Tuesday, 10 March 2009
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.