Last year James Wood persuasively contended that the new, ostensibly international Booker prize is really an “American plan camouflaged to look like an international one.” (Because Americans are barred from consideration for the Booker itself, the argument went, the international award is a de facto U.S. prize.)
But yesterday the first international Booker prize was awarded to Albanian writer Ismail Kadare, “a political exile whose work had to be smuggled out of Stalinist Albania in the 1980s.” Kadare triumphed over shortlisted writers like Philip Roth, John Updike, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan, Muriel Spark, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to win the £60,000 award.
In an old interview with Radio Free Europe, Kadare said:
When a writer lives in a dictatorial system, this means that a normal human being is living in an abnormal system…. The whole secret is whether the writer loses or preserves his inner freedom. The inner freedom has nothing to do with the external freedom. A writer can be free in an enslaved world, or he can be enslaved in a free country. Here stands the magnificent part of literature or its misery. Here is where it lives or dies.
The Literary Saloon, where the proprietor has called Kadare the “poster-child for twice-removed translations,” has a good round-up of links.