Bookclub reads “The File on H.”

 

The November read for the bookclub is “The File on H” by Ismail Kadare.

In this often-comic novel, two Homeric scholars from Ireland by way of Harvard University plan to investigate the tradition of oral epic poetry in the rural habitats of Albania where historical epics are composed and sung by itinerant minstrels as popular entertainment. The singers have been doing this for many generations, possibly since ancient Greek times (H stands for Homer). The scholars travel to Albania with a tape recorder to study the phenomenon and record samples of the singing and the changes over time in multiple recordings of the same song, the study of which would give them an answer whether Homer was an editor or a writer. Their main interest is in the variations on the tradition exemplified in the work of individual singers, how historical events are woven into poetry, and whether there is regional bias in their interpretations.

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