Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interview with Ismail Kadare.

Albanian writer Ismail Kadare recently added the Prince of Asturias prize to a long list of awards for his work. The jury describes his novels like an “open judgement of any form of totalitarianism”. Albania’s most celebrated author received international recognition in the 1960’s. When the Tirana regime wavered in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, he left Albania to settle in Paris, which is where he spoke with euronews journalist Olaf Bruns.

euronews: You were ten years old when dictator Enver Hoxha established his autocratic regime in Albania. You therefore grew up in this system. Once, when describing your discovery of freedom you said you went ‘from literature to liberty’.

Kadare: It is very simple and very logic: I started to write very early on, when I was 11 years old. At this age, you are not encouraged to enter into the world of literature, either for political or idealogical reasons. I absolutely believed I lived in a country just like any other, I didn’t understand that it was a country without freedom. And that’s how it happened, I reached out to freedom through literature. Meaning I began writing although I had no idea about freedom. Of course when I was student I understood the situation in Albania and in a very clear and direct way. And it already showed in my writings.

euronews: How did your awareness on the autocratic system develop?

Kadare: That was not very difficult. People sometimes imagine that it was a great discovery…It’s not really the case! It was easy to understand that Albania was a country with a huge problem in that there was a lack of freedom. In Albania you could listen to western radio stations, even watch western television. One cannot now justify that we did not know anything, because we were blind. No, Albania was not blind! Yes, it was very difficult in Albania, the regime was very Stalinist, It’s something else: repression was terrible. But there was no lack of knowledge.

euronews: Twenty years have passed since the fall of the wall, but 1989 is also the year of the massacre of the Chinese protesters in Tienanmen square. You come from a country that was allied with the Soviet Union and then China, before being completely isolated. How did you live through those two events?

Kadare: Those events were linked very directly with the destiny of my country of course! Not only me, but all the Albanian people, everyone followed that and everyone drew their own conclusions from them.

euronews: In 1990 you left Albania and moved here to Paris. Why at that particular moment?

Kadare: It was with a very specific goal in mind! Albania was hesitating between the West and a dictatorship, between freedom and slavery. At that time I learnt one thing that not many other people knew: that it was a hypocritical game being played by the government. They were waiting to become allies with the Soviet Union. And when I say the Soviet Union I don’t mean the Gorbachev’s Soviet Union, but the Soviet Union of the Stalinist conspiritors. Already at this time the Stalinist conspiritors had prepared to take power! I therefore had to do something outrageous: Leave Albania. Me, the most celebrated author in my country had to find a microphone and openly declare that this dictatorship still lies! In short, I encouraged democracy and I discouraged dictatorship.

euronews: In the last 20 years, you have taken up the cause for other Albanian speakers such as the the Kosovans- who now have a State of their own. However, Spain – where you have been awarded the Grand Prix in literature – is one of the countries that does not recognize Kosovo yet. What would you like to say to the Spanish authorities?

Kadare: I have defended the freedom of the Kosovan people – something I should have done for all the other people. It was nothing very special, only for the fact that I am Albanian. It was something very obvious: The fact that a nation lived in colonial conditions was a huge scandal in Europe. My reputation as writer was on the line because of that, it is not easy for a writer to insist that Yugoslavia must be punished for the terrible repression in Kosovo. It is not easy for a writer. Because you know…the stereotypes that writers are always given: they are against punishment, especially bombardments etc etc. Concerning Spain, I really don’t know how they justify the fact they do not accept independence in Kosovo. I think they have transferred their internal problems to the balkans.

euronews: Do you think that sooner or later Kosovo and Albania will become one nation?

Kadare: The willingness is there of course! But it’s rather a sentimental willingness, romantic even… It is not organized within the political parties, on their political agendas. On the other hand you cannot say that the Albanians have given up on the idea that we are ONE Nation. But, with the entry into Europe it will be dedramatized immediately. It is not like before, when Kosovo was detached from Albania and belonged to another country completely alien to them. Now Albania and Kosovo aspire to the European Union.

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