Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another world: Albania and "Agamemnon's Daughter"

Ismail Kadare wrote Agamemnon's Daughter circa 1985, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the beginning end of what we once called Eastern Europe.  It is simultaneously a depiction of the banality of political repression -- the way it seeps into every human interaction, even just seeing someone across a crowd -- and an evocation of the extreme horrors (sacrificing their own children) that those in power will enact to preserve and extend their grip.

The setting is Albania. If you need help to locate it on a map, look just above Greece, across from Italy's "heel." Maybe this will help.

Albania was Communist from 1942 to 1992. You can read more about the contemporary history of the country and its current governmental and "transition economic" systems at Wikipedia or other resources online. 

My recollections are that as Communist country, it was even more extremely controlled than most of the Eastern Bloc, with almost no contact with "the west." Kadare's manuscript was smuggled out bits at a time, in part because exporting works about Albania was prohibited. That tale is told in the preface to this volume.

Because I hope you will read the novella, I won't recap the story, although this site does a good job of doing so. This review is by Australian expatriate Geoff Pound, then living in the United Arab Emirates. 

Ismail Kadare is my father's age and lives now in France and continues to write and publish in French. I will be looking for more of his work, as the writing is lovely, even at he confronts the brutality of humanity.

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