miércoles, 7 de abril de 2010

The Successor by Ismail Kadare.

Things are often not what they seem. Usually when this applies something ostensibly great turns out to be merely mundane. Occasionally, however, we meet an iceberg, an apparently small presence that becomes something vast and consequential. This latter case applies to The Successor by Ismail Kadare.

The Successor is apparently a small book. The cover shows a head in silhouette while a hand with a gun points from the left. “Just another predictable little thing in a predictable genre,” were my initial thoughts. The cover illustration is apposite, however, and remains so throughout the book’s short duration.

But in fact The Successor then reveals itself as a vast work, despite its obvious brevity. It’s about nothing less than a whole country, its politics, its very identity in a world that is changing around it.

The country is Albania and Ismail Karade is clearly born of its very soil. At least that truth is reliable. But how would we describe a successor who does not succeed, a guide who has lost the power of sight, an architect whose plans are ignored and a young woman engaged to be married who is not in love? Things are often not what they seem to be.

The Successor has been shot, hence the cover. And yes, The Successor is a whodunnit, but in no way is it predictable. When a whole nation identifies with and is driven by the political choices of its leadership, how can it ever change organically from within? The figurehead has to go, even if he has already gone! And if change was the product of poor judgment, then should history record a suicide? And from whose perspective do we assess success? And who has the right to change history?

In his preamble, the author humorously sets the tone by announcing that “any resemblance between characters and circumstances of this tale and real people and events is inevitable.” Thus, in a short book about a feud within an inner circle, Kadare creates a poetic world that mirrors reality, whose delicately-drawn images beautifully construct much larger ideas. The poignancy of a secret door that can only be opened from the outside is an idea that will last for a long time in a reader’s memory. The Successor is a great little book.

View the book on amazon
The Successor

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