By David Edenden"The Truth about Kadare"
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"
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.
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"