“A universal voice against totalitarianism”. That is how the judges of the Asturias Awards described Albanian writer Ismail Kadare in presenting him with the foundation’s prize for literature.
Born in 1936, Kadare studied in Moscow, returning home in 1960 to become a journalist, poet and novelist. The jury president said: “Ismail Kadare writes about the tragedy of his country with an everyday language that is full of lyricism. He gives life to old myths with new words, and he expresses all the profound sadness and dramatic charge of the conscience.” Exiled twice by the authorites and banned from writing for a time, he developed a style of “double language” that allowed him to praise and criticise the regime, but it was a dangerous tightrope, and in 1990 he defected to France. He has often been compared to writers of the magical realism school for his blend of the surreal and grotesque, but there is much that is autobiographic in his work, a life lived through turbulent times.