Kadare, Ismail. “The Doll: A Portrait of My Mother”, translated by John Hodgson, Counterpoint, 2020.
An Autobiographical Novel
Ismail Kadare, Albania’s famed novelist and poet explores his relationship with his mother in his autobiographical novel, “The Doll”, a story of home, family, creative aspirations, and personal and political freedom. He grew up in his father’s great stone house with hidden rooms and even a dungeon and his mother was at the center of his universe but his mother was a fragile woman who was at odds with her mother-in-law who, according to custom for women of a certain age, never leaves the house. Young Ismail has difficulty understanding his mother’s tears aside from that she is bored.
As Ismail explores his world, his mother becomes afraid of her intellectual son. He uses words that are unknown to her and he writes radical poetry. He falls in love easily, and seems to disrespect and renounce everything she believes in. She is afraid that she will lose him when he becomes a famous writer. Kadare explores his creative aspirations and their tangled connections to his childhood home and his mother’s place within it. He does so throughcombining fiction and memoir as he recollects his childhood in Gjirokastra, Albania, and early writing career in Tirana while imagining his mother’s early life. The intricate portrayal of his mother matches that of communist Albania, full of conflicts and incongruities. We read of the ways his mother influenced both his personality and art.