January 2, 2007 |
ISMAIL KADARE is customarily hailed as Albania's greatest writer. This is probably true, but since few other writers from that isolated nation are even known to the rest of the world, it's not all that much of a compliment.
October 23, 2005 |
THE new novel by Ismail Kadare, who won the 2005 Man Booker International Prize, begins with a time-honored narrative device: a corpse. And not just any corpse. On a cold December morning in 1981, the anointed successor to Albania's current dictator is found in his bedroom with a bullet in his brain. The official verdict is suicide. The public, which already has seen the regime take a chain saw to its political deadwood on numerous occasions, suspects murder.
July 21, 2002 |
What is Albania? During the mid-1980s, our image was of a country hunkered down behind the inscrutable wall of its Communist tyrant Enver Hoxha. Albania was the Tibet of Europe, swathed in fabrics of language and culture unidentifiable to the uninitiated. The war in Kosovo changed all that. CNN taught us that Albania was part of the Balkans, that its people were part of a larger European Muslim population (who knew there were Muslims in Europe?).
June 18, 2000 |
FLUDD By Hilary Mantel; Henry Holt: 192 pp., $13 paper What does it mean to be sophisticated? What does it mean to be a sophisticated writer, for surely Hilary Mantel, author of "The Giant O'Brien" and many other novels, is just that. She is wry, like Oscar Wilde, but takes on the most earnest of subjects in her books; in "Fludd," that's nothing less than the placement of faith and its power to transform.
February 15, 1998 |
Two archeologists equipped with a cumbersome tape recorder arrive in a northern Albanian province in the 1930s. They have come to capture the recitations of the last few mountain bards, heirs of an oral epic tradition going back to Homer. Their project sets off a series of paranoid janglings and clownish cross-purposes in a society as isolated then as it has been virtually ever since. The Albanian legation in Washington advises the interior minister that the two men could be spies.
February 9, 1997 |
If we knew what the future held, we might be less eager than President Clinton to build a bridge to it. Perhaps we would widen the river. Tragedy to our American mind--to the extent that our mind regards it--is still what you advance out of. Through much of the history of much of the world, it has been what you advance into, helplessly. The bridge in Ismail Kadare's "The Three-Arched Bridge" is a foreboding, an omen, a threat.