With a work written 40 years ago, the well-known Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare, has returned to Italian bookstores.
Precisely with the work "Palace of Dreams", which retains all the dystopian power and freshness of the present.
In an interview for the "La Lettura" section of "Corriere della Sera", the writer talks about the time when the novel was written, the relationship with the dictator Enver Hoxha, the escape to France and even about technology and the fear that the latter is controlling us.
Dear Mr. Kadare, first of all, thank you very much for accepting this interview. This interview is taking place on the occasion of the publication in Italy of your work "Palace of Dreams", published in Albania in 1981. What is your current point of view towards a book you wrote more than 40 years ago?
It is a book written for that time. Albania was a totalitarian country and as a writer I felt that the extent of communism and its power over the individual was becoming absolute.
The whole atmosphere that is described in this work does not differ much from the oppressive totalitarianism of Enver Hoxha's Albania in that period.
In my head, all that gloom that I was able to express was true, and today it makes me happy that I was able to express it. Literature gives you the possibility of life and in such conditions. This was my destiny, life with literature.
At the time it was written it was absolutely current. But even now it is current, but with the passage of 40 years, nothing has been lost from its qualities.
I happily reproduce those thoughts once again for today's audience. The critical, denying spirit that has existed since that time, has been very harsh, makes it current. I am glad that I had such a radical thought about time.
This severity has not diminished over time. In those years, there were pressures, bans, and criticism about the book. For the first time after the publication of this novel I thought that I would be arrested, as the anti-system spirit in it was obvious.
And what is your view of the man and writer Ismail Kadare of 1981? Think you've changed a lot? And if so, how?
I don't think I've changed. In literature, things change very slowly, in the writer's mind as well, and this is something positive.
In 1981 my views on totalitarianism sought to configure a European Albania as its roots were.
I have defended this view with my works, naturally, believing in an early European affiliation of this people who lived through one of the most savage communist systems.
All my work tries to orient the reader towards an inner awakening, but also as beautiful as literature can give, and why in those years it seemed impossible.
For a person like me, who today reads the work "Palace of Dreams" for the first time, this novel is surprising because it is very current. Did you think you were writing above all an allegory of the Albanian communist regime? Or were you aware, already at that time, of the universal and timeless scope of the novel?
The writer intuitively feels about the things he writes and lives, that being of time they are simultaneously eternal.
Fortunately, this theme that develops in this novel is timeless. The work is a satire of totalitarianism, which crosses local and national borders. The text of this novel was written in one of the novels I wrote in parallel at that time.
Maybe in "Qorrfermani" I have the idea of ??a character that leads to a dream. Later, this thought would hit me when I heard about some thefts in Tirana.
Strange, grotesque thefts, in the foreground, but which awakened in me the design of the infernal. I had long been tempted to design an inferno.
I have shown this in the book "Time for confession", a conversation with an Albanian researcher where I say that "I knew that it was difficult, if not impossible, to write such a work. Only after writing the first two chapters of the work, I felt that I was realizing what had seemed impossible to me: hell. It was a kind of realm of death where, if not ourselves, it was our sleep and dreams, a part of our life that lay beyond while we were here.
The novel reflects the tension between national and imperial ethnicity for an individual and dynasty whose fate is simultaneously tied to national and international politics. I was aware of the fatality that this book could bring me, but so convinced of the universal power of this theme.
Is the power of dreams in the novel similar to the power of information in today's world?
Powerful images and almost surreal logic made the character of this novel, Mark Alem, often powerless in the face of the power of dreams. The human world has the ability to describe and repeat itself in many forms, to find ways to survive obstacles.
The allegory of the "Palace of Dreams" in the new cultural and social contexts, or a world which is already facing new and tougher conflicts such as the two hotbeds of new wars, which are bringing a threat to stability, brings attention back to the need of human wisdom.
The power of information in today's times is bringing back another totalitarianism, that of culture. Preserving culture in these mighty waters of information is the duty of men of letters.
What do you think about the efforts of technology, which is working (working) everywhere in the modern world, from China to Silicon Valley, and efforts are being made to digitize everything, and therefore maybe one day it will be possible to control human thought?
This is an impossible endeavor.
What role did the work "Palace of Dreams" play in relation to your situation in Albania and in relation to the decision you made to live in Paris?
This novel gave me a lot of trouble and why I was used to trouble. Usually, the publication of my works was always accompanied by criticism in the press, meetings in the League of Writers.
Everywhere in Tirana it was said that "Kadare's book has been banned and punishment is expected". The publication of my works in France has played an extraordinary role in relation to the situation in which I, as a writer, was in Albania. France, the western reader has played a role in saving my situation. Later, at Cafe Rostand in Paris, I met a French journalist who told me that she went to our embassy and asked about my condition.
A lot of information came from the West, that the foreign press is interested in Kadare, and this scared Enver Hoxha. In this case, the Western defense mechanism worked. It was the darkest period in my life.
My departure to France, fleeing my country forever, came under circumstances when I realized that this was the only way to change the course of the regime in Albania. It seems that the communist leader of that time would not do such an action. I ran away when I thought that this action would play a role in the fall of communism in the country.
You were born in the same city, Gjirokastër, as the dictator Enver Hoxha. What was your relationship with him?
I had no personal relationship with him.
We used to be neighbors, in the oldest and largest neighborhood of Gjirokastra, in the alley that I have revived the strange name "Sokaku i te obruve".
Enver Hoxha was not well known in Gjirokastër during the war, as Gjirokastrite houses had a very strong identity and did not allow faint identities to stand out.
My all-time opinion of Enver Hoxha has not been positive. Nowhere in my work is there any description of admiration for him.
This is clearly revealed, especially in "Winter of great loneliness", where he is described extensively in conversations with others and there is no difference between him and the gallery of completely negative characters of what was called the communist bloc.
At the age of 11 you copied all of Macbeth by hand. Why was Shakespeare so important to you?
Shakespeare's tragedy occupied my mind since I was still a child. Macbeth showed me the world of literature.
I gave in after this fascination as you give in to a religion. With the idea that if you copied the book it became yours, so you became an author, I copied everything by hand with a pencil and paper.
This was a strange concept that I don't know where it came from and I can't explain it, but such an idea stuck with me for a very long time, thinking that as long as I was copying a book, I was also a participant in the creation. his.
So, after I copied part of Macbeth, I lived with it alone. Shakespeare has always been important in my work and continues to be like a master who guides you towards the gates of great literature.
Unlike other great writers in exile, such as Conrad, Nabokov or Kundera, you have never abandoned your original language, Albanian. Why?
I thought I could give more to my art with this language. The Albanian language has given me all the space to express my imagination through it. I have never felt hindered in my art by this language, but I am constantly fascinated by its beauty.