Aspects of Dictatorship
Kadare, Ismail, Michigan Quarterly Review
These are the notes of a writer. And even though the events referred to here have nothing to do with literature, they should only be read as they are. The various creative notes do not give an exact viewpoint, in the same manner that a pair of found eyeglasses is hardly ever suitable to the eyes of the finder.
Under pressure, in those times usually christened as "dramatic," the writer is often asked to transform himself, to stop being a writer. He is asked this from various directions, often opposite each other. From the era of the totalitarian state, under the slogans "familiar with life," and "fusing with flint" it was insisted that he abandon literature and return to being a reporter, singing the praises of reality, in other words, of the regime. Critics of the regime, from their view, have asked the same thing, naturally with the opposite slant: that is to say, that he abandon literature and return to denouncing the regime. So from the left and from the right, in the East and the West, the writer is being asked the same thing: to unravel himself like something bought and sold. And this is asked of him using slick phrases like "the times demand it." Moreover, to make these requests sound more monumental, they are couched in urgent terms: "imperative of the times," et cetera.
In short, in the name of morality, the writer is asked to do something immoral. In the name of life, death is called for. That happens because in dramatic times, many people do not want to hear anyone speak of literature. They get nervous about it. It's said that literature is a luxury for the future, that is, for a more peaceable time. However, in the same manner that we agree to take care of our body and never do, there is the possibility that these peaceable times may never come.
Waving the phrase "order of the times" like a flag, they forget that the writer cannot become a captive of an era nor bound by its laws, for the simple reason that he is a citizen of several eras. As such, he celebrates "spontaneity" (extemporaneously). He is only bound by one law, that of art. And if the laws of the times do not match the supreme law of art, he can very easily turn his back on the times.
It is often thought that in tragic times when dictators explode, so too does literature. But dictatorship and literature really can coexist in one form only: gnawing away at each other day and night. The writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship. He fights it every moment, even when he thinks it is asleep. Because this is in his genetic code.
Dictatorship and literature really cannot be depicted as anything else but two wild animals that wrestle continuously. But it being the case that their claws are different, so too are the wounds they cause. The wounds sustained by the writer are fearsome, in as much as they are immediate. Whereas the wounds that he causes the dictator are slow to develop, but of the kind that never heal. In all of this, the writer has a different timetable, as I explained in the book Invitation to the Studio.
In so far as the writer's opposition to dictatorship is an instinctive inbred reaction against an external violence, so too the works of the writer, instead of retreating from the savagery of tyranny, become harsher. This perhaps explains why this author's harshest criticism against dictatorship, The Palace of Dreams, was written and published in Albania in the height of its gloom, in 1981.
In such a time, to propose that a writer abandon literature would be exactly like withdrawing a shield at the climax of a duel. Literature has been the writer's foundation, grounding, strength, and magic. Outside of it, the writer can be cut like a mere twig.
What follows then are the notes of a writer. Of someone who has always wanted to remain as such, believing literature carried us straight toward freedom, not the other way around, freedom toward literature.
The growth of this awareness has perhaps been slow. …