The Macedonian Tendency: Is Ismail Kadare anti-Slav?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Is Ismail Kadare anti-Slav?

By David Edenden

I like to read authors from all Balkan countries and I am disposed to like Ismail Kadare. I don't know if the letter below is accurate, however, like everything in the Balkans, "buyer be ware"
"The Truth about Kadare"
LRB | letters page from Vol. 29 No. 19:
From Barbara Graziosi

Ismail Kadare managed to write and stay alive under one of the harshest Communist regimes, and for that achievement Thomas Jones is right to praise him (LRB, 6 September); but to understand his survival and success in Albania, it is equally important to investigate his wider Balkan politics.

His treatment of the Slavs, in particular, is subtle and deadly. Take The File on H, the novel closely based on the work of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, two Harvard classicists who, in 1933, went to Yugoslavia, recorded the epics of illiterate bards, and from there made the most important contribution to Homeric scholarship of the last hundred years.
Ismail Kadare's "File on H"

The novel accurately describes their fieldwork, but for one detail: the fictional scholars make their recordings in Albania rather than Yugoslavia. There is more: as they are about to return to the US with their precious tapes and an answer to the Homeric Question, a Serbian monk from Kosovo persuades the Albanian bards to destroy the tapes of their own songs.

It’s true that Lord recorded some Albanian poems in a later trip to the Balkans, but Albanian epic has made no impact on Homeric studies and remains virtually unknown. Why? In Kadare’s novel, it’s because of a Serbian monk: as ever, the Serbs dupe the Albanians and wipe out the"


  1. Barbara forgets that this is literature not a political work.

    Why does not Homer makes it clearer that the Greeks are the invaders and that Helen of Troy is only pretext for their expansion toward the East.

    I have read the book, I did not think of the Serbs as bad and of Albanians as good after finishing it. A fictional Serb monk does not represent all Serbs.

    Two years ago, a videotape of a Serbian massacre in Bosnia was discovered. A group of Serbian soldiers were seen there executing in cold blood a few Bosnian Muslim teenagers.

    The video was gruesome and it shocked the families of both the executers and the victims. A trial began immediately in Serbia against their soldiers who had Yugoslav uniforms then.

    Now the videoed material starts with a Serbian Orthodox priest blessing the weapons of the executors. This was not fiction mind you but real life. It is only one of those many facts that proved the unorthodox meddling of Serbian clerics in the Balkans' tragedies.

    Clerics being involved in ethnic conflicts is common in the Balkans, surely not solely confined to the Serbs and it is not only the Christian-Muslim dichotomy, if you follow the history of clashes between ethnic orthodox churches, the anecdotes get nastier.

    Just look at the Serbian refusal to acknowledge the rights, the existence and the history of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, for instance.

    That something like this get a glimpse of reflection in literature is not surprising to those who know well the Balkans' history. Kadare's Serbian monk does not make him anti-Serbian, and especially not anti-Slav.

    How come someone who is so proud and nostalgic his youth years of education in Moscow and the influence of the Russian literature to him can be anti-Slav?

  2. Also, don't forget that in the novel the Albanians are all portrayed as idiots.