Ismail Kadare

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 first publications 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 mostly back 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. In particular, he doesn't seem to have read Lord's book, and the two Irishmen have pretty Anglo names.

The File on H. was translated by Jusuf Vrioni (into French, with Kadare's involvement) and David Bellos (from French into English).

Questions for reading:

Other books by Kadare:

Works about Kadare:

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.