"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Friday, 8 October 2010

Kadare and Kafka: an Update

The Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare [seen here on the right, with his fine translator, John Hodgson, on the left of the picture and me in the middle] has been in London this week at a number of events to promote his gripping new novel, The Accident (Canongate).  He was in conversation on Tuesday with Julian Evans at the Free Word Centre (and at the Cheltenham Festival today).  Yesterday I interviewed him on behalf of English P.E.N. as part of the 'Bloomberg Bites' lunchtime series of talks at the finance house Bloomberg in the City.  Kadare, whose relationship with the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha has always been controversial, came over as a very charming personality and he was in reflective mood, offering us some very interesting 'bites'.  One of these came when I asked him how much he felt he had been influenced by Kafka, a name that is invariably mentioned in interviews with Kadare, often by the author himself.  He revealed that he had not read the banned Kafka until the early 1980s, or rather that he had read very limited extracts as a student where Kafka was presented in order to be repudiated as an example of capitalist decadence.  Which of course simply made young people all the more anxious to read him.  Not very bright these dictators.

Bloomberg's HQ in Finsbury Square is a marvel.  Through its stage-lit spaces, where copious security people stand every few yards like flunkeys at a Versailles court ball, and where in the refreshment area everything is free, including great domed piles of bananas, cookies, apples and cherry tomatoes, and large screens everywhere broadcast the latest share prices and financial news (and the breaking news that Mario Vargas Llosa had just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature) the bemused Kadare, his interpreter and his interviewer moved as if through the film set for a remake of Brave New World.   But Bloomberg are generous hosts and it was good to learn that The Accident is being discussed at their next in-house book group.

1 comment:

whh said...

An interesting little post. Thanks.

You may be interested, by chance, in a post I just wrote about Peter Nadas, another writer from the East, whose own work was banned for some time...