‘The Doll’ by Ismail Kadare – A Portrait of His Mother


‘The Doll’ by Ismail Kadare    (2015) – 175 pages                  Translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson


The doll in ‘The Doll’ is the mother of Ismail Kadare. The first-person narrator is named Ismail Kadare who becomes an aspiring fiction writer. Yes, this is an auto-fiction. Young people today who wish to write auto-fiction could learn a lot from this old master, Ismail Kadare. The tone here is cheerful throughout.

Here is the situation of Kadare’s parents which he describes in ‘The Doll’. His father is from one of the old, staid, and elite families of the city of Tirana in Albania and they live in a large intimidating ancient mansion. His mother, only 17 when she married his father, comes from a home of gypsies, birds, and violins, After her marriage, the young bride must move into this cold grim old house of her husband’s family and she must contend with the chilliness of a disapproving mother-in-law who “had a reputation both for tight-lipped severity and for wisdom”.

Houses like ours seemed constructed with the specific purpose of preserving coldness and misunderstanding for as long as possible.”

However, despite appearances, it was Kadare’s mother’s family who had more money than his father’s family.

‘The Doll’ is a novel of families and their in-laws played out in a rapidly changing Albania, for the years covered are those when Communism and earlier the rigid regime of Enver Hoxha fell.

Kadare probably could have written an entire novel about this early fierce family situation but instead he moves on to his own marriage much later which was again beset by in-law problems.

As Ismail grows up and becomes famous in his literary career, his mother interacts with the playwrights, movie directors, etc who come to their house.

The events of this novel are somewhat too scattered to be entirely successful as fiction. It becomes a book of somewhat random reminiscences.

And I never quite figured out the significance of the doll analogy for his mother.

Ultimately for me, this was not one of Kadare’s more successful novels. The focus seemed somewhat too scattered.


Grade:    B



3 responses to this post.

  1. I have this one somewhere on the TBR… I think I bought it during my ‘anything by Ismail Kadare’ phase!

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      I notice this is my 6th Kadare that I have reviewed here during the 12 years of doing this blog, more than any other writer. I must say that I much preferred the previous Kadare I read, ‘The Traitor’s Niche’, to ‘The Doll’, but Kadare is one of those writers who is always worth reading.



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