From the winner of the first Man Booker International Prize comes a crushing story of love taken away without warning and shattered by the icy wheels of the state.
Albania: the waning years of Communism. The narrator, working for the state-controlled media agency, has taken as his lover Suzana, the daughter of a high-ranking government official, rumored to be soon appointed the dictators successor. Suzanas father has forced her to end the affair, which could damage, if not ruin, his career. Still, the young man has received an invitation to attend the May First Parade on the Party platform: an enviable privilege. While the usual ceremony of the regimes self-glorification unfolds, our narrator suddenly seesbetween the flags, the propaganda streamers, and portraits of the countrys leadersthe ghostly image of Agamemnon, the terrifying general of the ancient Greeks. A hallucination or just his imagination? Instinctively he senses that his sin of loving will result in his own downfall, as Agamemnons was caused by sacrificing his daughter, Iphigenia.
In this spellbinding novel, written in Albania and smuggled into France a few pages at a time in the 1980s, Kadare denounces with rare force the machinery of the dictatorial regime, drawing us back to the ancient roots of Western civilization and tyranny.
Also included are "The Blinding Order," a parable of the Ottoman Empire about the uses of terror in authoritarian regimes, and "The Great Wall," a chilling duet between a Chinese official and a soldier in the invading army of the horrifying Tamerlane.
Most of us are used to reading books that combine the bitter with the sweet, but there is little if anything sweet to grasp on to in these three stories - there is no spoonful of honey to help the medicine go down, but just like The Swallows of Kabul, these stories are written with a humanity that will touch your soul, if you give them a chance. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Washington Times - Carol Herman
Cold gruel here. Of portraying the utter absence of humanity in a nation's cruelest hours, Mr. Kadare has few peers. Kafka, maybe.
Unfortunately, Kadare's considerable gifts are absent from the title novella. [However, the two shorter stories are very good, in particular "The Blinding Order" which is] superbly plotted, charged with bitter black humor, it's a masterly parable ... Kadare is a great writer, and "The Blinding Order" in particular is not to be missed.
Through a wry and compelling set of ruminations on the grandstand, the journalist finds that a government that would deny young love denies humanity, and seeks the isolation of every citizen - which in turn pits neighbor against neighbor in a fever of paranoid denunciation. That simple but powerful insight also lies behind the two shorter, more allegorical works in the collection...
Booklist - Ray Olson
The three tales collected here realize the theme of fear as an instrument of power with consummate art.
His portrait of totalitarian arrogance and ruthlessness here is absolutely chilling. Enthusiastically recommended.
Today, Albania is a country slightly smaller than the USA State of Maryland
with a population of about 3.5 million. It is bordered by Montenegro,
Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and the Adriatic Sea. Albanian is spoken by about 6
million people living in Albania, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia.
It is believed by most that Albanians are direct descendants of an Illyrian
tribe named "Albanoi". The Illyrians were Indo-European tribesman who
populated the Balkan Peninsula around 1000 BC (Bronze Age/early Iron Age).
The area fell under Roman control in 165 BC, and Christianity arrived in the
first century AD (Paul preached in Illyricum). Following the fall of the
Roman Empire the area was invaded by various groups including Goths, Huns,
Serbs, Croats and Bulgars. In 1054 the "Great Schism" (the separation of
the Catholic and Orthodox churches) placed Christians in southern Albania under
the rule of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the northern people under the
rule of the...
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