I initially approached the Albanian language and culture with the desire to know more deeply the roots of my partner, and to share with him and his family that part of us that we can only express in our mother tongue. In return, a new window has opened for me on the world, whose horizons of interest go far beyond the personal sphere.
After the first readings in Italian, my greatest passion began when, in the process of facing a journey towards Gjirokaster, I ventured into the enterprise of reading my first book in the original language. Ismail Kadare, "The stone city", set right in his hometown.
Through his writing - which despite my linguistic difficulties of the time pushed me to look in the now crumpled dictionary for every unknown word and to find out about difficult to translate expressions - Kadare catapulted me into a magical dimension, as only the greatest writers can do . By inscribing the dramatic events of his time in a past that oscillates between the real and the fictitious, imbued with myth, legend, orality, allegory and irony, Kadare thus elevates them from their space-time horizon to stimulate deep universal reflections in us .
All this with a prose capable of becoming poetry, of capturing all our senses with its images, of making us free and independent thinkers.
Hoping to stimulate curiosity also for you who is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, I propose here eight reviews of his books that have fascinated me the most, among those translated into Italian.
Published in 1981 and censored after a few months by the regime and then republished only after its fall, "The palace of dreams" represents perhaps the most courageous and emblematic work of Kadare written during the dictatorship.
The gears of the complex mechanism by which the state controls the lives of its citizens are described through a powerful allegory. In the imaginary Tabir Saraj, also called Palace of Dreams, officials of the Ottoman Empire collect, select and finally interpret dreams that are potentially harmful to the state. The aim is to suffocate any conspiracies in the bud.
On the journey through the dark rooms and tunnels of this huge building, the character of Mark Alemi accompanies us. As a simple and fearful employee recommended by a powerful family, he gradually ascends to the highest positions in the building, while undergoing a profound psychological transformation. In order to escape the fear of making mistakes, he has no choice but to abandon his values to embrace those of the state, and also become a gear waiting to be replaced.
It is the first of May in Tirana. The festive music and the sound of passers-by pouring into the streets screech with the emptiness and silence that pervade the protagonist's apartment, waiting in vain for his beautiful Suzane.
And suddenly the parade becomes the emblem of a double sacrificial ceremony. First of all, just as in the myth Iphigenia is offered in sacrifice by the father Agamemnon for reasons of state, so the young Suzane sees her love freedom canceled by her father, who aspires to the highest offices of the state. Secondly, the father sacrifices his humanity and moral integrity in order to climb the heights of power and earn the role of Successor.
Forced too to participate in the parade, the protagonist enters the crowd following an almost Dante's journey between known thoughts and faces, the more he descends from the underworld the closer he gets to the stands.
Magir is, from the first lines of this novel, Gjirokaster, the hometown of Kadare. Its gray stone mantle, from the steep streets to the roofs, creates a unique atmosphere, which still today captivates its visitors.
We are in the early 40s and the life of its inhabitants is imbued with magic and superstition. To tell us about it with that dose of irony that only the story of a child can offer us, despite the tragic implication of some events, the author takes the lenses of his childhood for the occasion. Through those slow, the author relives the foreign occupation of the city by Italians, Greeks and Germans, oscillating between play and fear, flown over by "extremely terrible" planes and "more beautiful than in dreams".
4. April broken
According to the rules of the Kanun, an ancient code of law in use in the Albanian Alps, Gjorg is forced in spite of himself to avenge the death of his brother, under penalty of losing his honor with the community and the family itself. His is only the latest in a series of blood feuds perpetrated in the name of Kanun between his family and that of the Kryekuqe. Gjorg, according to besa, he has only a month to go until mid-April before the victim's relatives have to take their revenge.
Meanwhile, the writer Besian Vorpsi is on his honeymoon with his wife Diana, who has come by carriage from Tirana to admire the land of the Homeric epos and the fearsome and majestic Kanun.
The journey that brings the three to the fortress of Oroshi, Gjorg to pay the blood tax and the two spouses to go into the heart of ancient customs, becomes a deep inner journey. While Gjorg tries to make sense of his prematurely broken destiny, in front of which the honor defended by the Kanun is of no comfort to him, Diana painfully comes into contact with the real dimension of those sentenced to death, in full contrast with that idealized from her husband. The looks of the two unfortunate men will meet, and from that moment their life will never be the same.
Once again in the work of Kadare, the arjirocaster of the 40s becomes the ideal historical context in which to stage a suspended drama between reality and fiction.
Shortly after the arrival of the Germans in the city and the capture of dozens of prisoners, the esteemed Doctor Gurameto the great decides to invite troop commander Fritz von Schwabe, his inseparable companion at the time of university studies in Germany, to dinner. And just during that dinner, inexplicably all prisoners are released. Various rumors about it circulate in the provincial city, but soon the war ends and the matter seems to be forgotten.
Except ten years later Stalin himself, suspecting a conspiracy - a word very dear to dictatorships of all time - will start deeper investigations. Investigations that will oscillate between the obsessive delusion of the torturers and the defenseless defense of Doctor Gurameto on great and his inseparable double Doctor Gurameto the small.
In a fictitious Ottoman Empire that once again arises as a symbol of modern totalitarianism, the cause of persecution is increasingly vague and arbitrary.
After the premonitory dreams of "The palace of dreams", this is the turn of the evil eye, which launched by the eyes of some individuals is considered the origin of dire events in the Empire. To cure this plague, it is decided to blind those who have "evil eyes". The machine of control and repression sets in motion, in an increasingly organized and widespread manner. Among her gears is Maria's promised husband, a symbol of femininity projected beyond tradition and, in spite of herself, towards awareness of her drama.
7. The pyramid
In principle hesitant about its usefulness, even the young Cheops can only begin, like his predecessors, the construction of his own pyramid.
Indeed, in addition to guarding and celebrating the deceased sovereign one day, it provides Pharaoh with a formidable and lasting instrument of mass coercion, a catalyst for arms and minds, thus freeing the kingdom from possible conspiracies. Over the course of endless years, the life of Egypt is marked not by the days but by the numbers of its stones, and the generations by its steep stairways.
Conceived as a symbol of immortality, the pyramid soon turns into a memento mori, first for the people and finally for the pharaoh himself, who is also defenseless in the face of the arrival of the afterlife.
In this short novel it is the myth that acts as a link to Kadare's thought, conveying the drama of the individual in the totalitarian world. The young Maks, on a day like many others, falls through a hole in a parallel world. Life in that world, symbol of physical and intellectual imprisonment, soon becomes heavy, the air becomes unbreathable for him.
The only way to get out, says the legend, is thanks to the help of an eagle, who in exchange for meat is willing to take men wherever they want.
In Maks' mind, the overwhelming reality in which he finds himself living increasingly makes room for a feverish and obsessive desire to escape. For freedom, the young man finds himself willing to pay the eagle any price, even that of his own meat.
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Sara Daneri, originally from a small town on the Ligurian Riviera, after having lived for work in various cities of Italy, Switzerland and Germany, she has been living in L'Aquila for a year, where she works as a researcher in Mathematical Analysis at the Gran Sasso Science Institute.
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