Monday, September 11, 2006

Kadare: Quixote in the Balkans

I've just come across an interesting essay by the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare. It's the sort of thing that will take re-reading and some concentrated noodling for me to altogether understand what he's getting at, but you may be quicker.

Among other things, Kadare explains the place of Don Quixote in Balkan folklore and how it came to be translated in Albania, and the reason that today's political leaders ought to be prohibited from using Quixote's name as a term of abuse.

I was particularly struck by this observation of Kadare's:
the fact [is] that the trip of Don Quixote is not a trip through space, but an inner trip through humanity.

Don Quixote's trip takes place at the time of important journeys, including the most famous and spectacular in the history of mankind: the discovery of America. It is impossible that a greater journey than this exists in history. All at once, the world, the earth, the globe was twice as big. But a strange thing happened: this endless discovery left no trace on world literature. Nevertheless, the trip of an insane person from one village of Spain to another, a trip that had not the least importance to humanity, that brought it nothing, and perhaps never happened, gives to humanity one of the greatest masterpieces of literature.
That had never occurred to me.

John Carey, chairman of the panel that awarded Kadare the first International Man Booker prize, said the author mapped a culture, "its history, its passion, its folklore, its politics and its disasters. He is a universal writer in a tradition of storytelling that goes back to Homer."

--Marshal Zeringue