Ismail Kadare: ‘I’m not afraid to remember’

Ismail Kadare, winner of the 2005 Man Booker International, was in Athens in January to present the Greek edition of his novel «The Daughter of Agamemnon: The Successor,» translated by Dimitris Iliopoulos, and published by Eikostou Protou. The book refers to the myth of Agamemnon and Iphigenia as well as to a real event, the mysterious death of the successor to dictator Enver Hoxha. Kathimerini spoke to the author just before the book presentation. Have you left the communist regime behind or does it still dominate your thoughts? I’m not afraid of the past regime. Of course I condemn it, but the memory of it doesn’t frighten me. I’m not afraid to remember. You are considered the foremost Albanian writer and one of the most important in the world. What does that mean for a small country like Albania? History has shown that a small country can produce an important writer. A writer has little to do with his country’s economics and politics. That’s why literature is so powerful – an independent world with its own rules. Some developed countries have mediocre literature and some undeveloped countries have good literature. Otherwise, any writer from a communist country would have to be below average. But we have seen very significant writers from those states. Your books have strong political and historical overtones, yet you do not hesitate to resort to fantastic and surreal elements. How difficult is it to combine the historic, the realistic and the fantastic, the mythic? If I am such an important writer as you say, I have to tell you that this is exactly what all great writers do: combine those two elements. All serious, demanding writers know how to achieve that balance, like a chef who knows how to cook, how to mix the right ingredients wisely. Apart from your works of fiction, you also have an essay on Aeschylus to your credit. What drew you to the great tragedian? The essay was written in January 1985, when Enver Hoxha was alive, which means something. Aeschylus’ seven tragedies were being published in Albanian. I was asked to write a prologue for the edition and I wrote an essay not just about Aeschylus, but also about the relation of the writer to tyrannical regimes. That is the most important thing in that essay.