22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Ismail Kadare

Ismail Kadare was born in Gjirokastra, southern Albania, in 1936. He studied Languages and Literature at the University of Tirana and then went on to study at the Gorky Institute for Literary Studies in Moscow. As relations between Albania and the Soviet Union worsened in 1960, Kadare returned to his homeland and began working as a journalist. He was witness to the conflict between Enver Hoxha, the chairman of Albania’s Workers’ Party, and the head of state and party secretary Khrustshev, that would lead the country towards political isolation. In what is probably his most significant work, the novel »Dimri i vetmise se madhe« (1973; t: The winter of great solitude), he focuses on this conflict and its far-reaching consequences. Although the work met with positive to glowing reactions abroad, it was criticised in Albania for being too negative and Kadare saw himself forced to revise it. Four years later a greatly expanded edition was published, which had the henceforth commonly used title: »Dimri i madh« (t: The great winter).

Kadare published his first literary works in the fifties with several volumes of poetry. With the influential »Shekulli im« (1961; t: My century), he paved the way for a regeneration of Albanian poetry. He breathed life into the neglected genre of love poetry and restored a comparatively down-to-earth lyrical flow to the breakthrough. Shortly afterwards Kadare turned towards the novel and became internationally known with »Gjenerali i Ushtrisë së Vdekur« (1961; Eng. »The General of the Dead Army«, 1971). The story of an Italian general who has to transport the bones of fallen Fascist soldiers in Albania, it depicts absurdity of war with a characteristic blend of imagery and objectivity, history and imagination, as well as tragedy and comedy. The novel was made into a movie with Michel Piccoli and Marcello Mastroianni in 1983.

Kadare soon came to be regarded at home and abroad as the most significant writer in his country. A member of the Communist Party, he was a member of Parliament from 1970 to 1982. While his works were assigned at schools in the whole country as required reading, he was, from time to time, banned from publication in Albania and faced with threats and hostility. With his immigration to Paris, only months before the political upheaval, he reaped the consequences of his increasingly critical views of Stalinist dogma in the mid eighties and the protracted democratisation after 1989. The novel »La Pyramide« (1992; t: The pyramid), written in French, is a parable-like epic about the institutionalised cruelty of totalitarian systems, set in ancient Egypt.

Kadare has worked as an editor of the literary journal »Les Lettres albanaises«, which appears in both Albanian and French. His work has been translated into over thirty languages. Most recently the twelfth volume of his collected works was published. Kadare has received numerous international prizes and is an officer of the French Légion d’honneur. He was awarded the Man International Booker Prize, presented for the first time that year, in 2005. The author lives in Paris and Tirana.

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