Ismail Kadare (born 1936), Albania and France.
Kadare (pronounced Kadaré) is the most prominent Albanian writer today. Born in Gjirokaster, he finished his studies in Tirana and at the
prestigious Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow (a safer place for citizens of friendly socialist countries after Stalin’s death in 1953).
His firstpublications were of poetry, though he is much better known internationally for his prose novels, several of which have been
translated into English (many, unfortunately, via French rather than directly from Albanian). In 1990 Kadare moved to Paris, where his
novels (in Albanian and in French) are published by Fayard; since 1999, he has been living again in Tirana, Albania. Lately he has been
mentioned as (you guessed?) a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The File on H is loosely based on the expeditions of Millman Parry and Albert Lord to collect epic songs in the Balkans
(presented in several books, including Lord’s ground-breaking classic The Singer of Tales, which Tripod has in several
editions); aside from the Albanian locals it presents two Irish graduate students from the United States. Though extremely well-informed
about history and politics, Kadare is typically most interested in moral and poetic questions.
The File on H. was translated by Jusuf Vrioni (into French) and David Bellos (from French into ENglish).
Questions for reading:
- What do you know about Albania as you begin reading? What does this novel teach you about the country? What does it suggest about
Albania’s emergence into modernity?
- Why would a novelist who probably barely remembers pre-WWII Albania choose to set his story in a period so different from the
country’s post-WWII experience?
- As Americans (albeit later ones), do you find the characters and motivations of the two researchers plausible? How much do you
know about Irish culture in the 1930s?
- Compare the tones and voices of the various centers of consciousness.
- How does folk culture as Kadare presents it here interact with other elements of culture—high or elite culture, religion, politics?
- How do history and knowledge unfold in this narrative?
- And who is H.?
Other books by Kadare:
- Nepunesi i pallatit te endrrave, 1981. The Palace of Dreams, translated by Jusuf Vrioni (into French)
and Barbara Bray (from French into English), 1993.
- Koncert në Fund të Dimrit, 1988. The Concert, translated by Jusuf Vrioni (into French) and Barbara Bray
(from French), 1994.
- Agamemnon’s Daughter: A Novella and Stories, translated by Tedi Papavrami (into French) and Jusuf Vrioni (into French)
and David Bellos (from French), 2006, in Tripod
- Kronikë në gur, 1971. Chronicle in Stone, translated by (name not given), 1987, in Tripod.
- Tri këngë zie për Kosovën, 1998. Elegy for Kosovo, translated by Peter Constantine, 2000, in Tripod.
- Gjenerali i ushtërisë së vdekur, 1970. General of the Dead Army, translated by Derek Coltman (from French),
1971, in Tripod.
- Pasardhësi, 2003. The Successor: A Novel, translated by Tedi Papavrami (into French) and David Bellos, 2005,
- Ura me tri harqe, 1978. The Three-Arched Bridge, translated by John Hodgson, 1997, in Tripod.
Works about Kadare:
- William Joseph Buckley. Kosovo: Contending Voices on Balkan Interventions, in Tripod.
You might enjoy comparing The File on H. to any of Kadare’s other historical novels, or to the works by Parry and/or
Lord that it evidently draws on. An admirable work on the nature of oral creativity is Walter Ong Orality and Literacy:
The Technologizing of the Word.