Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Agamamnon's Daughter


Reading ‘Agamemnon’s Daughter’ (Winner of The Man Booker Prize 2005) written by the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare was a revelation to me. A novella which hardly runs into a hundred odd pages is packed with the vitality of human life, which is the subject Kadare delves into.

Agamemnon is also ‘a searing story of love denied, then shattered under the chilling wheels of the state’. Kadare interlaces the story of a budding liberal media person and his love for the Suzana, the daughter of a highly placed official, who is tipped to become the head of the state. To attain that exalted and dictatorial post, a sacrifice is elicited from him, crueler than the mythical sacrifice of Ipigenia, daughter of Agamemnon at the altar of enthronement. The lesson that is dinned into the confused independence – craving society is that to be able to reach such a state almost on par with Stalin, one must also sacrifice their own children as Stalin sacrificed his only son, Yakov. ‘Yakov …had not been sacrificed so as to suffer the same fate as any other Russian soldier, as the dictator had claimed, but to give Stalin the right to demand the life of anyone else’.

All natural human activities are curtailed in the Communist Utopia of Albania in the name of socialism. Any dissent is dealt with an iron hand. Ismail Kadare writes, ‘Dissent was not possible. You risked being shot. Not, condemned, but shot for a word against the regime. A single word’.

As I would not like to be a killjoy by quoting much from either the novella or the blurbs on the covers, I would leave it to you dear readers, to read and enjoy the beauty of the brutally direct narration and the amazing vision that is captured in a text that is as tight as a new water tap.



redkazim said...

wow... I wonder if bookstores or libraries in Karachi have this novella -- that seems to be an interesting story. Will try to find it definitely.

reezan said...

The Communist Fantasyland would have lasted for a few more decades had there been no whistleblowers in countries from Russia to Romania. It collapsed like a pack cards so easily that it was unbelievable to our generation that believed it to be everlasting. Such voices of dissent that came from those totalitarian countries gave us graphic and often chilling picture of what life was like in any society which deprived their citizens of freedom so integral to human spirit. No ideology, however beautiful it looks, can bulldoze human beings into submission for long.

Haroun said...

Ismail Kadare falls into the category of writers who do not enter the popular charts, but is highly esteemed by serious readers like you, Chandini.

Kudos to you for your brief and enticing summing up of the novella, Agamemnon's Daughter.

There is a sequel to it, which too must be read in tandem before you can make a final assessment of Kadare's genious. Agamemnon's daughter is the first of the diptych of which the longer tale, The Successor, was written in Paris in 2002. Taken together, these two short novels constitute one of the finest and the most accomplished of all of Kadare's works to date.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Sounds fascinating, Chandini!