“The Wrong Dinner”, the newest book of the Albanian world-famous writer, Ismail Kadare, was written between Durres (Albania), Lugano (Switzerland) and Paris (France) during the summer and the winter of 2007-2008. It has already been translated into French.
In writing this book, Kadare was inspired by a true event which shook his birthplace, the town of Gjirokastra in southern Albania, many years ago when he was a child.
The book focuses on an unusual and mysterious dinner. It describes a real event in the fall of 1943 when Gjirokastra was occupied by the Germans. One evening, the German Commander was invited for a dinner by the most well-known surgeon of the south of Albania, Vasil Laboviti, whose house was close to Kadare’s. At that time, the book author was only seven years old. By inviting the German Commander for dinner, Laboviti did something which no one expected: after the German arrival, the anger and fear in Gjirokastra were most wide-spread. What was discussed during this dinner remained a secret in spite of the many questions that were asked even long after the war. In any case, after that dinner, 80 Albanians, who had been imprisoned by the Germans, were set free.
In an interview with Southeast Europe – People and Culture, Kadare said that he was glad that he had finally managed to write about this event which had been on his mind since long. Throughout this time, he added, he was afraid that circumstances could make the writing of this book difficult or even impossible. But this did not happen because “the dinner, or more precisely the reverberation that surrounded it, was such in my memory that it forced me not to leave it aside,” he said.
The 73-year old author has retaken historical and real characters related to his birthplace out of the archives and made them part of his fiction. The most prolific of Albanian writers, Kadare has always been in the limelight thanks to his books, such as “The General of the Dead Army” (1963), “The Siege” (1970), “The Chronicle in Stone” (1971), “The Great Winter” (1977), “Broken April” (1978), “The Palace of Dreams” (1981), “The Concert” (1988), “The Pyramid”, and others. His books elaborate various aspects of the Balkan history and legends.
After 1990 when Kadare claimed political asylum, expressing himself in favour of democracy, France has been the country where he has spent a lot of time. In 1992, he was awarded the Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca; in 2005, he won the inaugural Man Booker International Prize and in 2009 the Prince of Asturias Award of Literature. He first studied at the Faculty of History and Philology at the University of Tirana and later at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow.
How did you get the inspiration for your last book “The Wrong Dinner”?
Since long, the title “The melody of a dinner” was in my notes. As time was elapsing, the title changed into “The bad melody of a dinner” or “The music of an unpleasant dinner”. The event, sets in the book, dates back in my childhood. It took place in a house not further than 200 steps away from mine. Surely it was not a common event. A dinner full of questions and enigmas. As it often happens, one day the writer decides to write on one of the events haunting his memory and filling in his notes. The reverse may happen, i.e. the writer does not decide to take the plunge or he does not have enough time to do that or an obstacle prevents him from doing it, so the book never sees the light.
The dinner, or more precisely, its music, was as such in my memory that it pushed me not to leave it aside.
What obstacles or challenges did you meet in the writing course of this book?
I don’t think that obstacles come in the way of a writer. Voluntarily or involuntarily, an author becomes familiar with all the enigmas of this art. It is completely another thing in what zone of the literature his brain manages to penetrate.
Each zone has its own laws. The writer selects the zone more or less like the bird that chooses the flying height according to its own possibilities. In a wrong zone, the writer, like the bird, can not fly.
What motivates your creativity? When do you find time to write?
Literature does not need much external motivation. First of all, it is the force within which pushes you ahead.
In your view, what is your biggest achievement as a writer?
It can be easily formulated: I have been a normal writer in an environment and in a time which could violate literature. By keeping the normality of literature, practically I have won over this environment and that backward time. It is difficult to ask for more from a writer.