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Le crepuscule des dieux de la steppe

Summary Le crepuscule des dieux de la steppe

Ne aflam in anul 1958 Boris Pasternak tocmai a primit Premiul Nobel iar intreaga lume est europeana vuieste la aflarea vestii Pe fondul unor relatii albano sovietice tot mai reci un tanar de origine albaneza care studiaza literatura la Institutul Maxim Gorki din Moscova traieste timpuri confuze si complicate Indragostit de eterica si fascinanta Li. 1958 A young and talented Albanian author is sent to the centre of the Communist world in order to complete his literary education at the renowned Gorky Institute The bustling atmosphere of the Soviet capital with all its interesting opportunities in the cultural sphere despite the limitations that the communist ideology imposes the chance to meet with fellow writers from diverse backgrounds the less puritan lifestyle in Moscow compared to the and paranoid atmosphere in Enver Hoxha’s Albania and its then backwater capital Tirana and the elevated feeling to belong visibly to the chosen intellectual elite of the future in the communist world – all this should make this stay a pleasant experience for someone who aspires to be a professional writerAnd indeed we see our heronarrator who shares many experiences and characteristics with the book’s author at a writer’s holiday retreat on the Baltic sea – a previous one at the Crimea is mentioned enjoying romantic infatuations with several young women indulging in “typical” student’s activities in Moscow at that time like getting terribly drunk on several occasions and so on In between we follow our hero to lessons at the Gorky Institute which are moderately interesting or we read his talks discussions or overheard rumors that usually centre around the Russian literary elite; Yevtushenko asks the hero on one occasion in the corridor of the student’s building if he has seen Bella Akhmadulina – that’s the kind of every day experience the narrator has And yet for the main character Moscow and particularly the Gorky Institute and the literary circles become a serious disappointment for various reasonsWhen Lida Snegina the hero’s love interest for most of the book mentions to him that she doesn’t like living but only dead authors it sounds a bit provoking first But somehow this casual remark is a kind of trigger for some soul searching and analysis of the authors and would be authors that surround the hero at the Gorky Institute the majority of them mediocre figures willing to sell their souls and to change their convictions immediately if a new party line reuires it And their works books that have got almost nothing to do with the real life of the people in the Soviet Union or their respective homeland most of them idyllic descriptions of a non existing communist paradise without any literary valueThere is of course another literature in Russia at that time but it’s a literature that is banned and circulated only in Samizdat copied secretly and handed over clandestinely from friend to friend In an abandoned tract of the student’s building the narrator finds an incomplete manuscript of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago the famous banned novel for which Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature Once the news regarding this award is out a ferocious well orchestrated nation wide campaign against Pasternak is let loose a campaign that is so vicious that the narrator asks himself how it must feel when one is at the receiving end of so much hate propaganda venom and even threats against one’s own life No wonder that his opinion about most of his colleagues at the Gorky Institute becomes free of any illusionsAt long last after overcoming their adversaries having accused them of Stalinism liberalism bourgeois nationalism Russophobia petty nationalism Zionism modernism folklorism etc having crushed their literary careers and banned the publication of their works having hounded them into alcoholism or suicide or simply having had them deported that is to say after having done what had to be done they had been inspired to come to the Gorky Institute to complete their literary educationWhile this evaluation may be true for the big majority of students there are a few of his colleagues with whom the narrator develops a distanced friendship One of them the Greek Antaeus a veteran of the Greek Civil War and by coincidence a one time patient of a hospital in Gjirokaster the narrator’s home town reminds the narrator of the besa this Albanian obsession about the keeping of a once given word under all circumstances and even when it means to rise again from the dead as it happens in the old Albanian legend of Kostandin and Dorutine; this legend that plays a certain role in this novel There are references to Kadare novels that obviously are brainchilds of his stay in Moscow The General of the Dead Army The Niche of Shame and The Three Arched Bridge The world of the Kadare novels is full of cross references and The Twilight of the Eastern Gods is no exceptionI mentioned it in another review of a Kadare book it rains a lot in Kadare’s novels – as much as it does in the movies of Andrey Tarkovsky Twilight of the Eastern Gods is no exception but it gives a hint why this is a recurring theme in all of Kadare’s books In the books that were typical for the Socialist Realism of the 1950s it would hardly ever rain the sun was always shining over the Worker’s Fatherland The insistence on rain is also an act to distance himself from this kind of fantasy literature that was expected from writers who had graduated from the Gorky Institute; at least this is how I understand KadareIn the end Albania and the Soviet Union start to distance themselves; everybody seems to realize it before the narrator does it We know what will happen the narrator will have to return home and experience his own even worse dictatorship againMaybe Twilight of the Eastern Gods is not exactly on the same literary level as some of his masterpieces Broken April The Pyramid Palace of Dreams The General of the Dead Army Chronicle in Stone The Winter of our Discontent some of the characters are a bit flat but still it is a good novel that gives valuable insights in the world of this giant of contemporary world literature It is his most autobiographical book and I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in Kadare’s worksOne word about the translation and about the translations of Kadare’s books in general The reviewed edition in English is translated by David Bellos from the French translation by Jusuf Vrioni – similarly to The Siege that I reviewed here previously Overall not a bad effort although I am in principle opposed to this kind of translations that are for me only acceptable when there are no translators at all for a given combination of languages; so for this edition there is no excuse based on availability of translators There are excellent translators from Albanian to English But the case of Kadare is a bit complicated and – very typical for this author – even a bit ambiguous All books of Kadare that were published in Albania before 1992 were subject to censorship Some of his books were even banned after publication in Albania despite having undergone careful reading by the censors At the same time Kadare could publish some of his novels abroad or in Albania in translations His translator in French was Jusuf Vrioni also an author and close friend of Kadare Kadare speaks French and worked usually closely together with Vrioni in the process of translation to French After the fall of communism in Albania Kadare started to review his books and included in new editions also banned paragraphs and pages Therefore the updated French language editions of Vrioni would contain authentic versions of Kadare’s novels than the originally published Albanian versions At a later stage the expanded uncensored French versions were then published in Albanian in Kadare’s favourite publishing house Onufri The German translations of Kadare novels on the other hand are exclusively translated directly from Albanian based on the versions that Kadare authorizedThere is another reason why Kadare or his agent Mr Andrew Wiley usually favors a translation of his older novels from the French translation and not from the Albanian originals Albania has become very late a member of the relevant international agreements on authors’ rights and copyright As a result authors of Albanian works that were published prior to the ratification of these agreements by Albania have no copyright protection Kadare wouldn’t see a penny of royalties for a translation of any of his earlier novels unless a publisher would – for ethic not for legal reasons – decide to compensate him The French translation is considered according to these agreements as a new work because it includes many changes compared to the original Albanian text and is therefore subject to royalties Not that it affects in any way the literary value of Kadare’s works but this background is necessary to know if one wants to understand the strange translation practice of his work in the Anglophone world

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Da naratorul incearca sa si salveze povestea de iubire luptand in paralel cu dramele unei istorii tulburi si amenintatoare Fara a i dezvalui Lidei care manifesta o adevarata aversiune fata de ipocrizia viitorilor scriitori ce urmeaza cursurile Institutului ca are veleitati literare el isi duce pana la paroxism vina de a nu fi spus adevarul Aidoma. This is far interesting as a snapshot of 1950s literary life in Moscow than as a novel but it nevertheless held my attention and I was pleased to read something from the acclaimed Albanian writer who based the book on his own two years spent at the prestigious Gorky Institute in 1958 1960 The novel opens with the narrator on a summer holiday in Riga at one of the Institute’s retreats where he meets Lida who supplies most of the love interest Back in Moscow we meet his fellow students who mostly act like students do the world over and get a glimpse of life in the student residence What we don’t get is a look at the teaching in the Institute but it is uite possible that Kadare didn’t think it worth spending time on The Institute's aim was to educate literary aspirants in the tenets of Socialist Realism rather than foster literary talent The second part of the book concentrates on the furore caused by Pasternak being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and the torrent of criticism from the establishment and the public that it sparkedThere are cameo appearances by real people such as Yevtushenko and other writers and certainly the novel is atmospheric and a valuable slice of Moscow literary life but as a novel there is little plot and little effective characterisation and it plods along uite tediously most of the time The introduction from translator David Bellos is invaluable as is the list of real people who appear but essentially it’s a book for dedicated Russophiles or students of Russian literary life rather than the general reader

Ismail Kadare ☆ 4 Read

Personajului unei legende albaneze eroul stie ca odata ce si a incalcat cuvantul lucrurile sunt ireversibile si nu pot apuca decat pe un fagas nefast Intr o Moscova intunecata in care siluete neverosimile se profileaza de a lungul strazilor cufundate intr o ceata eterna dragostea si cruzimile istoriei se intalnesc intr o poveste cu rezonanta mitic. Inscrutable Literary MoscowIn the later 1950s Albanian author Ismail Kadare spent two years at the Gorky Institute in Moscow This brief novel published in 1978 is a lightly fictionalized account of his time in the Soviet Union It is a mixed bag probably of greatest interest to scholars of Soviet literature and those who have read extensively into the author's oeuvre than I have Probably the best thing is the introduction by translator David Bellos who sets the book splendidly in context But in actually translating he can't do much with the freuent proper names literary references and interpolations in other languages Really the book needs footnotes as well Here is an exampleIn my dreams I was lying in a large bath and although the art history professor whose job it was to turn on the hot tap kept saying Ubr jazëk the water still would not come Then she declared We are in the very same hammam where Aragon Elsa Triolet and Lida took a bath but the aesthetico ideological nature of a hammam is conditioned in the first place by 'tuuli unch bll' that is to say by the typical situation in other words by 'tuuli zox'The position of writers in the Soviet Union was like something out of Kafka or Ishiguro They have their own union their own residence halls their own summer retreat centers on the Baltic or the Black Sea But this is a restrictive community than a liberating one; the most interesting literary section in the novel concerns the concerted campaign against Boris Pasternak when his Nobel Prize was announced in 1958 Other than that there is a just a procession of last names that might mean something to Russian readers but are meaningless to meBut Kadare was also a young man with normal young men's appetites; the most approachable parts of the book concern his adventures with girls There is his main girlfriend medical student Lida Snegina whom he eventually beueaths to a fellow writer in a fit of drunken piue And plenty of others whether on the Baltic coast near Riga or visiting a dacha outside Moscow But there was too little of ordinary human interest to sustain me or to raise my personal reading experience above the It's OK level Though I am prepared to accept that Kadare is a major writer and that this novel in the context of his other work makes a real contribution Just not one that I can appreciate Haven's Knight the later 1950s Albanian author Ismail Kadare spent The Darkest Evening of the Year two years at Flying by Night: Book 1 of the Coven of the Jeweled Dragon the Gorky Institute in Moscow This brief novel published in 1978 is a lightly fictionalized account of his The Spy Who Loved Me time in Errar é Divino the Soviet Union It is a mixed bag probably of greatest interest Harry Clarke With Bonus Performance: Lillian to scholars of Soviet literature and Emerging India: Economics, Politics and Reforms those who have read extensively into Nine Questions For A Princess the author's oeuvre Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions than I have Probably One Part Woman the best One Part Woman thing is Kashmiri Cooking the introduction by The Last Dance translator David Bellos who sets English Bites the book splendidly in context But in actually Lost Loves: Exploring Rama's Anguish translating he can't do much with English Bites the freuent proper names literary references and interpolations in other languages Really Naughty Men the book needs footnotes as well Here is an exampleIn my dreams I was lying in a large bath and although Miserable Success (Short) the art history professor whose job it was Verdicts on Nehru: The Rise and Fall of A Reputation (e-Single) to The Magic Drum And Other Favourite Stories turn on Goal Butterfingers the hot Psychoanalytic Case Formulation tap kept saying Ubr jazëk Red Sun the water still would not come Then she declared We are in Uncle Sam (Short) the very same hammam where Aragon Elsa Triolet and Lida Nine Book Three: The Rise of the Kalingan took a bath but Nonalignment 2.0: A Foreign & Strategic Policy for India in the 21st Century (A Foreign and Strategic Policy) the aesthetico ideological nature of a hammam is conditioned in Rebels in Rajasthan (Adventures of the Flying Jharokha) the first place by 'tuuli unch bll' Red Sun that is Dance Like a Man: A Stage Play in Two Acts to say by Red Sun the Middle India: Selected Short Stories typical situation in other words by 'tuuli zox'The position of writers in Emperor the Soviet Union was like something out of Kafka or Ishiguro They have A Family Affair: India Under Three Prime Ministers their own union My days in Prison their own residence halls Hanuman: An Introduction their own summer retreat centers on The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community the Baltic or No More Questions: The Final Travels of U.G. Krishnamurti the Black Sea But Ashwathy and the Boot of God this is a restrictive community A Treasury of Indian Wisdom than a liberating one; Poachers in Paradise: The Adventures of the Magic Flying Jharoka the most interesting literary section in How the Kauravas Were Born the novel concerns Between Lives the concerted campaign against Boris Pasternak when his Nobel Prize was announced in 1958 Other World Class In India: A Casebook Of Companies In Transformation than The Prevalence Of Witches that Making a Mango Whistle there is a just a procession of last names Picture Imperfect and Other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries that might mean something Naked In The Wind to Russian readers but are meaningless Get Smart: Maths Concepts to meBut Kadare was also a young man with normal young men's appetites; Karl Aaj Aur Kal the most approachable parts of Remote Control: Indian Television in the New Millennium the book concern his adventures with girls There is his main girlfriend medical student Lida Snegina whom he eventually beueaths Panther's Moon and Other Stories to a fellow writer in a fit of drunken piue And plenty of others whether on Unprincess! the Baltic coast near Riga or visiting a dacha outside Moscow But The Quickening there was Women and Partition: A Reader too little of ordinary human interest Rabindranath Tagore: The Renaissance Man to sustain me or Tata Log to raise my personal reading experience above Partition: The Long Shadow the It's OK level Though I am prepared Tatalog: Eight Modern Stories from a Timeless Institution to accept Getting Granny's Glasses that Kadare is a major writer and Kanshiram: Leader of the Dalits that The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight this novel in The Soldier's Curse the context of his other work makes a real contribution Just not one The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future that I can appreciate


10 thoughts on “Le crepuscule des dieux de la steppe

  1. says:

    A strange lucid sometimes alienating snapshot of life as a Soviet writer the year that Pasternak won the nobel prize It feels ferociously contemporary in the way it veers between autobiography and invention and there are some absolutely bravura seuences the first chapter in particular is stellar The blur of characters and detail and the occasional fevered seuence make things a bit confusing and this is a classic case of one of my least favorite tropes a male protagonist who impulsively acts badlyerratically as a function of plot alone On the line level it's extraordinary In short a strange one Check it out if you have interest in non Russian Soviet writers They've been a low level obsession of mine lately and this is the best illustration so far of their constraints


  2. says:

    1958 A young and talented Albanian author is sent to the centre of the Communist world in order to complete his literary education at the renowned Gorky Institute The bustling atmosphere of the Soviet capital with all its interesting opportunities in the cultural sphere despite the limitations that the communist ideology imposes the chance to meet with fellow writers from diverse backgrounds the less puritan lifestyle in Moscow compared to the and paranoid atmosphere in Enver Hoxha’s Albania and its then backwater capital Tirana and the elevated feeling to belong visibly to the chosen intellectual elite of the future in the communist world – all this should make this stay a pleasant experience for someone who aspires to be a professional writerAnd indeed we see our heronarrator who shares many experiences and characteristics with the book’s author at a writer’s holiday retreat on the Baltic sea – a previous one at the Crimea is mentioned enjoying romantic infatuations with several young women indulging in “typical” student’s activities in Moscow at that time like getting terribly drunk on several occasions and so on In between we follow our hero to lessons at the Gorky Institute which are moderately interesting or we read his talks discussions or overheard rumors that usually centre around the Russian literary elite; Yevtushenko asks the hero on one occasion in the corridor of the student’s building if he has seen Bella Akhmadulina – that’s the kind of every day experience the narrator has And yet for the main character Moscow and particularly the Gorky Institute and the literary circles become a serious disappointment for various reasonsWhen Lida Snegina the hero’s love interest for most of the book mentions to him that she doesn’t like living but only dead authors it sounds a bit provoking first But somehow this casual remark is a kind of trigger for some soul searching and analysis of the authors and would be authors that surround the hero at the Gorky Institute the majority of them mediocre figures willing to sell their souls and to change their convictions immediately if a new party line reuires it And their works books that have got almost nothing to do with the real life of the people in the Soviet Union or their respective homeland most of them idyllic descriptions of a non existing communist paradise without any literary valueThere is of course another literature in Russia at that time but it’s a literature that is banned and circulated only in Samizdat copied secretly and handed over clandestinely from friend to friend In an abandoned tract of the student’s building the narrator finds an incomplete manuscript of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago the famous banned novel for which Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature Once the news regarding this award is out a ferocious well orchestrated nation wide campaign against Pasternak is let loose a campaign that is so vicious that the narrator asks himself how it must feel when one is at the receiving end of so much hate propaganda venom and even threats against one’s own life No wonder that his opinion about most of his colleagues at the Gorky Institute becomes free of any illusionsAt long last after overcoming their adversaries having accused them of Stalinism liberalism bourgeois nationalism Russophobia petty nationalism Zionism modernism folklorism etc having crushed their literary careers and banned the publication of their works having hounded them into alcoholism or suicide or simply having had them deported that is to say after having done what had to be done they had been inspired to come to the Gorky Institute to complete their literary educationWhile this evaluation may be true for the big majority of students there are a few of his colleagues with whom the narrator develops a distanced friendship One of them the Greek Antaeus a veteran of the Greek Civil War and by coincidence a one time patient of a hospital in Gjirokaster the narrator’s home town reminds the narrator of the besa this Albanian obsession about the keeping of a once given word under all circumstances and even when it means to rise again from the dead as it happens in the old Albanian legend of Kostandin and Dorutine; this legend that plays a certain role in this novel There are references to Kadare novels that obviously are brainchilds of his stay in Moscow The General of the Dead Army The Niche of Shame and The Three Arched Bridge The world of the Kadare novels is full of cross references and The Twilight of the Eastern Gods is no exceptionI mentioned it in another review of a Kadare book it rains a lot in Kadare’s novels – as much as it does in the movies of Andrey Tarkovsky Twilight of the Eastern Gods is no exception but it gives a hint why this is a recurring theme in all of Kadare’s books In the books that were typical for the Socialist Realism of the 1950s it would hardly ever rain the sun was always shining over the Worker’s Fatherland The insistence on rain is also an act to distance himself from this kind of fantasy literature that was expected from writers who had graduated from the Gorky Institute; at least this is how I understand KadareIn the end Albania and the Soviet Union start to distance themselves; everybody seems to realize it before the narrator does it We know what will happen the narrator will have to return home and experience his own even worse dictatorship againMaybe Twilight of the Eastern Gods is not exactly on the same literary level as some of his masterpieces Broken April The Pyramid Palace of Dreams The General of the Dead Army Chronicle in Stone The Winter of our Discontent some of the characters are a bit flat but still it is a good novel that gives valuable insights in the world of this giant of contemporary world literature It is his most autobiographical book and I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in Kadare’s worksOne word about the translation and about the translations of Kadare’s books in general The reviewed edition in English is translated by David Bellos from the French translation by Jusuf Vrioni – similarly to The Siege that I reviewed here previously Overall not a bad effort although I am in principle opposed to this kind of translations that are for me only acceptable when there are no translators at all for a given combination of languages; so for this edition there is no excuse based on availability of translators There are excellent translators from Albanian to English But the case of Kadare is a bit complicated and – very typical for this author – even a bit ambiguous All books of Kadare that were published in Albania before 1992 were subject to censorship Some of his books were even banned after publication in Albania despite having undergone careful reading by the censors At the same time Kadare could publish some of his novels abroad or in Albania in translations His translator in French was Jusuf Vrioni also an author and close friend of Kadare Kadare speaks French and worked usually closely together with Vrioni in the process of translation to French After the fall of communism in Albania Kadare started to review his books and included in new editions also banned paragraphs and pages Therefore the updated French language editions of Vrioni would contain authentic versions of Kadare’s novels than the originally published Albanian versions At a later stage the expanded uncensored French versions were then published in Albanian in Kadare’s favourite publishing house Onufri The German translations of Kadare novels on the other hand are exclusively translated directly from Albanian based on the versions that Kadare authorizedThere is another reason why Kadare or his agent Mr Andrew Wiley usually favors a translation of his older novels from the French translation and not from the Albanian originals Albania has become very late a member of the relevant international agreements on authors’ rights and copyright As a result authors of Albanian works that were published prior to the ratification of these agreements by Albania have no copyright protection Kadare wouldn’t see a penny of royalties for a translation of any of his earlier novels unless a publisher would – for ethic not for legal reasons – decide to compensate him The French translation is considered according to these agreements as a new work because it includes many changes compared to the original Albanian text and is therefore subject to royalties Not that it affects in any way the literary value of Kadare’s works but this background is necessary to know if one wants to understand the strange translation practice of his work in the Anglophone world


  3. says:

    I would wander for a while around the gardens of the Writers’ RetreatThe Baltic turned a slightly different colour each nightWould I manage to break free from my enslavement?Men sometimes appeared beneath the disguise of initials in booksIt is difficult to go around with foreignersThey often leave without even telling a word I came from an ancient Balkan land with grandiose legends about the given wordHer departure would be like an eclipse of the moonIt is said in our land the given word makes Death step backWe were now connected by a small secretI prefer not to know where I’m going I like walking aimlesslyAll great art expresses universal painEverybody has their share of that painYou have to let your imagination roam sometimesYou can never know in advance from which forgotten depths the attack will comeThe corridor was endless The emptiness in the corridor was unbearableBy meeting a writer you might become someoneLet loneliness cure lonelinessTypical characters arise in typical situationsThat’s the way large nations always behaveScare the peopleBesa — Albanian wordOne day it will come into every language in the worldSunday — The day was rushing away beneath my feetIt was only ever today Eternally nowHer eyes seemed like a very old painting worn away by timeMy story is about dead peopleStories that would never be written and would never be performed on any stageThey’ll never write any of the things they’ll tell each otherThey’ll write other things often the exact oppositeWhat kind of country is this? And why am I in it?A novel called Doctor Zhivago had bagged the NobelIt had to be a bad novel A very bad oneA living army commanded by the ghosts of a dead general and a dead priestA fantastic inventionOr a dead army commanded by a living general and a living priestThe Nobel Prize — A Scandinavian plagueA poisoned gift of the international bourgeoisieuarantine was declared the following afternoon


  4. says:

    This is far interesting as a snapshot of 1950s literary life in Moscow than as a novel but it nevertheless held my attention and I was pleased to read something from the acclaimed Albanian writer who based the book on his own two years spent at the prestigious Gorky Institute in 1958 1960 The novel opens with the narrator on a summer holiday in Riga at one of the Institute’s retreats where he meets Lida who supplies most of the love interest Back in Moscow we meet his fellow students who mostly act like students do the world over and get a glimpse of life in the student residence What we don’t get is a look at the teaching in the Institute but it is uite possible that Kadare didn’t think it worth spending time on The Institute's aim was to educate literary aspirants in the tenets of Socialist Realism rather than foster literary talent The second part of the book concentrates on the furore caused by Pasternak being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and the torrent of criticism from the establishment and the public that it sparkedThere are cameo appearances by real people such as Yevtushenko and other writers and certainly the novel is atmospheric and a valuable slice of Moscow literary life but as a novel there is little plot and little effective characterisation and it plods along uite tediously most of the time The introduction from translator David Bellos is invaluable as is the list of real people who appear but essentially it’s a book for dedicated Russophiles or students of Russian literary life rather than the general reader


  5. says:

    Twilight of the Eastern Gods is a valid—although not the most significant—contribution to the world literature that underlines the belief that freedom of speech should be an absolute human right It revolves around the reaction of the Russian people to the news that Boris Pasternak was to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature and it was not a celebration far from it It was a shame what Pasternak went through but what would be a real shame is that he went through it and nothing ever changed That said this is not Kadare’s best work although it has its moments It might have been realistic to include all the romance for want of a better word but it does take away from the momentous events going on all around him and yet strangely enough I felt short changed on both countsRead my full review on my blog here


  6. says:

    Kadare is one of my favorite writers but I feel like this is one of his weaker works I like the parts about the Soviet writer community the promoted values and the workings of propaganda Some of the other writers were uite memorable just like the part about the writer living far away in Siberia and what a day means to him The short mention of Albanian folklore was also very interesting However the book did not do as much for the me because I found the main character extremely unlikable but not in an interesting way Maybe a longer book would have brought some depth


  7. says:

    Rating is of a reflection of my lack of awareness of anything this was commentating on rather than on the novel itself Also lol I kept waiting for him to go back and start reading doctor Zhivago I loved the folklore though and found it hilarious how it led him into pretending he was dead to his girlfriend


  8. says:

    Inscrutable Literary MoscowIn the later 1950s Albanian author Ismail Kadare spent two years at the Gorky Institute in Moscow This brief novel published in 1978 is a lightly fictionalized account of his time in the Soviet Union It is a mixed bag probably of greatest interest to scholars of Soviet literature and those who have read extensively into the author's oeuvre than I have Probably the best thing is the introduction by translator David Bellos who sets the book splendidly in context But in actually translating he can't do much with the freuent proper names literary references and interpolations in other languages Really the book needs footnotes as well Here is an exampleIn my dreams I was lying in a large bath and although the art history professor whose job it was to turn on the hot tap kept saying Ubr jazëk the water still would not come Then she declared We are in the very same hammam where Aragon Elsa Triolet and Lida took a bath but the aesthetico ideological nature of a hammam is conditioned in the first place by 'tuuli unch bll' that is to say by the typical situation in other words by 'tuuli zox'The position of writers in the Soviet Union was like something out of Kafka or Ishiguro They have their own union their own residence halls their own summer retreat centers on the Baltic or the Black Sea But this is a restrictive community than a liberating one; the most interesting literary section in the novel concerns the concerted campaign against Boris Pasternak when his Nobel Prize was announced in 1958 Other than that there is a just a procession of last names that might mean something to Russian readers but are meaningless to meBut Kadare was also a young man with normal young men's appetites; the most approachable parts of the book concern his adventures with girls There is his main girlfriend medical student Lida Snegina whom he eventually beueaths to a fellow writer in a fit of drunken piue And plenty of others whether on the Baltic coast near Riga or visiting a dacha outside Moscow But there was too little of ordinary human interest to sustain me or to raise my personal reading experience above the It's OK level Though I am prepared to accept that Kadare is a major writer and that this novel in the context of his other work makes a real contribution Just not one that I can appreciate


  9. says:

    I think I've read enough Kadare now to pinpoint the type of his writing I like the best books about something he has direct experience with but not books that border on the autobiographical When he writes a story about something he has limited or no experience with like The Pyramid or The Siege the book doesn't rise to the heights of his works where he can draw upon his life experiences When he writes something that's less a fictional story than a recounting of actual events the structure of the work suffers and the writing isn't uite as lively lyrical or beautiful as normal Chronicle in Stone only has these issues to a minor degree as Kadare was writing of his childhood decades after the fact and at that point childhood is less an actual experience than a series of stories you've told yourself a thousand times before Twilight of the Eastern Gods however is a book written while the memories were still fresh to Kadare and so the book lacks the slight otherworldly mood present in many of his other works The writing is also far sterile than Kadare's usually is meaning that although there are still beautiful scenes and passages there are fewer here than in other Kadare books While the blurb on the flap of the book makes it sound as though there is an overriding story drawing parallels between Kadare and Pasternak in fact Pasternak only becomes a central topic two thirds into the book Instead the main plot primarily concerns a failed relationship that is also a reimagining of an Albanian myth though this main plot takes up far fewer pages than the space Kadare uses to recount vignettes and scenes from his time at the Gorky Institute These scenes never come to a climax or resolution and while some provide context and symbolic significance to the failing central romance others don't which leaves the book feeling somewhat disjointed and rambling In sum it's not bad but it's a long way from my favorite Kadare Going forward I'm going to prioritize his purely fictional works above any of his semi autobiographical works though of course you'll have to give each a try to figure out if you share my preference


  10. says:

    In this book Kadare combines a love story written as a memoir with narrative on the Russian political landscape during Khrushchev's era As a young Albanian literature student at the Maxim Gorki Institute in Moscow Kadare finds it difficult to maintain his already loose love affair with the Russian Lida when the Russo Albanian relations cool down This cool down is the main story of the book but perhaps willingly finds little physical space in this writing Instead we are faced with the unexciting presentation of the love story and several spicy pages on the Russian society such as the account of the response to Boris Pasternak being awarded the Nobel Literature Prize for publishing in the West his novel Doctor Zhivago which was censored in Russia Not his best either on the romantic or on the political sides


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