The file on H. /

Main Author: Kadare, Ismail
Other Authors: Bellos, David
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York, NY : Arcade Pub., 1998, c1997.
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Review by Booklist Review

Kadare offers a witty, multilayered critique of totalitarianism, nationalism, and scholarly objectivity. In the 1930s, two Irish scholars armed with the world's first tape recorder come to Albania to record its oral storytellers--the last of their kind, it seems--in order to draw connections between Homer and these rhapsodes. Mistaken by an ineffectual government as spies, the two become objects of the governor's wife's romantic fantasies and are surveilled by an informer who writes reports in the style of a demented Henry James. Finally, assaulted by a cave-dwelling hermit and a Serbian monk, their quest ends in violence. Kadare, often a Nobel nominee, alludes to Chekhov and evokes Borges as the novel's omniscient, omnipresent narrator, who seems to command a multitude of spies, explores the connection between a nation's past and future, using sight and hearing--literal and metaphoric--to illustrate the futility and falseness of the researchers' detachment and the disastrous result of alienating a people from its defining qualities, history, and memory. Entertaining and challenging on every level. --Jennie Ver Steeg

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Controversial Albanian dissident Kadare (The Concert) takes on the big H, Homer, in this comic tale of small-town suspicions and a doomed academic venture. The time is the 1930s, and Albania is already in a state of paranoia under King Zog, with informers everywhere. Enter two Irishmen from Harvard, Bill Ross and Max Norton, who journey to Albania with a tape recorder in order to record the last genuinely oral epic singers. Their purpose, they say, is to show how Homer's epics might have been culled from a verbal tradition. But can Governor N., head of the department where Bill and Max set up shop, believe such a preposterous pretext? He puts his best spy, Dull Baxhaja, on the case. In the meantime, his wife, an Albanian Emma Bovary, dreams of an affair with one or another of these crazy scholars. The relationship between the governor and Dull Baxhaja, a veritable artist of eavesdropping, is a masterpiece of Gogolian comedy. But Kadare's chief interest (though not necessarily his readers') is in the scholars' quest. "We're trying," Bill writes in his journal, "to put ourselves inside Homer's skin to understand what kind of tyrannical power he must have had to contain such a bubbling caldron of artistic activity." Kadare transparently questions the status and condition of his own art in this amusing parable. It is a pity that no one could be found to translate the novel from Albanian, especially given the many infelicities of Bellos's secondhand dialogue. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Two American researchers head into 1930s Albania with a tape recorder in search of the Homeric oral tradition but find unexpected complications. A stuffedshirt bureaucracy that against all evidence thinks them spies provides only limited hindrance, but a violent Serbian monk who resents Albania getting the credit sets out to stop them. For good measure, throw in a dreamy governor's wife, who fantasizes about an affair with one of the foreigners, and some real spies, including Dull Baxhaja, whose florid prose in missives about the foreigners makes the governor drool, and you are bound for a complicated outcome. Without giving away too much, the researchers head home lacking hard evidence, one of them going blind, seeming to become a rhapsody himself. Kadare (The Pyramid, LJ 4/1/96) and translator Bellos consistently get the tone just right, and their product is both slyly funny and wistful. Recommended for all world literature collections.‘Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Booklist Review


Review by Publisher's Weekly Review


Review by Library Journal Review