The Wrong Side of History: Albania’s Greco-Illyrian Heritage in Ismail Kadare’s <i>Aeschylus or the Great Loser</i>


  • Peter Morgan


Despite rivalries and conflicts over land, tradition and history, Greek civilisation plays an important and constructive role in the work of Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. Greece, its people, influence and culture, constituted a presence for Kadare from an early age. Greek villages had existed for centuries, even millennia, in the vicinity of the southern Albanian town of Gjirokastra where he grew up. Greek names were common in these areas, and a level of bilingualism existed despite the restrictive language policies on either side of the border. Kadare later also visited the impressive archaeological ruins of Butrint near Saranda and elsewhere, and as a school student was exposed to the myths and legends of ancient Greece. Greece was felt in other, less felicitous, ways as well. Nine years old at the end of the Second World War, Kadare witnessed the ethnic conflicts and border disputes between Greeks and Albanians and remembers the arrival of desperate Greek communists seeking refuge from the civil war raging to the south. In the autobiographical novel,

Chronicle in Stone, he documents the movements of Italian, Greek and German forces through his home town of Gjirokastra in southern Albania from the late thirties until the arrival of the communist partisans in 1944.