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Category Archive for 'Albania'

Writing of Albanian life in Gjirokaster, the city of his birth, during World War II and its aftermath, Ismail Kadare creates a deceptive novel which looks, at first, as if it is going to be a simple morality tale. “Deceptive” is the operating word here, however. There is nothing simple about this novel at all, perhaps because Kadare, constantly under the gaze of Albania’s communist officials in his early years, always had to invent new ways to disguise what he really wanted to say without being censored. As a result, he began writing in a style akin to post-modernism, creating a literary soup which mixed fact and fiction, past and present, reality and dream, truth and myth, and life and death. By mixing up time periods, bringing ghosts to life, repeating symbols and images, and leaving open questions about the action of a novel, he was able to disguise the harsh truths of everyday life and the horrors of past history. That style continues in this novel from 2008 (newly translated by John Hodgson), despite the fact that Kadare was granted political asylum in France in 1990. Those who like their novels “neat” and unambiguous may find Kadare’s style especially difficult.

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Shortly after a taxi leaves the Miramax Hotel in Vienna for the airport, it veers off the autobahn, somersaults into a gully, and kills the man and woman passengers, both Albanian. The driver, seriously injured, is taken to the hospital in critical condition. A Dutch couple witnesses the accident, as does the driver of a Euromobil truck, and both give information to the Austrian police. The driver, when he is able to talk, tells investigators that when he looked into the rear view mirror, immediately before the accident, the couple were “trying to kiss,” a peculiar description. The dead man, Besfort Y., was an analyst for the Council of Europe on western Balkan affairs, and he had been a “thorn in the side of Yugoslavia” before its divisions–there is suspicion that he might have been responsible for the bombing of the country. Despite this, the accident is initially thought to be a routine traffic accident. It is not till several months later that the European Road Safety Institute, upon receiving a copy of the accident report, regards this as an “unusual” accident. Three months after that, the State of Serbia and Montenegro, which had had both victims under surveillance, begins to look into the accident, and their interest, in turn, sparks the interest of the Albanian Secret Service, an eventuality which makes the narrator wonder if this is a political murder after the fall of communism, or an example of residual “communist paranoia.”

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