Category: Albania

Ismail Kadare: Muzgu i perendive te stepes (Twilight of the Eastern Gods)

The latest addition to my website is Ismail Kadare‘s Muzgu i perendive te stepes (Twilight of the Eastern Gods). Kadare spent some time in the 1950s in the Soviet Union, primarily at the Gorky Institute and this is an account of that period. While he loved the big city, it was not all sweetness and light. He has various women troubles. Most of his colleagues are from various regions of the Soviet Union or, like him, from other countries and they are often stereotyped by the Russians. Moreover, he is not terribly enthusiastic about the Soviet view of literature. He does discover a manuscript left in a room about a doctor called Zhivago and, later, the big event will the award of the Nobel Prize to Boris Pasternak, which brings down a furore on Pasternak, supported by many of Kadare’s colleagues (but not Kadare himself). Towards the end, we learn that Soviet-Albanian relations are deteriorating (Albania will move away from the Soviet Union and ally more closely to China) and the embassy warns Albanian nationals to keep away from Russian women, an instruction Kadare ignores. While not of the standard of his novels set in Albania, it is certainly an interesting account.

Ismail Kadare: Kukulla (The Doll)

The latest addition to my website is Ismail Kadare‘s Kukulla (The Doll). This novel is very different from his usual historical novels, it is an autobiographical novel, focussing on his life but, in particular, on the eponymous doll, who is his fragile mother. We follow her life as she arrives as a seventeen-year old bride, having not met her husband till the wedding ceremony. The house she is to live in is very different from what she is used to. The house is forbidding and oppressing (it eats me up, she will later say). It even has its own jail. Even more forbidding is her mother-in-law, the dragon mother-in-law of myth and legend. We also follow Kadare’s career as a writer from his novels which are mainly ads for the novels, rather than novels themselves, to his early publication of poetry and finally his exile to France. It is an enjoyable novel, if not of the calibre of his early work.

Dritëro Agolli: Shkëlqimi dhe rënia e shokut Zylo [The Rise and Fall of Comrade Zylo]

The latest addition to my website is Dritëro Agolli‘s Shkëlqimi dhe rënia e shokut Zylo [The Rise and Fall of Comrade Zylo]. This a witty satire on ambitious government officials. Comrade Demkë, our hero, is a civil servant in the Ministry of Culture, who would like to spend his time writing fiction but is obliged to spend his time writing reports for his seniors, for which they take all the credit. At the beginning of the book, Comrade Zylo has just become his new boss. Zylo is ambitious, very astute politically but full of useless ideas (he writes his Thoughts down on bits of paper) and the long-suffering Demkë has to do his bidding, often requiring late hours. However as the title tells us, Zylo gets caught out and we follow his gradual decline, though it is possible that he will somehow survive elsewhere. This book had great acclaim Albania for it s witty mockery of officialdom but, sadly, is not available in English.

Dritëro Agolli: Komisari Memo (The Bronze Bust)

The latest addition to my website is Dritëro Agolli‘s Komisari Memo (The Bronze Bust). It is nice to know that Ismail Kadare is not the only Albanian novelist translated into English. While this book is not of the same calibre as Kadare, it is still a well-told tale, about Albanian partisans in World War II, fighting the Germans and Albanian nationalists (in cahoots with the Germans). The main focus is on the eponymous (in the Albanian title) Commissar Memo, a communist hero. We know he has died from the beginning, as a group of people are hauling a bronze bust of him up a hill. We follow his career as he tries to change the political views of the locals, antagonises the nationalists, gets shot in the leg (badly), hides out in a town occupied by the Germans and then joins a partisan group fighting the Germans and nationalists. He is certainly the standard communist hero, though not without faults. Not a great work but a good read.

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