Ismail Kadare was born in 1936 in Gjirokaster, in the south of Albania. He studied in Tirana and Moscow, returning to Albania in 1960 after the country broke ties with the Soviet Union. Translations of his novels have since been published in more than forty countries, and in 2005 he became the first winner of the Man Booker International Prize.
David Bellos, Director of the Program in Translation at Princeton University, is also the translator of Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual and a winner of the Goncourt Prize for biography. He has translated seven of Ismail Kadare's novels, and in 2005 was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for his translations of Kadare's work.
Author photo © J. Foley
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. Tundj Hata, the imperial courier, is charged with transporting heads to the capital - a task he relishes and performs with fervour. But as he travels through obscure and impoverished territories, he makes money from illicit side-shows, offering villagers the spectacle of death. The head of the rebellious Albanian governor would fetch a very high price. A surreal tale of rebellion and tyranny from the master of European literature.
When a girl is found dead with a signed copy of Rudian Stefa's latest book in her possession, the author finds himself summoned for an interview by the Party Committee. Unable to guess what transgression he has committed Rudian goes fearfully to meet his interrogators. He has never met the girl in question but he remembers signing the book. As the influence of a paranoid regime steals up on him, Rudian finds himself swept along on a surreal quest to discover what really happened to the mysterious girl to whom he wrote the dedication - to Linda B.
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. People flock to see the latest head and gossip about the state of the empire: the province of Albania is demanding independence again, and the niche awaits a new trophy... Tundj Hata, the imperial courier, is charged with transporting heads to the capital - a task he relishes and performs with fervour. But as he travels through obscure and impoverished territories, he makes money from illicit side-shows, offering villagers the spectacle of death. The head of the rebellious Albanian governor would fetch a very high price. The Traitor's Niche is a surreal tale of rebellion and tyranny, in a land where armies carry scarecrows, state officials ban entire languages, and the act of forgetting is more complicated than remembering.
1958. In a dorm room in Moscow, a young writer is woken by the sound of angry voices on the radio. Through the fog of a hangover he hears the news that a novel called Doctor Zhivago has earned its author the Nobel Prize. There is uproar. The author, Boris Pasternak, faces exile, the press hound him and demand that he refuse the award. A few days earlier the young writer found a copy of this book - could those simple pages really be so dangerous? Based on Ismail Kadare's own experience, Twilight of the Eastern Gods is a portrait of a city, a story of youthful disenchantment and a reminder of the incredible importance of the written word.
O poveste de dragoste se înfiripa între un soldat si o tânara turista, într un oras de pe litoralul albanez. Numai ca nimic nu este ceea ce pare în acest minunat decor estival. Pe fundalul ruinelor unui teatru antic, regimul comunist monteaza o înscenare grotesca pentru a si tine sub teroare propriul popor, iar protagonistii devin, cu sau fara voia lor, actori.
Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013. In September 1943, Nazi troops advance on the ancient gates of Gjirokaster, Albania. The very next day, the Germans vanish without a trace. As the townsfolk wonder if they might have dreamt the events of the previous night, rumours circulate of a childhood friendship between a local dignitary and the invading Nazi Colonel, a reunion in the town square and a fateful dinner party that would transform twentieth-century Europe. A captivating novel of resistance in a dictatorship, and steeped in Albanian folklore, The Fall of the Stone City shows Kadare at the height of his powers.
It's the 1970s and cracks are starting to appear in the alliance between China and its Communist cohort Albania. When an Albanian steps on the foot of a Chinese diplomat the tension cranks up - couriers between Tirana and Beijing carry annotated x-rays of the foot back and forth. The Chinese intend to punish their interfering little ally discreetly. But is the Sino-Albanian axis about to come adrift? This is Kadare's surreal black comedy about the inner sanctums of political power and the mysterious causal chains that transform ordinary lives.
When the construction of a bridge built to link the Balkans to Europe is repeatedly and mysteriously sabotaged, an old ballad starts making the rounds at local taverns. The bards sing of a legend - a woman immured in a castle wall to prevent it from falling. Some say the bridge is being damaged by local ferrymen, others blame the vengeful water spirits. But this is a town where terror and superstition reign and a solution must be reached. So it is decreed: a willing person must be plastered into the bridge...
When the new Egyptian Pharaoh decrees that he does not want a pyramid built in his honour his advisers are aghast. It is their firm belief that peace and prosperity only make the people more difficult to control - they must be kept under the whip. So the Pharaoh agrees to the construction of a pyramid colossal beyond imagining, an edifice that crushes dozens of people as each block is added and which inexorably drains the lifeblood from the country. As Egypt builds its monument to death, its neighbours plot and gloat...
28 June 1389, the Field of the Blackbirds. A Christian army made up of Serbs, Bosnians, Albanians and Romanians confront an Ottoman army. In ten hours the battle is over, and the Muslims possess the field; an outcome that has haunted the vanquished ever since. 28 June 1989, the Serb Leader Slobodan Milosevic launches his campaign for a fresh massacre of the Albanians, the majority population of Kosovo. In three short narratives Kadare shows how legends of betrayal and defeat simmered in European civilisation for six hundred years, culminating in the agony of one tiny population at the end of the twentieth century.
Why did the taxi crash on the autobahn in Vienna? Who exactly were Besfort Y and Rovena, the mysterious couple who died after being flung from the back seat? How was Besfort connected to the war in the Balkans? And why was his affair with Rovena clouded in jealousy and mistrust? Who wanted them dead? This is the story of the last forty weeks of their lives - a fever dream where love and obsession collide.
An old woman is awoken in the dead of night by knocks at her front door. The woman opens it to find her daughter, Doruntine, standing there alone in the darkness. She has been brought home from a distant land by a mysterious rider she claims is her brother Konstandin. But unbeknownst to her, Konstandin has been dead for years. What follows is chain of events which plunges a medieval village into fear and mistrust. Who is the ghost rider?
In the early fifteenth century, as winter falls away, the people of Albania know that their fate is sealed. They have refused to negotiate with the Ottoman Empire, and war is now inevitable. Soon enough dust kicked up by Turkish horses is spotted from a citadel. Brightly coloured banners, hastily constructed minarets and tens of thousands of men fill the plain below. From this moment on, the world is waiting to hear that the fortress has fallen. The Siege tells the enthralling story of the weeks and months that follow - of the exhilaration and despair of the battlefield, the constantly shifting strategies of war, and those whose lives are held in balance, from the Pasha himself to the technicians, artillerymen, astrologer, blind poet and harem of women that accompany him. Brilliantly vivid, as insightful as it is compelling, The Siege is an unforgettable account of the clash of two great civilisations. As a portrait of war, it resonates across the centuries and confirms Ismail Kadare as one of our most significant writers.
Translated by Barbara Bray from the French version of the Albanian by Jusuf Vrioni At the heart of the Sultan's vast empire stands the mysterious Palace of Dreams. Inside, the dreams of every citizen are collected, sorted and interpreted in order to identify the 'master-dreams' that will provide the clues to the Empire's destiny and that of its Monarch. An entire nation's consciousness is thus meticulously laid bare and at the mercy of its government... The Palace of Dreams is Kadare's macabre vision of tyranny and oppression, and was banned upon publication in Albania in 1981.
Twenty years after the end of the Second World War, an Italian general is despatched to Albania to recover his country's dead. Once there he meets a German general who is engaged upon an identical mission, and their conversations brings out into the open the extent of their horror and guilt, newly exacerbated by their present task. As they descend from the callous trivialities of their gruesome business, past and present, to suffering self-disgust, the author gives us glimpses of the lives of the people whose graves they are unearthing.
In his compelling prequel to The Successor, Kadare draws us into a land deprived of choice, a country under a reign of terror. The spellbinding Agamemnon's Daughter was written in Albania in the 1980s and smuggled into France a few pages at a time. It reveals a world where fear is an instrument of power, but the individual survives despite the odds. From the winner of the first Man Booker International Prize comes a searing story of love denied, then shattered under the chilling wheels of the state. Through the impeccably crafted, incisive tale of a thwarted lover's odyssey through a single day, we are given a true sense of how hard it can be to remain human in a world ruled by fear and suspicion.
In a seamless mosaic of dreams and games, Kadare's young narrator both reflects and distorts events as his ancient, magical home town and his own innocence and sense of wonder are lost forever in the madness and brutality of the Second World War. A disturbing mix of tragedy, comedy, politics and sexuality, Chronicle in Stone is a fascinating early masterpiece from the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize.
The Designated Successor was found dead in his bedroom at dawn on December 14. Did he kill himself or was he murdered? This question slices through Ismail Kadare's masterful psychological thriller. As the state insists that the future leader died by his own hand, the rest of the world begins to have doubts. As the tension builds and rumours escalate, Kadare draws us into a nightmarish world controlled by rules no one understands, blending dream and reality to produce a mystery and a thriller that seduces and surprises up to the last page.
Two Irish-American scholars from Harvard journey to Albania in the 1930s with a tape recorder (a 'new fangled' invention) in order to record the last genuinely oral epic singers. Their purpose, they say, is to show how Homer's epics might have been culled from a verbal tradition. But the local Governor believes its an elaborate spying mission and arranges for his own spy to follow them.The two dedicated scholars realise only too late that they have stumbled over an ants' nest. This simple tale by Albania's most eminent and gifted novelist serves to lift the veil on one of the most secret and mysterious countries of modern Europe.
From the moment that Gjorg's brother is killed by a neighbour, his own life is forfeit: for the code of Kanun requires Gjorg to kill his brother's murderer and then in turn be hunted down. After shooting his brother's killer, young Gjorg is entitled to thirty days' grace - not enough to see out the month of April. Then a visiting honeymoon couple cross the path of the fugitive. The bride's heart goes out to Gjorg, and even these 'civilised' strangers from the city risk becoming embroiled in the fatal mechanism of vendetta.
From behind the closed door, the man shouts, 'Be on your way - you have no business here!' 'Open up, I am the messenger of Death'. As spring arrives in the Albanian mountain town of B, some strange things are emerging in the thaw. Bank robbers strike the National Bank. Old terrors are dredged up from the shipwreck of history. And ultra-explosive state secrets are threatening to flood the entire nation. Mark, an artist, finds the peaceful rhythms of his life turned upside down by ancient love and modern barbarism and by the particular brutality of a country surprised and divided by its new freedom.
Gjorg is a young mountaineer who (much against his will) has just killed a man in order to avenge the death of his older brother, and who expects to be killed himself in accordance with the Code that regulates life in the Albanian highlands. A young couple on their honeymoon has come to this place to study its age-old customs-including the blood feud. In Broken April, Ismail Kadare intersects the fates of both Gjorg and the young couple with visions of an unending cycle of obligatory murder and the horrifying effects it has on their respective lives. Dostoevskian in its dark vision. -Kirkus Reviews.
When the Pharaoh Cheops comes to the throne, he decrees that no pyramid is to be constructed for him. The court sages consult the documents and hasten to change his mind. In the past the pyramids have been built not just as royal tombs but as the means to keep in subjection a people who might otherwise get ideas about emancipation. The Pharaoh relents and the pyramid takes a lifetime to build, sucking the nation dry of money and of blood and enabling the tyranny to flourish. Each day the slavemasters turn their energies to the enslavement of the population and each day more blocks of stone are hauled into position to construct the monument to oppression. Albania s greatest novelist, Kadare has written a telling political fable which reflects the grim realities of his country as it laboured under the Stalinist tyranny of Enver Hoxha.
In a medieval Albanian town, two women, mother and daughter, are on their deathbed. Three years have passed since Doruntine married a foreigner and went off with him to his home far to the west in Bohemia. During those years there had been no communication with her. War broke out, and of her nine brothers, some died in battle, some of plague caught from the enemy soldiers. All were dead. And last night Doruntine came home. Captain Stres, head of the constabulary of the region makes these remarks in his official report: From within, the old lady asked who was there, and then the few words exchanged by the daughter and her motherDthe former saying that it was she, and she had come with Constantine, and the other replying that Constantine was three years deadDgave both of them the shock that felled them. I thought it necessary to make a report about these events because they concern one of the noblest families of the principality, and because they are of a kind that might seriously trouble people's minds. They do indeed trouble people's minds. The archbishop of the principality has to take account of the heresy, spread everywhere, that Constantine has risen from the dead. And Captain Stres, the policeman and bureaucrat, in pursuing his inquiry into Doruntine's return, suffers a sea change that makes him too the stuff of legend.