Ismail Kadare 1936-
Albanian novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist, critic, playwright, memoirist, and nonfiction writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Kadare's career through 2003. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 52.
Kadare has been one of the most prominent Albanian writers 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 published in other countries. His novels and stories have been translated into over thirty languages and have seen an increasing amount of critical attention since the 1980s, particularly in France and the United States. 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 offers 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 difficulty 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 on January 28, 1936, in Gjirokastër, Albania, the same birthplace as Hoxha. The son of a civil servant, Kadare was raised during a period of tumultuous political struggle and the hardships of war—experience that would later resurface thematically in his fictional and autobiographical writings. Albania, a relatively new country, had declared independence from Turkish rule in 1912, and subsequently the small country found itself a target for several occupying forces, including the Italians during World War I and the Nazis during World War II. Hoxha's Stalinist government took control of Albania in 1944 and allied itself with the Soviet Union in the Warsaw Pact of 1955. After receiving his teaching degree from Tirana University in 1956, Kadare moved to Moscow to accept a scholarship to the Gorky Institute, where he studied world literature. Kadare was forced to leave Moscow in 1961 after Hoxha severed ties with the Soviet Union and formed an alliance with Communist China. In 1963 Kadare published his first novel Gjenerali i ushtrisë së vdekur (The General of the Dead Army)—an English translation was eventually published in 1971, making it the first Albanian novel ever published in the United States. The General of the Dead Army garnered significant attention in his homeland, particularly from Hoxha's tyrannical government. Although his works were under constant scrutiny, Kadare was appointed to the country's legislative body, the People's Assembly, in 1970. Due to his comfortable relationship with government officials as well as his leading role in Albanian literature, Kadare was given the rare privilege of being allowed to travel and publish outside of Albania, which led to increasing international exposure for his work. In 1975 Kadare's privileged position ended with the publication of “The Red Pashas,” a poem which satirized Albania's inefficient bureaucracy. He was subsequently forced into internal exile in a small central Albanian village and forbidden to publish his works. The ban ended in 1978 with the publication of Ura me tri harqe: triptik me një intermexo (The Three-Arched Bridge ). After Hoxha's death in 1985, Kadare became a leader in the movement for democratic reform in Albania....
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