Essays on World Literature: Shakespeare • Aeschylus • Dante
Essays on World Literature: Shakespeare • Aeschylus • Dante
By Ismail Kadare
Translated from the Albanian by Ani Kokobobo
The Man Booker International–winning author of Broken April and The Siege, Albania’s most renowned novelist, and perennial Nobel Prize contender Ismail Kadare explores three giants of world literature—Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare—through the lens of resisting totalitarianism.
Paperback List Price: $19.99 • ISBN: 9781632061744• Publication: 2/20/2018 • 5.5” x 8.25” • 304 pages • Literary Criticism: World literature / Aeschylus / Shakespeare / Dante • Territory: World all Languages • eBook ISBN: 9781632061751
About the Book
In isolationist Albania, which suffered under a Communist dictatorship for nearly half a century, classic global literature reached Ismail Kadare across centuries and borders—and set him free. The struggles of Hamlet, Dante, and Aeschylus’s tragic figures gave him an understanding of totalitarianism that shaped his novels. In these incisive critical essays informed by personal experience, Kadare provides powerful evidence that great literature is the enemy of dictatorship and imbues these timeless stories with powerful new meaning.
With eloquent prose and the narrative drive of a great mystery novel, Kadare renews our readings of the classics and lends them a distinctly Albanian tint. Like Mark Twain’s Mississippi River, Márquez’s Macondo, and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Kadare’s Albania emerges as a microcosm of civilization; here, blood vengeance in mountain communities reaches the dramatic heights of Hamlet’s dilemma, funereal rites take on the air of Greek tragedy, and political repression gives life the feel of Dante’s nine circles of Hell.
Like Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, Essays on World Literature casts reading itself as a daring act of resistance to artistic suppression. Kadare’s insights into the Western canon secure his own place within it.
Praise for Essays on World Literature:
“Essays on World Literature — consisting of studies of Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare — is the more fascinating because of the way Kadare looks at his subjects through the lens of his native land. Having been a backwater for so many centuries, Kadare asserts, Albania is closer to the world of Aeschylus and to the origins of tragedy than any other modern nation.”
—Christian Lorentzen, New York Magazine Vulture
“Ismail Kadare’s first and only collection of essays translated into English, this time directly from the Albanian originals written between 1985 and 2006, offers profound and highly personal meditations on canonical figures of world literary history…. Kadare reflects in three essays on “great” writers in the world literary tradition: Aeschylus, whom he calls the “lost”; Dante, the “inevitable”; and Shakespeare, the “difficult prince.”... In his indelibly humanist understanding of art, Kadare conceives of literature—the work of canonically great writers—as art that ‘cries with the world,’ seeking through letters to understand the uniquely and most deeply human: tragedy, violence, pain…. The “world” of Kadare’s three essays on “world literature” is a reflection of Albania’s “impossible drama” on the global scale of human history, an observation at once parochial and profound, like the greatness of great art.”
—Sean Guynes-Vishniac, World Literature Today
“The Albanian author and perennial Nobel Prize candidate considers the roots and long influence of Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare, especially in his homeland. Kadare, who won the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in 2005, discusses the three authors through the filter of totalitarianism, particularly Albania’s oppression under a communist regime and the Kanun, a longtime legal code that effectively endorsed blood feuds…. Kadare effectively makes the case for their universality. That’s especially true in the case of Aeschylus, as Kadare thoughtfully explores the nature of Greek theater in its time and stage tragedy’s connection to ancient funeral rites.… [A]s windows into his own fiction, [the essays] show that he perceives his favorite themes—among them, oppression, loss, revenge—as part of a through-line that runs back to antiquity. A loose but informed and passionate study of why classic authors endure.”
“Kadare is one of the world’s great novelists: He won the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005, the Jerusalem Prize in 2015, and numerous other literary prizes, while his novels have been translated into some forty-five languages…. The collection of three essays in Essays on World Literature prove the worth of a different gaze at figures as time-worn as Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare. Kadare’s point of view is eccentric, both in the common sense of the word and the etymological sense: His essays come from outside the center of Western culture, and draw unexpected connections between these three writers and Balkan reality…. Kadare thus presents us with a fascinating regional proof of the universality of these three geniuses, Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare, of the regional truths that lie within the universality of their writings…. Restless Books is to be commended for having this volume translated (and quite ably so) by an Albanian translator, Ani Kokobobo.”
—Mitchell Abidor, Jewish Currents
“Through these three authors—Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare—Kadare tours the history of Western literature, but also gives great insight into what it was like being an intellectual coming of age and finding his own voice in a Communist regime. If you’re looking for something to give you a view onto our world as well as insight into how literature can illuminate it—and how both are interconnected—this is a good book to go with.”
—Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)
Praise for Ismail Kadare:
“Kadare is inevitably likened to Orwell and Kundera, but he is a far deeper ironist than the first, and a better storyteller than the second. He is a compellingly ironic storyteller because he so brilliantly summons details that explode with symbolic reality.”
—James Wood, The New Yorker
“An author who richly deserves the Nobel Prize.”
—The Huffington Post
“In his layering of truth-quests, Mr. Kadare, winner of the Man Booker International Prize… has more in common with the experimental-fiction writers Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jorge Luis Borges… we’re gazing on a multilevel storytelling realm where, whether you are a student of Balkan history, a lover of Greek myth or a German taxi driver, the warning signs all say the same thing: ‘Don’t look back.’”
—Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal
“The name of the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare regularly comes up at Nobel Prize time, and he is still a good bet to win it one of these days… he is seemingly incapable of writing a book that fails to be interesting.”
—Charles McGrath, The New York Times
“Kadare’s novels are full of startlingly beautiful lines... bracingly original similes swarm with an apparent casualness... gloomy and death-obsessed, but also frequently hilarious.”
—Christian Lorentzen, The New York Times Book Review
“If only most thriller writers could write with Kadare’s economy and pace… Kadare, magician that he is, offers just enough information for his readers to make myriad interpretations. He is the most beguiling and teasing of writers who understands that what may not be apparent now may well be in a distant future.”
—The Sunday Herald
About the Author
Ismail Kadare is Albania’s best known novelist, whose name is mentioned annually in discussions of the Nobel Prize. He won the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in 2005; in 2009 he received the Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras, Spain’s most prestigious literary award, and in 2015 he won the Jerusalem Prize. In 2016 he was named a Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur. James Wood has written of his work, "Kadare is inevitably likened to Orwell and Kundera, but he is a far deeper ironist than the first, and a better storyteller than the second. He is a compellingly ironic storyteller because he so brilliantly summons details that explode with symbolic reality." His last book to be published in English, The Traitor’s Niche, was nominated for the Man Booker International.
About the Translator
A native Albanian, Ani Kokobobo is assistant professor and director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas where she teaches Russian literature and culture. She has published an edited volume, Russian Writers and the Fin de Siècle – The Twilight of Realism (Cambridge University Press, 2015), a monograph, Russian Grotesque Realism: The Great Reforms and Gentry Decline (Ohio State University Press, 2017), and another edited volume, Beyond Moscow: Reading Russia’s Regional Identities and Initiatives (Routledge, 2017).