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The File On H Paperback – 3 Aug 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (3 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099497190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099497196
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 622,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"Witty and touching. It consolidates Kadare's reputation as one of the finest writers to emerge from communist Europe" (Sunday Times)

"Eloquent, engaging and poignant" (Irish Times)

"A wicked and amusing satire of provincial life...it is also an elegiac celebration of the power of poetry" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Funny, strange, and melancholy" (Guardian)

"Knife-sharp satire...originality shines through" (The Times)

Book Description

A haunting yet humorous evocation of a society dangerously trapped in its past.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the 1930's two American scholars, Parry and Lord, went to Yugoslavia to record local bards' recitations of epic poetry. Their results influenced the way oral compositions in literature were viewed, and in particular Homer's works. This book imagines two similar academics coming to rural Northern Albania around the same time to record the equivalent Albanian epics. They are welcomed by local dignitaries, but also spied on. Their new-tech tape-recorder is considered spooky and dangerous. There is ethnic tension in nearby Kosovo. The bards are in short supply as the tradition is on the point of dying out. And one of the academics seems to be going blind, like Homer.

The novel, written in 1981, contains satire on pretensions among the local bourgeoisie, on the 'backwardness' of Albania in general and on its then-pervasive culture of informers, as well as some heavier humour of the frustrated-wife type. Some of it's written as the elaborately-conceited reports of one of the spies, a joke that got tiresome to me. There are interesting thoughts about orality and epic, despite lots of static scenes with characters thinking the same things they've thought before, and a rather thin plot. It seems to have been translated from Albanian via French, and now and then ('she had had an adventure with one of them') I thought I could detect this. But I liked its unusual setting, and the poignancy of its wider subject - the final, slow death of the earliest kind of European literature - really comes across.
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By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 April 2006
Format: Paperback
The H of the title is Homer (of Odyssey and Iliad fame), and the central figures of this tragicomic satire are two Harvard researchers who arrive in Albania during the reign of King Zog (1930s) to study the oral epic tradition and its relation to Homer. Armed with the newly invented reel-to-reel tape recorder, they set themselves up a remote region where they will convince passing "rhapsodes" to recite epics into the tape recorder for later analysis. Alas, the idea of this is so preposterous to the paranoid Albanian authorities that they assume the two researchers are spies, and so order the governor of the remote province to keep a close eye on them. He, in turn, enlists the services of his most trusted informer, Dull Baxhaja, whose florid reports are the primary enlivener of the governor's dull days.
Somewhat wacky hijinks ensue, as the governor's wife dreams of a romantic assignation with one of the researchers, and Dull's reports grow more and more darkly comic. Originally written in 1981, the book is eerily prescient with regard to contemporary nationalist Balkan politics, as a wandering Serbian monk enters the story, takes umbrage that the researchers are not interested in Serbian epics, and stirs up trouble for them. At the same time, the theme of paranoia and emphasis on the rivalry between various informers is itself a satire on the grim nature of Communist Albania under the Hoxhas. Amidst all this, Kadare is also trying to say something about the elusive nature of art and historical memory. The overall effect is a little muddled, but not unenjoyable.
Note: The novel grew out of Kadare's 1970 meeting in the with Albert Lord, a notable scholar of oral epics who told Kadare of his travels in the former Yugoslavia as the assistant to Milman Parry during 1933-35.
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By A Customer on 22 Sept. 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a deceptively-written book - it has the feel of an Edwardian travelogue as we are taken on a picaresque voyage through rural pre-War Albania. It soon turns into a political parable that has specific reference to Communist times and timeless reference to the eternal Human clash between Idealistic intellectual adventure and nasty brutish reality.
One of those that will stick with you for weeks after reading, both thanks to the haunting atmosphere, the colourful characters and the intellectual resonance.
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Format: Paperback
The previous reviewers have outlined the plot so I won't go over that.

It's probably the most straightforward of Kadare's novels and yet within lies layers that will have you teasing out ideas for a long time afterwards.

Almost every character ends up disappointed yet this is not a depressing book, rather it's told with sly wit and an awareness of the human character.

I raced through it in a weekend and have since reread it twice.
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