Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Successor - Ismail Kadare

In 1981, Mehmet Shehu, the prime minister and the designated successor of Enver Hoxha , the dictator of Albania, dies in mysterious circumstances. He was found dead by a gun shot, in his house, supposedly committed suicide. It was unclear whether it was a suicide or murder, and was a news for the rest of the world for some time.

Ismail Kadare's book 'The Successor', is based on this event and its aftermaths. He play along the line of speculation of suicide or murder, looking at the events through the eyes of various stake holders. Successor, recently fallen out of favour with 'the Guide ( supreme leader of Albania), after the engagement of his daughter to one of the rich families of Tirana, thus tainted as a traitor, foreign agent and a bourgeois.

Kadare looks at this event from various perspective, trying to understand the motives and the effects of the same. After the initial rumours the political and civil society of Tirana is hoping to hear from the Guide, to formally come out with explanation. Guide on his part, keep the suspense on, giving indications of clearing the deceased of his committed crime and re-instating his past glory. The family of the Successor was bundled into a van and was taken away to internal exile. The others in the polit-bureau are not spared. The next in line, whom the rest is expected to be named as new Successor, was also trapped by some clever manipulations by the Guide. With more people biting the dust, the Guide himself seems to be not in control. He is ailing, with diabetes and loss of vision.

Kadare, in his typical satirical style, manages to bring out the fear and paranoia affected the society, effectively. None, including the Guide is not away from that. The Successor himself speak from his grave ( post the death of Hoxha), talking about the fate of Albania. The end pages have some fantastic writing by Kadare.


The Successor

Ismail Kadare ( translated from the French of Tedi Papavrami by David Bellos)

Arcade Publishing, New York.

207 Pages

Other reviews: Complete Review, Guardian , Wordswithoutborders , The monthly

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