Welcome to Albania. Ismail Kadare, Albania’s most famous author, writes in what is characterized as a “lightly fictionalized,” style and I feel this is both accurate and haunting. Albania has a unique history, one that is mostly unknown to the outside world and one that is hard to comprehend unless you dive into books like these. Kadare is a novelist, essayist, screenwriter, playwright, journalist, and editor.
Kadare was the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize among many, many other accolades and has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature FIFTEEN TIMES.
The only other author who delves this deep into the psyche of the regime is perhaps Kafka. You see, Kadare has to say it without saying it, and even so was exiled for over two years during one point in his career. There is nothing I can do here to satisfactorily explain who he is and what all he has done. Just take one quick look at his wiki page and you will know what a remarkable man “The Mark Twain of Albania” really is.
These books are short, dense, and lingering. A perversity in suffering but quiet suffering under surveillance and the constant tricks of the regime. Foreign invaders, accusations, art, creative liberty, and romance under duress. Foreign masters and internal combustion. And perhaps most painful, indifference from the outside world. I find these books difficult to describe. These are books meant to be handed from person to person. No explanation needed.