Albania’s Pictures Born in
The Albanian writer who is best known out-side the Albanian speaking world is Ismail Kadare ( the stress is on the last vowel of both his names), who was born in Gjirokastra in 1936. He studied literature at the University of Tirana and went on to study at the Gorky institute in Moscow. He returned to Albania after the break with the Soviet Union in 1961, and worked as a journalist, as well as publishing a volume of poetry.
His first novel, The General of the Dead Army, was written between 1962 and 1966, and brought him immediate renown. It was later made into a film, in which Macello Mastroianni played the eponymous general, seeking the remains of Italian soldiares fallen during the fascist occupation of Albania.
Following the success of his first novel, Kadare became the editor of the Albanian literary review Les Letters Albanaises, and went on to write over a dozen novels, as well as short stories and essays. Many of his works are heavily allegorical and it is difficult for non Albanians to grasp the layers of meaning in them; his novels The Monster ( banned in Albania for 25 years ) and The Palace of Dreams, and the work literary criticism Aeschylus, are examples of these rather obscure but ultimately rewarding works. Some of his novels, on the other hand, are much more accessible to the foreign reader and give very interesting insights into aspect of Albanian daily life in the later of the 20th century. Chronicle in Stone, about growing up in Gjirokastra, and Broken April, about the revenge culture of the northern highlands, are good to start with. The Concert sheds some light on Albania’s break with China and how it affected Albanian professionals. The Castle is about Albania’s resistance to the Ottoman invasion-the eponymous castle is Skanderbeg’s seat at Kruja.
Ismail Kadare was allowed to travel widely by the communist government, and he could have defected from Albania on several occasions, but he chose not to. He was one of a group of writers and other influential people who lobbied for cultural liberalization in the late 1980s. Towards the end of 1990, when communist regimes had collapsed all over central and eastern Europe, and it was obvious that even in Albania the end could not be far off, he left the country and obtained political asylum in France, where he still lives. Many young Albanians who took part in the struggle for democracy were hurt and baffled by what they saw as Kadare’s abandonment of them. His 1994 book Albanian Spring ( now out of print) outlines his reasons for leaving the country but, like much of Albanian’s recent history, it remains a very controversial matter. Kadare is frequently mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize for literature. In 2005, he was awarded the inaugural Man Booker International Prize.