Ismail Kadare, "The Albanian Writers’ Union As Mirrored By A Woman"

An elegant prostitute represents freedom and mystery — a source of fascination for a writer trapped in rigid, hopeless, communist Albania.

(from The New Yorker, Dec. 26, 2005)

I’d heard that an architect in France had constructed a modern building with an all-glass façade designed to reflect the classical cathedral across the street from it, and that, since then, such appositions had become quite fashionable. Still, it was difficult to imagine any particular link between the Writers’ Union building, or the institution it represented, and the woman who lived across the way.

This has all the attention to detail and serpentine plot shifts of a memoir, not a work of fiction. It’s also very writerly, setting up its primary metaphor (prostitute=writers’ union) not only in the title, but the opening paragraphs as well. Hits you over the head with it. Then, once that’s established, it doesn’t refer to it again. Because that would surely concuss.
It’s pretty, and scary, and frustrating. The plight of writers torn between their duties to state and their yearning for intellectual pursuit and truth-telling is illustrated beautifully. Painful stuff. Good stuff.
It’s a long one. Read it here.
Kadare is Albanian-born (Gjirokastra, specifically), living in France. Here‘s an article on him.

* * *

I recently completed a longish project at work, and am ready to rededicate myself to the reading of short stories today. It’s too early for you to notice, but it’s International Fiction month at I Read A Short Story Today. Why do this?
1. I looked over January and found that pretty much everyone I’d read was American.
2. That site meter I added has a map function on it (showing where in the world visitors were sitting and viewing the site), and it got me thinking about such things.
3. The Olympics. (Love international hockey.)
4. International strife is the new iPod.
5. Manifest destiny.
In addition to this New Yorker International Fiction issue I’d been saving/neglecting, I’ll also be dipping into a couple translated collections I purchased recently. And. Please feel free to refer me to your favorite un-American stories, too.

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