Ismail Kadare’s Usage of Myth in Comprehending Albania’s National Condition
Albania is a small country located in the Balkan peninsula on the Adriatic coast. Its complicated political history and a cultural identity that straddles European and Asian makes the nation an interesting subject for analysis based on national identity structures. Additionally, the nation has a rich oral tradition and often claims to have been the birthplace of Homeric poetry. Literature from this nation, however, is neither widely read nor available. The only Albanian literary export of note is Ismail Kadare who was awarded the inaugural Man Booker International Prize for his entire body of work and his efforts to bring Albanian culture to the global masses. Kadare’s writing style involves creating alternate historical timelines, extensive usage of allegory and, most significantly for this collection, the usage, re-usage and, sometimes, reconstruction of Balkan myths. This essay will analyse how Kadare uses myths in order to make sense of the national condition of Albania from the beginning of World War II until the early 2000s when Albania began its process of recuperating from the Balkan Wars in the 1990s. Indeed, this is not Kadare’s only motivation for writing. He also intends to develop a new Albanian identity that is separate from its Ottoman history. Albania was an Ottoman colony for over four centuries and was subsequently occupied and influenced – culturally and economically – by new geopolitical powers in Eastern Europe such as Yugoslavia and Soviet Russia. In his novels, Kadare recontextualises myths to allegorically critique these foreign powers as well as native politicians. In doing so, he attempts to show the purity and nobility of authentic Albanian culture despite its inherent atavism.