Book Review: Agamemnon’s Daughter: A Novella & Stories by Ismail Kadare (Five Stars)


Book Review: Agamemnon’s Daughter: A Novella & Stories by Ismail Kadare

(Five Stars)

“To launch the ancient Trojan Wars/ They offered up Iphigenia./ For the sake of our great cause/ I’ll carry my darling to the pyre.”

The unifying theme is the urge to power. Whatever the other motives may be for our actions, Kadare sees that we seek power, even when our actions seem otherwise. And we are just victims with evil, but collaborators.

“We’d taken a path not really knowing where it would lead, not knowing how long it was, ands while still on our way, realizing we had taken the wrong road but that it was too late to turn back, every one of us, so as to not be swallowed up by the dark, had started slicing off pieces of our own flesh.”

The three stories differ in setting time and characters, but are all told from the point of view of a close observer, though not the decision makers. Set in Albania in the early 1980s; parallels to George Orwell’s 1984.

Yakov [Stalin’s son] … 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 everyone else.”

Kadare’s critique of Enver Hoxha’s absolutist regime in Albania from 1944 to 1985 can be leveled at many western democracies. Whichever side eventually wins the struggle for power, the impact on the people will be the same—indistinguishable from Albania’s Hoxhaism, China’s cultural revolution, or Russia’s Stalinism. Yes, it could happen here; clues are all around us.

“Let us revolutionize everything … How many years of such a drought would it take to reduce life to a stony waste? And why? Only because when life is withered and stunted, it is also easier to control.”