismail Kadare managed to write anything under the pressures of so watchful a regime."
Elegy for Kosovo retells the ancient story of a fourteenth-century battle on the plains of Kosovo in which forces from the Ottoman Empire defeated a combined army of Serbs, Bosnians, Christian Albanians, and Romanians. As noted by Robert Elsie in World Literature Today: "Nothing has been more central to the historical and emotional identity of the southern Balkans than the Battle of Kosovo in 1389." Through three separate tales, Kildare reveals how several longtime enemies joined forces to battle the vastly superior Ottoman forces. Two of the tales feature the viewpoints of two minstrels in flight following the defeat of the Christian army by the Turks. As noted by Adam Kirsch, writing in the New York Sun, the minstrels, "one Serb and one Albanian, keep singing their antique songs of mutual hatred, even when their nations are allied in a desperate struggle against the Turks." Also writing in World Literature Today, Michelle Levy commented: "Reconfiguring traditional Albanian forms and contents, Kadare has shaped a powerful metaphor for Kosovo and the Balkans."
In his novel Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, Kadare writes about Albania following the fall of its communist totalitarian government. The protagonist, Mark, is jubilant about Albania's newfound freedom but soon finds that he is in a world of social disorder and confusion. Before long, Mark has trouble distinguishing between his nightmares and a new reality that is at times more confusing and uncertain than Mark's dream world. Rebecca Stuhr, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "artfully portrays how an individual is affected when his society is suddenly released from … oppression." In his review in Booklist, Ray Olson called the novel "a rich, symbolic questioning of humanity's capacity for creating a murderless society."
Kadare's The Successor provides a fictionalized account of Mehmet Shehu, long presumed to be the successor to Albania's dictator Enver Hoxha, who was murdered in his bed, although some claim it was a suicide. "This dark and surreal novel is very much in keeping with Kadare's earlier works," wrote Rebecca Stuhr in the Library Journal. Several reviewers also commented on Kadare's ability to plumb both the depths of political power and abuse and of the individual humans who suffer under such a regime. For example, a Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the author "skillfully blends the thuggery of power politics with the … naiveté of a populace still gripped as much by folklore and superstition as by the exigencies of a modern society." Ray Olson, writing in Booklist, noted that "the heart's ineradicable darkness is exquisitely, painfully reconfirmed."
The title novella in Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories is a companion and precursor to Kadare's novel The Successor. It tells the story of a young journalist whose girlfriend, Suzana, leaves him for the sake of propriety because the journalist is engaged and Suzana's father is a rising political power. Covering one day in the journalist's life, Kadare tells how his attendance at a May Day parade, which is a politically charged event under communism, leads him to a series of insights relating to the oppression of a government that stifles love and, in turn, seeks to isolate all of its citizens, ultimately making them suspicious not of the government but of each other. The two short stories—"The Blinding Order" and "The Great Wall"—explore similar themes. In "The Great Wall," Kadare tells the story of a repair to a section of China's Great Wall from the viewpoint of a bureaucrat in charge of the repair and another view of the wall and its repair by a barbarian who is part of an attacking army. "The three tales … realize the theme of fear as an instrument of power with consummate art," wrote Ray Olson in Booklist. Commenting on "The Great Wall," a Kirkus Reviews critic called it "superbly plotted, charged with bitter black humor." He added that "it's a masterly parable worthy of comparison with Jose Saramago's Nobel-anointed fiction." Several reviewers also noted the author's insight into totalitarianism. Calling the novella and two short stories an "important work" in a review in the Library Journal, Patrick Sullivan went on to note that the author's "portrait of totalitarian arrogance and ruthlessness … is absolutely chilling."
While many of the themes of Kadare's novels and stories may seem irrelevant to some with the fall of communism in Albania, his writing is still highly praised for its insightful views of the character of the Albanian people and its criticisms of the dangers of totalitarianism. The literature that has been produced by Kadare throughout his lengthy career as an author has been called one of Albania's most important exports, and the author himself is considered a sort of living "national monument" in his native land. Readers from all over the world have become more familiar with Kadare's talents with the numerous translations of his works that have appeared since the 1980s, and his widening acclaim has been evident in his nomination for the Nobel Prize on several occasions. Times Literary Supplement reviewer A.M. Daniels summed up critical sentiment with the declaration that "there is no doubt that his work remains an ornament of his country's, and his continent's, literature."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 52, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Arts and Letters, June 27, 2005, Adam Kirsch, "Mystery of Man: Just Who Is Ismail Kadare?"
BBC Monitoring International Reports, October 12, 2006, "Kosovo Writers Propose Albania's Ismail Kadre for Nobel Prize."
Booklist, May 1, 2000, Frank Caso, review of Elegy for Kosovo, p. 1639; June 1, 2002, Ray Olson, review of Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, p. 1684; January 1, 2003, review of Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, p. 792; November 1, 2005, Ray Olson, review of The Successor, p. 24; November 1, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories, p. 29.
Canberra Times (Canberra, Australia), February 4, 2006, "How Albania's Rebel Writer Survived."
Christian Science Monitor, December 2, 1988; October 24, 1990, Merle Rubin, review of Broken April, p. 14.
Commonweal, September 8, 2000, Brian D. Phillips, review of Elegy for Kosovo, p. 36.
Design Week, June 16, 2005, "Booker Prize by Hoop Is a Clear Winner," p. 5.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2005, review of The Successor, p. 1048; September 15, 2006, review of Agamemnon's Daughter, p. 925.
Library Journal, June 15, 2002, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, p. 94; October 1, 2005, Rebecca Stuhr, review of The Successor, p. 66; November 15, 2006, Patrick Sullivan, review of Agamemnon's Daughter, p. 61.
Nation, November 28, 1987, Evan Eisenberg, review of Chronicle in Stone, pp. 652-655; December 19, 1994, Bill Marx, review of The Concert, pp. 772-774.
New Statesman, January 23, 2006, Julian Evans, review of The Successor, p. 56.
New York Times, November 14, 1990; December 12, 1990, Herbert Mitgang, review of Broken April, p. C21; November 26, 2005, Richard Eder, review of The Successor, p. B15.
New York Times Book Review, January 24, 1988, Leonie Caldecott, review of Chronicle in Stone, p. 18; August 27, 1989, Stephan Salisbury, review of Doruntine, p. 16; July 28, 1991, Ken Kalfus, review of The General of the Dead Army, p. 18; September 26, 1993, p. 24; November 6, 1994, Robert D. Kaplan, review of The Concert, p. 21; April 28, 1996, Bruce Bawer, review of The Pyramid, p. 11; March 2, 1997, Patrick McGrath, review of The Three-Arched Bridge, p. 30; July 14, 2002, review of Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, p. 22; November 13, 2005, Lorraine Adams, review of The Successor, p. 62.
New Yorker, March 14, 1988, John Updike, review of Chronicle in Stone, p. 112.
Observer (London, England), February 7, 1993, Sally Laird, review of The Palace of Dreams, p. 54.
Philadelphia Inquirer, October 26, 2005, Carlin Romano, review of The Successor.
Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1971, Barbara Bannon, review of The General of the Dead Army, p. 30; June 20, 1994, Sybil S. Steinberg, review of The Concert, p. 93; December 30, 1996, review of The Three-Arched Bridge, p. 54; April 17, 2000, review of Elegy for Kosovo, p. 52; May 27, 2002, review of Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, p. 36; September 19, 2005, review of The Successor, p. 43; September 25, 2006, review of Agamemnon's Daughter, p. 46.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 2003, Matthew L. McAlpin, review of Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, p. 156.
Spectator, March 9, 1996, Ian Thomson, review of The Pyramid, pp. 29-30; July 16, 2005, Stephen Schwartz, "Literary Courtesan: Stephen Schwartz on the Albanian Writer Ismail Kadare, Winner of the First Man Booker International Prize," p. 18; January 14, 2006, Francis King, review of The Successor, p. 38.
Times Literary Supplement, July 3, 1987, Savkar Atinel, review of Chronicle in Stone, p. 715; December 23-29, 1988, Savkar Atinel, review of Doruntine, p. 1428; December 7-13, 1990, Savkar Altinel, review of Broken April, p. 1327; February 12, 1993, Imogen Forster, review of The Palace of Dreams, p. 20; September 30, 1994, Julian Duplain, review of The Concert, p. 23; September 15, 1995, A.M. Daniels, "Albanian Spring: The Anatomy of Tyranny," p. 28.
Vanity Fair, May, 1991, article by Jean-Christophe Castelli.
Weekly Standard, January 23, 2006, Stephen Schwartz, review of The Successor.
World Literature Today, winter, 1983, pp. 149-150; winter, 1986, Bettina L. Knapp, review of Invitation to an Official Concert and Other Stories, p. 158; spring, 1987, Robert Elsie, review of Doruntine, p. 331; spring, 1991, Bettina L. Knapp, review of The Palace of Dreams, p. 344; autumn, 1991, Robert Elsie, review of The General of the Dead Army, pp. 746-747; summer, 1993, Robert Elsie, review of The Pyramid, p. 648; autumn, 1997, Robert Elsie, review of Spiritus: Roman me kaos, zbulese dhe cmers, p. 841; summer, 2000, Robert Elsie, review of Three Elegies for Kosovo, p. 682; autumn, 2000, Michele Levy, review of Elegy for Kosovo, p. 903; spring, 2001, Robert Elsie, review of Cold Flowers of March, p. 406; spring, 2002, Robert Elsie, review of French translation of Ikja e Shtergut, p. 242; September-December, 2004, Robert Elsie, review of Pasardhesi, p. 149; September-October, 2006, Peter Morgan, "Ismail Kadare: Modern Homer or Albanian Dissident?," p. 7.