Penar Musaraj in The Globe and Mail:
Though Ismail Kadare has been lauded for years as a leading figure in contemporary world literature, news of him winning the first ever Man Booker International Prize recently was a surprise to many in literary circles.
In a competition with a shortlist that included Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Roth, Milan Kundera, Gunter Grass and John Updike, the Albanian writer was given odds of 100 to 1 by The Complete Review, a quarterly literary publication.
Kadare was stunned to find out he was the jury’s choice. “I heard of [the prize] through my editor, and I told him: ‘Are you sure?’ . . . because I have been on the Nobel shortlist of at most three or four authors, a dozen times, but never made it through,” Kadare says, adding he was getting used to being so close to the ultimate stamp of approval, the Nobel Prize for literature.
At 69, Kadare is Albania’s most beloved literary export and one of the central cultural figures in the recently troubled Balkan region — but unlike many other Eastern Europeans writing under socialist regimes, he was no dissident.