Albanian writer Ismail Kadare has won this year's Lerici Pea Poetry prize. This may come as something to a surprise to readers in Britain since, here, he's only really known for novels such as The Successor (which won the Booker Man International Prize), The Siege, The General of the Dead Army, The Ghost Rider etc.
Kadare, however, has published a series of poetry collections in Albanian, including several career-spanning 'selecteds'. Some of these have been translated into French as part of an ongoing translation of his collected works (and, given the origin of this latest prize, some have also presumably been rendered in Italian) but the only samples I can find translated into English are a good but modest group on Robert Elsie's site. These and some very rudimentary readings of his poetry in Albanian suggest that, unsurprisingly, this strand of his work demonstrates similar qualities to his prose - clarity, precision, allusiveness, versatility - and to the poetry of other European late-modernists.
More than anything, perhaps, the awarding of this prize is a reminder that, even though a dozen of his novels have been translated into English, these only represent a tiny proportion of Kadare's work (his novels, poetry, essays etc occupy two whole bookcases in the International Bookshop in Tirana); that the proportion of Albanian literature in general which has been translated into English is even smaller (although again Elsie's site has a good selection, as well as details of other Albanian translations which have been published); and that even when an individual writer or an entire literary culture appears to be well-represented in translation, the translated works rarely represent more than the very tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The other question which this award raises relates to Kadare's prospects as a putative Nobel laureate. His name has been 'connected' with the Nobel Prize on several occasions but the truth is he remains a controversial figure, both in Albania and South Eastern Europe as a whole, largely because of his ambiguous departure from Albania to live in Paris immediately after the end of communism and because of his perspective on Kosovo. You can get a flavour of the controversy at the LRB's website from this letter and my response, originally published three years ago.