Kadare's communist-era Tirana apartment to turn into house museum

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 31, 2019 16:40

Kadare's communist-era Tirana apartment to turn into house museum

Story Highlights

  • "Kadare is probably the most internationally renowned Albanian and I believe that a lot of tourists who come to Tirana and visit the ‘Bunker’ and the ‘House of Leaves’ will also find another wonderful stop here at Ismail Kadare's house," Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said this week launching the restoration works at the upcoming Kadare house museum

Related Articles

Kadare's communist era Tirana apartment. Photos: Municipality of Tirana

Kadare's communist era Tirana apartment. Photos: Municipality of Tirana

TIRANA, Jan. 31 – The downtown Tirana apartment where Albania's internationally renowned writer Ismail Kadare spent two of his most creative decades under communist oppression is set to become a house museum and a new tourist attraction in Albania's capital city, featuring Kadare's life under communism until 1990 when he escaped Albania to seek political asylum in France, a country that later became his second home.

Kadare's communist era apartment is situated close to the Tirana city center in an apartment block designed in 1972 by Maks Velo, an Albanian architect and artist who was sentenced to 10 years in a notorious forced labour prison camp for his modernist cubist design project with a chimney that run against Socialist realism principles and propaganda. Late Albanian writer Dritero Agolli lived in the same apartment block until he passed away in February 2017. His widow still lives there and his apartment is also set to turn into a house museum.

Works on the reconstruction of Kadare's apartment kicked off this week on the writer's 83rd birthday as a project by the municipality of Tirana and an Italian architect in a bid to add new tourist attractions in the Albanian capital city with a focus on life under communism.

The house museum will be the second featuring Kadare's life. His 17th century house in his hometown of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Albania, opened as a museum in January 2016, when the perennial Albanian candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature marked his 80th birthday which Albania celebrated as the Kadare Year with a series of events.

Kadare's Tirana house museum adds to the "House of Leaves" museum of the notorious "Sigurimi" police surveillance in downtown Tirana and two Cold War bunkers outside the capital city and in the city center that the former communist elite had built underground decades ago to survive a possible nuclear attack.  Both the Bunk'Art and the "House of Leaves" museums have opened up as new tourist attractions in the past five years.

The communist past is what fascinates most tourists about Albania which was cut off from the rest of the world under a Stalinist dictatorship for about five decades until the early 1990s.

"Kadare is probably the most internationally renowned Albanian and I believe that a lot of tourists who come to Tirana and visit the 'Bunker' and the 'House of Leaves' will also find another wonderful stop here at Ismail Kadare's house," Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said this week launching the restoration works at the upcoming Kadare house museum.

Italian architect Elisabetta Terragni, who also led works to restore the notorious communist surveillance "House of Leaves" into a museum few years ago, says the new Kadare house museum will provide a picture of the writer's life for about two decades under communism but also life in general under communism.

"I think it will be important for the younger generation, for children, but also Albania and foreigners visiting Albania. People can come here and learn more on Kadare and his life and conduct thorough research on life in Tirana at that time," says Terragni.

An internationally renowned poet, novelist and essayist, Ismail Kadare has been a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. His international acclaim for his works peaked in 2005 when he won the Man Booker International Prize. His works have been translated into 45 languages.

A decade ago, Kadare was honored with Spain's Prince of Asturia Award for representing "the pinnacle of Albanian literature and crossing frontiers to rise up as a universal voice against totalitarianism." In 2015, he was named Jerusalem Prize winner for his works expressing and promoting the idea of the "freedom of the individual in society."

 

'Normal literature in an abnormal country'

In an interview with Germany's Die Welt newspaper in 2017, Kadare said he repented of no book he wrote under the socialist realism period and continues upholding the formula that "I wrote normal literature in an abnormal country."

"I didn't become popular after the collapse of communism when you could describe its gloom without risking anything. I would like to add that I didn't write my works in any Switzerland lake area, i.e. outside tyrannical Albania, but inside the country," Kadare has said.

"In 1960 I was a very popular writer in Stalinist Albania. Meanwhile, in 1970 something uncommon happened. After the translation of a book in Paris, in a short time I gained global popularity, which at that time meant Western recognition. The shock was quite evident for such a case. For the writer himself, his readers, the communist country where he lives. The paranoid Albanian government found themselves unprepared. There was silence and secret files against me… but nothing was said in public," he added.

Kadare left Albania in 1990 just before the almost five-decade long communist regime was collapsing to seek political asylum in France, a country that became his second home in the post-1990s period.

In 2016, he was promoted to the rank of Commander in the Legion of Honour, France's highest decoration, as a reward for outstanding merit in a civilian capacity in France where he has been spending most of his time during the past three decades.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 31, 2019 16:40