From Publishers Weekly
Kadare won the Man Booker International Prize last year for his searing documentation, in numerous works, of Albanian history and politics, particularly life under Communism (The General of the Dead Army,
etc.). This miscellany contains the title novella, finished in 1985 and published here in English for the first time, and two stories. The novella, a companion to Kadare's The Successor
, follows one day in the life of a young, unnamed journalist about to attend a celebratory May Day parade (under Communism, a highly charged political function). His "half-girl, half-woman" lover, Suzana, whose father's political star is one the rise, has just left the journalist in a sort of political sacrifice (the journalist is "practically engaged to someone else" and it looks bad). 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, "The Blinding Order" and "The Great Wall," which were completed in 1984 and 1993 respectively. (Nov.)
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The three tales collected here realize the theme of fear as an instrument of power with consummate art. In the novella "Agamemnon's Daughter," a man takes the anxiety of his lover breaking off with him to the Communist May Day celebration. As he walks to the parade ground, he tries to fathom what his inexplicably good grandstand-seat ticket portends for him and, indeed, for everyone at his government workplace. The fate of Iphigenia, sacrificed by her father so that the Greeks could reach Troy, nags him. Does it pertain to the loss of his lover, daughter of a party bigwig? "The Blinding Order," set in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, relates the kind of trickle-down effect the Agamemnon's Daughter
protagonist fears for his department from the perspective of a young woman whose fiance is appointed a judge responsible for enforcing the sultan's new measures against the evil eye. "The Great Wall" alternates the perspectives of a Chinese construction inspector and a nomad scout on either side of China's famous bulwark as Tamerlane's forces approach. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved