Page last updated at 21:47 GMT, Thursday, 2 June 2005 22:47 UK

Balkan author's fight to be heard

Ismail Kadare
Kadare's work has been published in more than 40 countries
Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare, the recipient of the inaugural Booker International Prize, has become Albania's most celebrated and globally renowned literary export.

He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature and is often cited as a potential future winner.

Kadare's reputation in his homeland was forged in the teeth of the harsh repression and dictatorship of Enver Hoxha's communist regime.

But it was only after he left Albania in 1990 to live in France that the world started to take notice of his distinctive voice.

Kadare was born in 1936 in Gjirokaster, the southern museum-city close to the Greek border where Hoxha himself had been born 28 years earlier.

He studied first at the University of Tirana, and later at the Gorky Institute for World Literature in Moscow.

Forbidden

Returning home in 1960 after his country broke off relations with the Soviet Union, Kadare worked first as a journalist.

But he had already begun his literary career as a poet with such verse collections as Youthful Inspiration in 1954 and Dreams in 1957.

In the 1960s Kadare turned increasingly to prose, publishing his first novel - The General of the Dead Army, a study of post-war Albania - in 1963.

The book made his name in his home country and he was given freedom to travel and publish abroad.

Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha's Communist regime collapsed in 1990
But he fell foul of the authorities in 1975 and was forbidden to publish for three years.

He did so again in 1981 with The Palace of Dreams, a political allegory of totalitarianism that was banned on publication.

From 1986 he had to smuggle his work out of the country, to be stored in safe keeping by his French publisher.

Kadare was granted political asylum in France in October 1990, shortly before the collapse of Hoxha's regime.

"Dictatorship and authentic literature are incompatible," he said. "The writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship."

Ironically perhaps, he has done more to alert the world to life in his native country since his departure than he did when inside it.

"Ismail Kadare's novels shine a light on the mores of his native Albania," said Harvey McGrath, chairman of the Man Group, which sponsors the prize.

"His writing reflects not only the complexities of a nation coming to terms with its freedom, but also his personal experiences."

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