“Unconsciously, she placed herself in the most senseless and tragic confrontation: she was on one side while on the other there was what was called ‘art’ belonging to her soon.”
In his last novel, The Doll: Mother’s Portrait (Kukulla: Portreti i nënës, 2015), Ismail Kadare, a writer who has for almost half of a century been the most famous voice of Albanian literature in the world, takes us on an intimate journey through his life by placing focus on his complicated relationship with his mother, fragile and mysterious as a “paper doll”.
After she entered an agreed upon marriage at age 17, Kadare’s mother, a simple and insecure girl called Doll in the novel, moves in with her husband to the big posh Kadare family house, where the writer himself later grew up. Burdened by patriarchal customs, mutual antipathy between her family and her husband’s family, and mostly by the fact that she must live under the watchful eye of her ruthless mother-in-law, Doll feels more and more that the house is, in her own words, “devouring her”.
In this autobiographic novel, untypical of Kadare’s novelistic opus, the writer returns again to his birthplace of Gjirokastër, but this time to tell a story of his upbringing, education, start of his literary career, controversial relationship and marriage to his wife Helena, who is also a writer, his political emigration to Paris, but primarily it is a story of his family. It is a novel we can look at, in the author’s ironic style, as a chronicle of several grand misunderstandings…