I haven’t read any other Ismail Kadare books before this one. I am going to. He’s an Albanian writer who wrote a lot of anti-authoritarian novels previously, and has been a perennially listed writer to maybe some day win the Nobel Prize (RIP Nobel Prize?). I also feel like maybe his best work is behind him.
This book is interesting in a lot of ways, but it’s so utterly slight in its gravity and form that the promising idea, which is handled with care, does not amount to as much as it could in a longer novel.
The premise is that a writer is being investigated in Communist Albania because a copy of his novel, signed and monographed to “Linda B” is found in the hands of a state enemy. He is shocked but doesn’t know or remember the woman. This inspires him to learn more about her and he finds a kind of love and affection for her from his investigation that mirrors her own love and affection for him based on her reading his writing. For me this is an interesting and subtle set of themes, but the novel feels so slight and not layered enough to make much more out of this. And so the few digressions and sidenotes the novel makes feel out of sort with the scope of the rest. It occupies an uncomfortable, short weight….both too short and too long.
This would make a great movie though. It’s a beautiful premise that could definitely be realized in cinematic exposure.
One thing it does do well though is capture what I always feel is smaller and more terrifying about actual dystopias as opposed to fictional ones.