It always sounded a little wrong and incomprehensible to the superficial ears of those who asked the soldiers of the Red Army, who had arrived in the Nazi concentration camps, the answer about what had struck them most.
Found in front of the pile of rubble made of bodies and ex-human dignity, moved again the barrier of cruelty even further, the answer had to be something about cruelty, hatred.
Yet the soldiers, like so many of the lucky ones who took part in the Nuremberg or Eichmann trial, insisted on always responding with the same formula: the banality of evil, also the title of a lucky and useful novel by Hannah Arendt.
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Not death therefore, nor the blood or bones that could be counted in their mangled bodies, all answers that we could imagine hearing from them. But no. The banality of evil was, if possible, a more disturbing and unexpected answer.
What they really couldn't understand, these superficial ears or those not prone to doubt, was this phrase that closed all these evils, and moreover, went further. They must have thought that one of the main characteristics of evil was precisely its not-being-the-good.
Therefore: the good is organization, efficiency, radiance, while evil is casual and ephemeral, strikes and withdraws into darkness. It can exist in spray and in minutes of madness that every people has produced and cyclically produces, but can hardly be elevated to a system of government.
There are many writers who have ventured, with undoubted success on the subject, who have described or shown the banality of evil. Undoubtedly Levi, in certain moments in his own way, Stephen King.
Leonard Cohen, in his Flowers for Hitler (1964) publishes "Everything you need to know about Adolph Eichmann"Where he says he had ten fingers, average weight, medium hair, average intelligence and no distinctive mark. That no one should expect green saliva or madness, Eichmann did not have it. Evil, unlike madness, does not manifest itself.
Yes you can say, as they say too often, that Ismail Kadare always wrote the same book. It is a sentence that does not make much sense, but it can be said. This is because it is more than frequent that the character in his books is a casual victim or even an unconscious butcher of the system (more evident in books such as [amazon link = "8850222815 ″ /], [amazon link = "8830414336 ″ /], [amazon link = "8830422843 ″ /], [amazon link = "8830424048 ″ /], all published in Italy by Longanesi. )
Among the many aspects that Kadare took to continue the work there where Kafka had stopped, there is also this subtle thread between the butcher and the victim in dictatorial systems. One of the many messages he shouts is the description of power under the dictatorship.
In his land - in Albania - but also in all communist systems, it was frequent that every ten years the Guide, as Kadare calls it, or the Party secretary if you prefer, made a generational change between the top of the government, a change of blood, made precisely with blood.
That in the regime's prisons, apart from common poets and murderers, there were also ex-ministers fallen into disgrace was completely normal. One of today's greatest Albanian intellectuals is called Fatos Lubonja , is the son of the ex-minister of culture convicted of a music festival judged too "permissive and Western" by the Guide, even though he is neither one nor the other. His son obviously had no role in that festival but the faults of the fathers fall on the children, and even the good, as well as the evil, must be uprooted to the roots.
And Kadare says so, all this, even if instead of the minister we find the Ottoman Grand Vizier. One of the notions that Europeans hardly really understand is that in the communist system a hierarchically inferior employee is never really such if for example he is a member of the Party or refers to the Party.
The hierarchy is approximate because nobody is above this organ, if not the Guide. Kadare showed all this, even during the regime. In his own way, of course. Writing Pharaoh in the Guide post. Writing Grand Vizier as Prime Minister.
Certain mechanisms of the Empire are identical, they do nothing but repeat themselves over time. Precisely for this reason it must not have been difficult to simply transform the name from Ilir or Agron into Mustafa or Ebu Qerim, to move the story from the Albanian communist empire to the Ottoman one.
If the system is there, it is only a question of showing it at its best, even if it means hiding it, masking it to save the skin. Because in Albania a Boris Pasternak or a Václav Havel was unthinkable. If he has ever been there he probably died in the regime's prisons.
Albania was not the neighboring Yugoslavia that flirted with the West, the Prague spring was the opposite of the Tirana winter. Why, even the USSR had its second chance when Stalinism died with Stalin. In Albania there was none of this, more than 40 years (1943-1985) was hijacked by the same person, a fanatical Stalinist named Enver Hoxha.
A novel like "Agamemnon's Daughter" (Longanesi 2007, pages 112, price 13 €) for example, was written secretly between the 1984 and the 1986, and was smuggled to France.
The publisher and Kadare agreed that the book would be published only if something had happened to Kadare. Something bad. Yet the same writer had even been a member of the Socialist Parliament.
What a mess! This was the system, the past, communism, at times common to all peoples, at times different and impersonal in each dictatorship.
What Kadare manages to capture is precisely that banality of evil, evil as a way of life. In reality, as in his books, the negative characters are not necessarily men of power or members of the Party, indeed, the strength of the system is an infinite army of employees of evil who, positioned behind a desk knows that the only way to defend themselves it's attacking before being attacked.
Denounce, observe, spy, join the Party, provoke. This is, unfortunately, the strength of the dictatorship, its milestone, best exposed in Albania for the duration of the system. Denounce before being denounced, be frightening instead of having it. Without speaking, without asking for an explanation.
Perceive the invisible sword of Damocles that perhaps is about to fall on you and find a substitute, invent it if it does not exist. The head of the factory, the cooperative, the clerk, the teacher, whoever it is not you.
Everyone can spy on everyone, it is for this reason that the hierarchy between social classes or even in employment relationships falls into an "all against all" but always tacit, polite, formal. At some point the Party does not even need to do intelligence operations, it is enough to wait and the system will bear fruit, sometimes endangering even members of the Party itself. All you have to do is oil, if necessary, the mechanism when the first hitches occur.
And the game starts again. It is the perfect system, and Kadare described it honestly; seizing his human side, that terror that fed him with his fear until everything fell not so much for political reasons as for purely economic reasons.
The evil behind the desk. The evil in the ice cream maker who hears a phrase too many and does not know if an enemy of the System has said it or a servant of the System who is provoking him to see if he will denounce him or not. And in doubt he denounces it. The System that shoots it, and which punctually writes in its registers who killed and where the body is. We will dig decades later to bury them. There is no reason for shooting in the records, there cannot be.
There are only phrases that seem to come out of Kadare's novels: enemy of the people, western influence, agitation and political propaganda. Phrases that mean nothing, because it is difficult even to understand which behaviors are wrong and which are not. Party members are not healthy, others do not know. All together, now victims and now perpetrators, the important thing is to give the executioner his daily victims.
Because it is always easy to blame only the Communists or Nazis, forgetting who brought them and who kept them in power. Drawing a line between good and bad is always convenient for the writer, but speaking of stories of this magnitude and not mere westerns, this approach is simply bogus. Kadare does not fall into it. If you read it, it is likely that you will not fall over either.
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