Word + Quiz: bildungsroman

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Word + Quiz: bildungsroman

: a novel that focuses on the intellectual, moral and psychological growth of the main character

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The word bildungsroman has appeared in 17 articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on Nov. 17 in the book review “Ismail Kadare Attributes His Writer’s Gift to His Mother” by Elisabeth Zerofsky:

Ismail Kadare, the prolific Albanian novelist, is best known as an ironist who has earned comparisons to George Orwell and Milan Kundera, writing in the face of the ruthless Communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania from 1944 to 1985. By the early 1990s, though Hoxha was by then dead, Kadare had provoked enough ire within the regime to have to flee to Paris. He returned to his country only several years later, after receiving a call from his siblings informing him of the illness of his mother, whom he called the Doll. Such is the premise of Kadare’s autobiographical novel of the same title, originally published in Albanian in 2015 and now translated by John Hodgson into English.

… The novel also turns, partly, into a bildungsroman, as the narrator tries to tease out what it was about his mother’s sensibility that gave birth to “the writer’s gift” within him. Ismail becomes convinced that “everything that had harmed the Doll in life became useful to me in my art,” and that his mother had surrendered liberty in her own life “to give me all possible liberty as a human being, in a world where freedom was so rare and hard to find.”

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