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The Traitor's Niche interview

The Traitor's Niche interview

Ismail Kadare discusses the universality of literature and translator John Hodgson tells us he’s delighted the judges enjoyed The Traitor's Niche.

This is part of our series of Man Booker International Prize 2017 longlist interviews.

Ismail Kadare, author of The Traitor's Niche

What has it been like to be longlisted? 

Any author, regardless of his or her country of origin, is honoured and delighted to be selected for such a grand prize. When one thinks of the universality of literature, the first reader that comes to mind is, undoubtedly, the reader in English language.

Why? Firstly because of the high number of readers in this particular language, not just in Great Britain, but across the world. The second great reason lays in both the tradition and in the authority enjoyed by the art of writing in the British world.

Can you give us a taste of your longlisted novel The Traitor's Niche?

The novel The Traitor's Niche is a subject which concerns a large majority of people today. The pressure of the state as well as the power of the media exercised at every corner of the world, independently of political regimes, creates a similar perception today. The concept of niche itself reflects the threat and horror, so similar to our TV screens, and strengthens this perception.

The Traitor's Niche was originally published in 1978. Do you think it will be read differently now?

The particularity of this novel is the fact that it has been written and published over 40 years ago, in the country that was then the most closed and most Stalinian in Europe: Albania.

This country had been forgotten to the extent that no one, not least the author, would have imagined that 40 years later, such a novel would have been able to compete in Great Britain for the prize of the novel translated in English that year!


John Hodgson, translator of The Traitor's Niche

What has it been like to be longlisted? 

I am delighted that the judges, distinguished writers and translators themselves, have enjoyed this translation. This is an honour that will stand, whether the book goes forward to the next heat or not.

What did you like most about translating The Traitor's Niche?

It has been a pleasure to translate one of Ismail Kadare's Ottoman novels. He writes of the Ottoman Empire with horror and distaste, but there is also a fascination, which draws out some of his most eloquent prose. This ambivalence about the Ottoman heritage is ever-present in Albanian culture, and I have enjoyed trying to bring it out.

You have translated five novels by Ismail Kadare.  Is the process easier the more familiar you are with his work?

In a sense, yes, but Ismail Kadare is also a linguistic innovator and his style is always evolving, so I have to keep up.

The Traitor's Niche