Ismail Kadare

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Ismail Halit Kadare
Ismail Kadare.jpg
Born (1936-01-28) 28 January 1936 (age 83)
Gjirokastër, Albanian Kingdom
OccupationNovelist, poet, essayist,
Notable worksThe General of the Dead Army 1963

The Siege 1970
Chronicle in Stone 1971
Broken April 1980[1][2]
The Palace of Dreams 1981
The File on H. 1981
The Successor 2003

The Fall of the Stone City 2008
Notable awardsPrix mondial Cino Del Duca
Herder Prize
Man Booker International Prize
Prince of Asturias Awards
Jerusalem Prize
The Order of Legion of Honour


Ismail Kadare (Albanian pronunciation: [ismaˈil kadaˈɾe], also spelled Ismaïl Kadaré in French; born 28 January 1936) is an Albanian novelist, poet, essayist and playwright. He has been a leading literary figure in Albania since the 1960s. He focused on poetry until the publication of his first novel[not verified in body], The General of the Dead Army, which made him famous outside of Albania. In 1996, he became a lifetime member of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques of France.

In 1992, he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca; in 1998, the Herder Prize; in 2005, he won the inaugural Man Booker International Prize; in 2009, the Prince of Asturias Award of Arts; in 2015, the Jerusalem Prize, and in 2016, he was a Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur recipient.

Kadare is regarded by some as one of the greatest European writers and intellectuals of the 20th century and, in addition, as a universal voice against totalitarianism.[3]

Life and work[edit]

Ismail Kadare was born on 28 January 1936 in Gjirokastër in Albania, to Halit Kadare, a post office employee[4], and Hatixhe Dobi, a homemaker.[citation needed] He attended primary and secondary schools in Gjirokastër and studied Languages and Literature at the Faculty of History and Philology of the University of Tirana. In 1956 Kadare received a teacher's diploma. He later studied at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow from 1958 to 1960.[1]

While studying literature in Moscow he managed to get a collection of his poems published in Russian, and there he also wrote his first novel The City with no Signs in 1959, intentionally defying the rules of socialist realism.[5]

After returning home in 1960 because of the Soviet-Albanian split, he worked as a journalist and then embarked on a literary career[4]. He tried to publish a fragment of his first novel camouflaged as a short story titled "Coffeehouse Days". Upon being published in the literary magazine Zëri i Rinisë in 1962, it was immediately banned by the authorities.[6][7] He was advised by his close friends not to tell anybody about the actual novel, so it stayed in his drawers for decades until the communist regime fell in 1990.

In 1963, he published his first novel titled The General of the Dead Army whose French translation by the persecuted Isuf Vrioni[8], published by Albin Michel in 1970 led to Kadare's international breakthrough. The novel was not received well by the critics in Albania at the time.[9]His next novel, The Monster, published in the magazine Nëntori in 1965, was banned immediately. After offending the authorities with a political poem in 1975, he was forbidden to publish for three years

In March 1982 The Palace of Dreams was harshly condemned in a Writer's Plenum. The writer was accused of making allusions to Communist Albania in it, citing several ambiguous passages. As a result, the work was banned.[10] Kadare was also accused by the president of the League of Albanian Writers and Artists of deliberately evading politics by cloaking much of his fiction in history and folklore. Around the time of Hoxha's death in 1985, his novel A Moonlit Night was banned by the authorities.[11] The same year he wrote Agamemnon's Daughter— a direct critique of the oppressive regime in Albania, which was smuggled out of the country with the help of Kadare's French editor Claude Durand.[12]

In 1990, Kadare claimed political asylum in France, issuing statements in favor of democratization. At that time, he stated that "dictatorship and authentic literature are incompatible. The writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship".[citation needed] During the 1990s and 2000s he was offered multiple times to become President of Albania, but declined.[13] He has divided his time between Albania and France since 1990[citation needed].

Critical opinion is divided as to whether Kadare should be considered to have been a dissident or a conformist during the Communist period.[1] For his part, Kadare has stated that he had never claimed to be an "Albanian Solzhenitsyn" or a dissident, and that "dissidence was a position no one could occupy [in Enver Hoxha's Albania], even for a few days, without facing the firing squad. On the other hand, my books themselves constitute a very obvious form of resistance".[14] Henri Amouroux, a member of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques of France, pointed out that Soviet dissidents including Solzhenitsyn had published their works during the era of de-Stalinization, whereas Kadare lived and published his works in a country which remained Stalinist until 1990.[15] Robert Elsie, an expert of Albanian Literature also stressed the fact that the conditions in which Kadare lived and published his works were not comparable to other European communist countries where at least some level of public dissent was tolerated, rather, the situation in Albania was comparable to North Korea or the Soviet Union in the 1930s under Stalin. Despite all of this, Kadare used any opportunity to attack the regime in his works, by means of political allegories, which were picked up by educated Albanian readers.[16]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to an Albanian author, Helena Kadare (née Gushi), and has two daughters. His daughter Besiana is the Albanian ambassador to the United Nations. [17]


Kadare on Albania's Postal stamps

In English, his works have been translated by David Bellos.[18]

In 1996 Kadare became a lifetime member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of France, where he replaced the philosopher Karl Popper. In 1992, he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, and in 2005 he received the inaugural Man Booker International Prize. In 2009, Kadare was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature.[19] In the same year he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Science in Social and Institutional Communication by the University of Palermo in Sicily. In 2015, he was awarded the bi-annual Jerusalem Prize.[20]

The London newspaper The Independent said of Kadare: "He has been compared to Gogol, Kafka and Orwell. But Kadare's is an original voice, universal yet deeply rooted in his own soil".[21]

Literary themes[edit]

The central theme of his works is totalitarianism and its mechanisms.[22] Kadare's novels draw on legends surrounding the historical experiences of Albanian people, the representation of classical myths in modern contexts, and the totalitarian regime in Albania. They are obliquely ironic as a result of trying to withstand political scrutiny. Among his best-known books are The General of the Dead Army (1963), The Siege (1970), The Ghost Rider (1980), Broken April (1980),[1][2] The Palace of Dreams (1981), The Pyramid,The Successor (2003).

The Pyramid (1992) was set in Egypt in the 26th century BC and after. In it, Kadare mocked Hoxha's fondness for elaborate statues, the pyramid form also reflecting any dictator's love for hierarchy and useless monuments. In some of Kadare's novels, comprising the so-called "Ottoman Cycle", the Ottoman Empire is used as the archetype of a totalitarian state. The Fall of the Stone City (2008) was awarded the Rexhai Surroi Prize in Kosovo, and was shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2013.[23]


Kadare has been mentioned as a possible recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature several times. His works have been published in about 45 languages.[24]

The following Kadare novels have been translated into English:

English translations[edit]

Works published in Albanian[edit]

The complete works (except for the essays) of Ismail Kadare were published by Fayard, simultaneously in French and Albanian, between 1993 and 2004.[26] Omitted from the list are the poetry and the short stories. Kadare's original Albanian language works have been published exclusively by Onufri Publishing House since 1996,[27] as single works or entire sets. Being published in 2009 the complete works in 20 volumes.[28]

The dates of publication given here are those of the first publication in Albanian, unless stated otherwise.

Novels and novellas[edit]

  • Gjenerali i ushtrisë së vdekur (The General of the Dead Army) (1963)
  • Përbindëshi (The Monster) (1965)
  • Lëkura e daulles (The Wedding) (1967)
  • Kështjella (The Siege) (1970)
  • Kronikë në gur (Chronicle in Stone) (1971)
  • Dimiri i vetmisë së madhe (The Great Winter) (1972)
  • Nëntori i një kryeqyteti (November of a Capital) (1975)
  • Muzgu i perëndive të stepës (Twilight of the Eastern Gods) (1978)
  • Komisioni i festës (The Feast Commission) (1978)
  • Ura me tri harqe (The Three-arched Bridge) (1978)
  • Kamarja e turpit (The Traitor's Niche) (1978)
  • Prilli i thyer (Broken April) (1980)
  • Kush e solli Doruntinën? (The Ghost Rider) (1980)
  • Pallati i ëndrrave (The Palace of Dreams) (1981)
  • Nata me hënë (A Moonlit Night) (1985)
  • Viti i mbrapshtë (The Dark Year) (1985)
  • Krushqit janë të ngrirë (The Wedding Procession Turned to Ice) (1985)
  • Koncert në fund të dimrit (The Concert) (1988)
  • Dosja H. (The File on H.) (1989)
  • Qorrfermani (The Blinding Order) (1991)
  • Piramida (The Pyramid) (1992)
  • Hija (The Shadow) (1994)
  • Shkaba (The Eagle) (1995)
  • Spiritus (1996)
  • Qyteti pa reklama (The City with no Signs) (1998, written in 1959)
  • Lulet e ftohta të marsit (Spring Flowers, Spring Frost) (2000)
  • Breznitë e Hankonatëve (2000)
  • Vajza e Agamemnonit (Agamemnon's Daughter) (2003)
  • Pasardhësi (The Successor) (2003)
  • Jeta, loja dhe vdekja Lul Mazrekut (Life, Game and Death of Lul Mazrek) (2003)
  • Çështje të marrëzisë (A Question of Lunacy) (2005)
  • Darka e Gabuar (The Fall of the Stone City) (2008)
  • E penguara: Rekuiem për Linda B. (A Girl in Exile) (2009)
  • Aksidenti (The Accident) (2010)
  • Mjegullat e Tiranës (Tirana's Mists) (2014, originally written in 1957-58)
  • Kukulla (The Doll) (2015)


  • Stinë e mërzitshme në Olimp (Dull Season in Olympus) (1998)


  • Sorkadhet e trembura (Frightened Gazelles) (2009)


  • Frymëzime djaloshare (1954)
  • Ëndërrimet (1957)
  • Princesha Argjiro (1957)
  • Shekulli im (1961)
  • Përse mendohen këto male (1964)
  • Shqiponjat fluturojnë lart (1966)
  • Motive me diell (1968)
  • Koha (1976)
  • Ca pika shiu ranë mbi qelq (2004)
  • Pa formë është qielli (2005)
  • Vepra poetike në një vëllim (2018)


  • Autobiografia e popullit në vargje (The People's Autobiography in Verse) (1971)
  • Eskili, ky humbës i madh (Aeschylus, The Lost) (1985)
  • Ftesë në studio (Invitation to the Writer's Studio) (1990)
  • Nga një dhjetor në tjetrin (Albanian Spring) (1991)
  • Kushëriri i engjëjve (The Angels' Cousin) (1997)
  • Kombi shqiptar në prag të mijëvjeçarit të tretë (The Albanian Nation on the Threshold of the Third Millennium) (1998)
  • Unaza në kthetra (The Ring on the Claw) (2001)
  • Poshtërimi në Ballkan (Abasement in the Balkans) (2004)
  • Identiteti evropian i shqiptarëve (The European Identity of Albanians) (2006)
  • Dantja i pashmangshëm (Dante, The Inevitable) (2006)
  • Hamlet, le prince impossible (Hamlet, The Impossible Prince) (2007)
  • Don Kishoti në Ballkan (Don Quixote in the Balkans) (2009)
  • Mosmarrëveshja, mbi raportet e Shqipërisë me vetveten (2010)
  • Mbi krimin në Ballkan; Letërkëmbim i zymtë (On Crime in the Balkans)(2011)
  • Çlirimi i Serbisë prej Kosovës (Serbia's Liberation from Kosovo) (2012)
  • Mëngjeset në Kafe Rostand (Mornings in Cafe Rostand) (2014)
  • Arti si mëkat (Art as a Sin) (2015)
  • Uragani i ndërprerë: Ardhja e Migjenit në letërsinë shqipe" (The Interrupted Hurricane: The Advent of Migjeni in Albanian Literature) (2015)
  • Tri sprova mbi letërsinë botërore (Essays on World Literature) (2017)
  • Kur sunduesit grinden When Rulers Quarrel (2018)

Story collections[edit]

  • Emblema e dikurshme (1977)
  • Ëndërr mashtruese (1991)
  • Tri këngë zie për Kosovën (1998)
  • Vjedhja e gjumit mbretëror (1999)
  • Përballë pasqyrës së një gruaje (2001)
  • Bisedë për brilantet në pasditen e dhjetorit (2013)
  • Koha e dashurisë (Rrëfim Trikohësh) (2015)
  • Proza e shkurtër, në një vëllim (2018)


  • Literature led me to freedom. Not the other way round

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Liukkonen, Petri. "Ismail Kadare". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Broken April – Ismail Kadare". Various journals. Retrieved 6 October 2007.
  3. ^ Fundacion Princessa de Asturias (24 June 2009). "Ismaíl Kadare, Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Literature". Fundacion Princessa de Asturias. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b Ismail Kadare, Albanian writer, Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  5. ^ Ndue Ukaj (27 May 2016). "Ismail Kadare: Letërsia, identiteti dhe historia". Gazeta Ekspress (in Albanian). Retrieved 12 March 2017. Except from the book Kadare, leximi dhe interpretimet.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kadare 2011, p. 128
  8. ^ Robert Elsie's comment, 1998 - Jusuf Vrioni: Back to Tirana, 1943-1947
  9. ^ Morgan 2011, p. 89.
  10. ^ Kadare 2011, p. 380
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Kadare 2011, p. 183
  14. ^ Ehrenreich, Ben (8 November 2005). "Fates of State: Booker winner Ismail Kadare's art of enigma". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 26 November 2005. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  15. ^ Henri Amouroux (28 October 1996). "Installation de M.Islmail Kadare - Associé étranger" (PDF). Académie des Sciences morales et politiques. p. 7. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  16. ^ Robert Elsie (2005). Albanian Literature: A Short History. London: I.B.Taurus. pp. 182–183. ISBN 1-84511-031-5.
  17. ^ "Besiana Kadare ambassador".
  18. ^ Wood, James (20 December 2010). "Chronicles and Fragments: The novels of Ismail Kadare". The New Yorker. Condé Nast: 139–143. Retrieved 11 August 2011.(subscription required)
  19. ^ Price of Asturias awards laureates 2009
  20. ^ Rebecca Wojno (15 January 2015). "Albanian writer to receive Jerusalem Prize". The Times of Israel.
  21. ^ Shusha Guppy, "The Books Interview: Ismail Kadare – Enver's never-never land" The Independent, 27 February 1999.
  22. ^ Fundacion Princessa de Asturias (24 June 2009). "Ismaíl Kadare, Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Literature". Fundacion Princessa de Asturias. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  23. ^ Flood, Alison (11 April 2013). "Independent foreign fiction prize 2013 shortlist announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  24. ^ Kadare feston ditëlindjen, 60 vjet krijimtari e përkthyer në 45 gjuhë të botës,, 29 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  25. ^ "Central Europe Review: The Three-Arched Bridge". 10 May 1999. Retrieved 23 May 2006.
  26. ^ Ismail Kadaré. Oeuvres; introduction et notes de présentation par Eric Faye; traduction de l'albanais de Jusuf Vrioni ... [et al.] Paris: Fayard, 1993–2004
  27. ^ "Katalogu i Vepres se plote te Ismail Kadare nga Botime Onufri". 22 May 1996. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  28. ^ Vepra e plotë e Ismail Kadare,


Further reading[edit]

  • Akademia e Shkencave e Shqipërisë (2008) (in Albanian), Fjalor Enciklopedik Shqiptar 2 (Albanian encyclopedia), Tirana, ISBN 978-99956-10-28-9
  • Elsie, Robert, Historical Dictionary of Albania, New Edition, 2004, ISBN 0-8108-4872-4
  • Gould, Rebecca. "Allegory and the Critique of Sovereignty: Ismail Kadare's Political Theologies", Studies in the Novel vol. 44, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 208–230.
  • Hysa, Shefki, "The Diplomacy of self-denial" (Diplomacia e vetëmohimit), publicistic, Tirana, 2008. ISBN 978-99956-650-3-6
  • Morgan, Peter (2011) "Ismail Kadare's Inner Emigration", in Sara Jones & Meesha Nehru (Eds.), Writing under Socialism, (pp. 131–142). Nottingham, UK: Critical, Cultural and Communications (CCC) Press.
  • Morgan, Peter (2011) "Greek Civilisation as a Theme of Dissidence in the Work of Ismail Kadare", Modern Greek Studies (Australia and New Zealand), 15, 16–32.
  • Morgan, Peter (2010) Ismail Kadare: The Writer and the Dictatorship 1957–1990, Oxford: Legenda, 2010, Albanian translation 2011.
  • Morgan, Peter (2010) Kadare post Communism: Albania, the Balkans and Europe in the Work of Ismail Kadare, 1990–2008, Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
  • Morgan, Peter (2005) "Ismail Kadare: Creativity under Communism", The Australian Newspaper.
  • Rranzi, Paulin. "Personalities – Missionaries of Peace" publicistic, (2011), Tirana, ISBN 978-99956-43-60-7

External links[edit]