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I. Kadare
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Ismail Kadare
Albanian poet and novelist Ismail Kadare, a resident of Paris since 1990, was hard at work in 1997 revising his collected works, which come for the first time--in both French and Albanian. His 1978 historical novel Ura me tri harqe was translated into English as The Three-Arched Bridge (1991) and received critical acclaim. Kadare's self-imposed exile brought him a freedom to publish and speak that he had rarely, if ever, experienced in his native country. These newfound freedoms came years after he had alternately sought an official relationship with Albania's pro-Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha (they were born in the same town) and yet criticized Hoxha's dictatorial rule. The
contradictory actions made Kadare a somewhat controversial and suspect figure. Some of his works had been banned or had remained unpublished, but others seemed a dutiful knuckling under to the party line and as such were artistically undistinguished.
Although attitudes toward his works remained mixed, most reviewers believed that Kadare had done much to shape Albanian literature and to bring Albanian letters into the 20th century. 

Kadare was born in Gjirokastėr on Jan. 28, 1936, at a time of great
turmoil in Albania. He attended the University of Tiranė and, until
Soviet-Albanian ties became strained, the Gorky Institute of World
Literature in Moscow. Upon his return to Albania in 1960, Kadare became a journalist and also initiated his literary career. He first won recognition in his native country with his poetry, but the work that brought him international attention was Gjenerali i ushtėrisė sė vdekur (1963; The General of the Dead Army, 1971), a perceptive evaluation of postwar Albania. In Kėshtjella (1970; The Castle, 1974), his next significant work, Kadare explored Albanian nationalism by examining the time during the 15th century when Skanderbeg became an Albanian hero. Both this novel and Kronikė nė gur (1971; Chronicle in Stone, 1987), a powerful portrait of the historic city of Gjirokastėr under occupation, captured the hearts of the Albanian people. In 1973, however, a political purge of several intellectuals prompted Kadare to cover himself by writing a politically expedient novel, Nėntori i njė kryeqyteti (1975; "November of a Capital City"). This was followed by Dimri i madh (1977; "The Great Winter"), which, despite its unrealistically rosy view of Hoxha, depicted the fascinating story of Albania's break from the Soviet sphere. 

Many of Kadare's later works, including Komisioni i festės (1977;
"The Celebration Commission"), Pashallėqet e mėdha (1978; "The
Great Pashalics"), and Krushqit janė tė ngrirė (1986; "The Wedding Procession Turned to Ice") presented views of critical times in Albanian history. His Nėpunėsi i pallatit tė ėndrrave (1981; The Palace of Dreams, 1993), set in the time of the Ottoman Empire, was perhaps his masterpiece.

                         KATHLEEN KUIPER