The Pyramid by Ismail Kadare

The Pyramid by ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

translation from french by David Belios

The pyramid is a historic novel on the surface ,Cheops a pharaoh who has decided that he does want a pyramid built to celebrate his life but then is told this is wrong as the building of these great building is a way of keep the masses under control so in the end it is decided and it is going to be a huge pyramid ,but in the building of this the work force is push beyond the edge as people die and are driven to the edge of life and madness .As with his other books Kadare is using the historic setting only as a back drop to an all out attack on the communist regime of Enver Hoxha the late leader of Albania as the system in Egypt falls apart it mirrors the falling apart in the eastern european regimes as they descended into a sort of chaos  ,he also had a pyramid built to be his tomb in the centre of Tirana ,he was in there for a short time following his death later it became a disco .

When one morning in late autumn ,only a few months after he had ascended the throne of Egypt ,Cheops, the new pharaoh, let slip that he might perhaps not wish to have a pyramid erect for him ,all who heard – the place astrologer ,some of the senior ministers ,Cheop”s old counsellor Userkaf ,and the high priest Hemiunum ,who also held the post of Architect in chief – furrowed theirs brows as if they had just heard news of a catastrophe .

The opening of the book .

My main problem with Kadare is the translation process in the early novels a secondary translation by Belios from french ,this is due to there being no Albanian translators about to do it ,it seems here is article from complete review  written by the translator ,Belios does a great job but I always feel it like looking at the book through two sets of net curtains we see the main things but maybe some subtle bits are missed from  the story .Ismail Kadare last few books in english have been direct translations from Albanian by John Hodgson I m not sure if they will go back and re-do all his books at some point .So if you want a book that maybe shows the downfall of communism and how dictators are made using ancient Egypt as a template then this is the book for you a Kadare cleverly winds the modern tale into a tale from the past .I ve know about Kadare for a good while since spend a summer in Germany on a factory floor next t0 a Kosovoian Albanian couple as they worked I discover Ikblar the wife was at one time a professor of Albanian lit so even thou my german was bad and her english too we manage to converse a bit and Ismail Kadare was one of the many names she mention but one I remember most as he was readily available . Ismail Kadare also won man international booker in2005 and also has been mention as a potential Nobel prize winner .

Have you a favourite Albanian writer or book ?

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Max Cairnduff
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 10:41:38

    I’m a big Kadare fan. My first of his was The File on H, which is excellent. I then read his Broken Aprils which is the one I’d recommend starting with – it’s an examination of living in the shadow of death from the perspective of a man who has thirty days before another family has the right to kill him under the ancient laws of retribution of Albania. He killed a member of their family, in retribution for them killing his brother, someone will take vengeance for his death and so it continues.

    I’ve also read his The Successor. Again very good though I preferred the two above. I’ve not read this one. He’s a very gifted writer. Broken April is particularly memorable for me.

    With The File on H it helps to have read some Homer to get what’s going on.

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Sep 13, 2011 @ 09:56:33

      I read a couple of his other books Max ,one of them was broken april i like how it opened that revenge part of Albanian culture ,I knew a bit about it before i read it and found it enlightening ,all the best stu

      Reply

  2. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 11:53:27

    the story is interesting. Building a tomb for one’s death is the ultimate in dictatorship. How does one ensure that he lies there after his death, when he wields no earthly power?

    Reading translations has always been like peeping through a pinhole. though you would see all, the important parts are likely to be trimmed off.

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Sep 13, 2011 @ 09:53:48

      he dosen’t the feeling was that is what was done to keep people in line they had to build a pyrmaid ,it isn’t a bad transaltion just a bit flat ,all the best stu

      Reply

  3. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 11:53:36

    the story is interesting. Building a tomb for one’s death is the ultimate in dictatorship. How does one ensure that he lies there after his death, when he wields no earthly power?

    Reading translations has always been like peeping through a pinhole. though you would see all, the some parts are likely to be trimmed off.

    Reply

  4. Geosi
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 15:23:00

    I have one book by Kadare on my shelves and the more I read about his books, the more I want to read him. Sounds interesting review.

    Reply

  5. Bina
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 16:17:25

    My books suggested by winston list is getting longer and longer!🙂 Sadly I think I haven’t ever read Albanian lit.

    Reply

  6. Kinna
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 20:35:48

    I have not read Kadare, though I am interested in his stuff. Translations are tricky stuff. What if you didn’t know that the book was translated twice from two different languages? Does knowing mar the experience?

    Reply

  7. Trackback: Twilight of Eastern gods by Ismail Kadare | Winstonsdad's Blog

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