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HomeAlbaniaAlbanian Writer Ismail Kadare Awarded France’s Highest Honour

Albanian Writer Ismail Kadare Awarded France’s Highest Honour

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Emmanuel Macron gave Ismail Kadare, Albania’s most internationally renowned novelist and poet, the Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour award on Monday during a visit by the French president to Albania.

Kadare, now 87, was a dissident writer when Albania was under Communist rule. After issuing statements calling for the democratisation of Albania and an end to single-party rule, he sought political asylum in France shortly before the collapse of the repressive regime in 1990.

Macron described him as “a poet of the Balkans” and “a messenger of freedom”.

“For this connection that you embody between Albania and France, I have the honour today to raise you to the rank of high officer of the Legion of Honour,” Macron said.

Kadare was born in 1936 in the southern town of Gjirokastra, near the Albania-Greece border. During half a century of Stalinist rule in Albania, his works attacked totalitarianism and the doctrines of socialist realism with subtle allegories.

His first novel, The General of the Dead Army, first published in 1963, gained him international acclaim. Since then his novels and other writings have been translated into more than 40 languages, and he has won various international prizes including the Man Booker Prize in 2005.

He has often been tipped for the Nobel prize for literature but it has so far eluded him.

Kadare, who was targeted by the secret police and sent into internal exile under Communist rule, described living under the former regime as “hell”.

“The hell of communism, like every other hell, was smothering in the worst sense of the term. But literature transformed that into a life force, a force which helped you survive and hold your head up and win out over dictatorship,” he told French news agency AFP in an interview after being given the French honour.

He told AFP that literature is his “great and only love”.

“It has given sense to my life, given me courage to resist, happiness and the hope to overcome everything,” he said.

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