Eric Naulleau in the JDD: “Reread Ismail Kadaré”

Eric Naulleau in the JDD: “Reread Ismail Kadaré”
Eric Naulleau in the JDD: “Reread Ismail Kadaré”

From The General of the Dead Army, taken from the library where it found a place in the 1970s, I read the first sentence and find intact the sensation of approaching an unknown planet. The mysterious Albania, a communist dictatorship placed under the control of Enver Hodja, a sort of Balkan Father Ubu, more delirious and above all more bloodthirsty.

“A rain mixed with snowflakes fell on the foreign land”thus begins one of the most fascinating novels of the 20th century, the author’s very first, the wanderings of an Italian general and a priest who have come to collect the bones of their compatriots who fell during the Second World War. One day when I asked Kadaré the reason for the excessive rainfall in his fiction, he mentioned a form of meteorological dissidence, as opposed to the radiant skies demanded by the canons of socialist realism.

Equally coded is this remark about the corpses of Italian soldiers: “Sometimes they were exhumed and reburied a second time, sometimes even a third time.” The Albanian secret police did the same with the remains of political opponents, so that their families would lose track of them.

Ismail Kadare, despite censorship and constant surveillance by the authorities, managed to create around ten masterpieces.

It is common to refer far-right parties to their totalitarian origins, the same demand would be desirable for all those who still claim to be communists and their millions of terrible crimes. The conversation with the author ofBroken April took place in his apartment in the Latin Quarter, where he had been living since France granted him protection.

The opportunity to clarify this: demanding the expulsion of those whose asylum applications have been rejected is not a form of inhumanity, but of respect for those who really risk death because of their writings. This was the case of Ismaïl Kadaré. Who, despite censorship and constant surveillance by the authorities, managed to create a dozen masterpieces, from Great Winter has Who brought back Doruntine?of Palace of Dreams has The Black Yearwithout forgetting The H File.

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Once the proofreading of the General of the Dead ArmyI place the volume next to the Complete Works of the rhapsodist from Gjirokastër, the “stone city” where he was born in the same neighborhood as Enver Hodja. Cradle of two men, one of whom tried to separate Albania from the rest of the world by the most terrifying dictatorship that the Old Continent knew after the war, while the other did not cease to bring it back to the fold of the common European house.

Yes, in this fiercely racist and xenophobic country, France will have been recognized, the entire bilingual version of Kadaré’s prose appeared. In what other corner of the world would this have been possible? Tribute be paid to Claude Durand, legendary boss of Fayard publishing, and to the translator Jusuf Vrioni – whose names I am pleased to mention.

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