I know next to nothing about Albania. I have a vague idea that there have been wars there. In my mind it is linked to conflict with Kosovo and that’s about it. So I was surprised (and also reminded of how little I know) to find that the first writer to win the Man Booker International Prize when it started in 2005 is from Albania. I’ve always rated the prize as a good starting point for finding out about authors I should read. It’s awarded every two years to a writer who has a body of work that has contributed significantly to that contentious category of ‘world literature’. The only proviso is that their work has to have been translated into English.
Kadare is a novelist, essayist, poet and playwright. He was also an exile, escaping a Stalinist regime, he sought refuge in France. His first novel (and there one that allowed him to live as a writer) is The General of the Dead Army. It was published in 1963 and although Kadare says he is not a political writer is a critique of the effects of war. In it, an Italian and a German army general are charged with recovering the bodies of their countrymen who died in Albania in WW2.
As it is his most acclaimed novel I was tempted to read it but chose Chronicle in Stone instead because the blurb describes it as ‘a disturbing mix of tragedy & comedy, politics & sexuality’ and the protagonist is an Albanian boy which was the voice I hoped to hear.
Other books you might want to try: The loser- Fatos Kongoli Lightening from the Depths: an anthology of Albanian poetry - edited by Janice Maggie-Heck, Robert Elsie