From behind the closed door, the man shouts, 'Be on your way - you have no business here!' 'Open up, I am the messenger of Death'. As spring arrives in the Albanian mountain town of B, some strange things are emerging in the thaw. Bank robbers strike the National Bank. Old terrors are dredged up from the shipwreck of history. And ultra-explosive state secrets are threatening to flood the entire nation. Mark, an artist, finds the peaceful rhythms of his life turned upside down by ancient love and modern barbarism and by the particular brutality of a country surprised and divided by its new freedom.
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(198mm x 129mm x 12mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
The detailed telling of dreams can be irritating but in Ismail Kadare's story of modern-day Albania they are an essential part of the book. In the absurd situations Kadare describes, dreams sometimes make more sense than the real events. Mark Gurabardhi, a painter from Tirana, now works in the arts centre of a small provincial town. He moves between his flat, the cafe and his place of work, listening to gossip or contributing his imaginative details to it before passing it on to his colleagues or to his girlfriend. Sometimes the gossip reminds him of stories; when some boys find a snake he remembers the tale of the woman who married a serpent. A bank robbery prompts him to reflect on crime and punishment and he retells the story of Tantalus who tried to steal immortality. These stories, like the dreams, are told with wit and humour but they hint at a frightening disorder in society. Mark's boss senses no danger, for he has embraced the post-communist world and talks lovingly of freedom, his trip abroad, his new computer and the bright European future that they should all now enjoy. Others are not so sure. Mark has heard that there are whispers that the old system of customary law, the Kanun, is being reinstated and horrific, long-buried traditions like blood feuds could be revived. In his apartment Mark broods about what is happening and in dreams he finds himself in the police station instead of in his office. The frightening days of the recent communist regime merge into a muddled, threatened present and, gradually, nightmares seep into everyday life. This is a remarkable and disturbing story of present-day Albania. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Ismail Kadare
Ismail Kadare, born in 1936 in the mountain town of Gjirokaster, near the Greek border, is Albania's best-known poet and novelist. Since the appearance of The General of the Dead Army in 1965, Kadare has published scores of stories and novels that make up a panorama of Albanian history linked by a constant meditation on the nature and human consequences of dictatorship. His works brought him into frequent conflict with the authorities from 1945 to 1985. In 1990 he sought political asylum in France, and now divides his time between Paris and Tirana. He is the winner of the first ever Man Booker International Prize.