|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remained unpublished, but others seemed a dutiful knuckling under to the party line and as such were artistically undistinguished.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.