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Book review: A Girl In Exile by Ismail Kadare

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Albania’s most internationally celebrated author here returns to the dying days of his country’s Stalinist (and intermittently Kafkaesque) tyranny.

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Playwright protagonist Rudian Stefa is anxiously awaiting the authorities’ approval of his latest work when he becomes involved in their investigation of a young internal exile’s suicide.

The dead girl had one of Stefa’s books, autographed to her, despite the two never having met. The only link between them seems to be Rudian’s lover Migena… who has herself disappeared.

It’s in the book’s opening chapters, when it most resembles a historical thriller, that the novel is weakest; it’s hard to care as Rudian’s own self-absorption keeps entrapping him further, especially when he somehow keeps dodging the worst of the consequences which should follow.

But once we finally get closer to the heart of the mystery, mythic allusions and one horribly convincing central concept confer a new power on an increasingly unusual tale.

Published by Harvill Secker

 

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