A strange, lucid, sometimes alienating snapshot of life as a Soviet writer the year that Pasternak won the nobel prize.
A young and talented Albanian author is sent to the centre of the Communist world in order to complete his literary education at the renowned Gorky Institute. In between, we follow our hero to lessons at the Gorky Institute, which are moderately interesting, or we read his talks, discussions or overheard rumors that usually centre around the Russian literary elite; Yevtushenko asks the hero on one occasion in the corridor of the students building, if he has seen Bella (Akhmadulina) thats the kind of every day experience the narrator has. At the same time, Kadare could publish some of his novels abroad or in Albania in translations. After the fall of communism in Albania, Kadare started to review his books and included in new editions also banned paragraphs and pages. Therefore, the updated French language editions of Vrioni would contain more authentic versions of Kadares novels than the originally published Albanian versions. There is another reason why Kadare (or his agent, Mr Andrew Wiley) usually favors a translation of his older novels from the French translation, and not from the Albanian originals. As a result, authors of Albanian works that were published prior to the ratification of these agreements by Albania, have no copyright protection. The French translation is considered according to these agreements as a new work (because it includes many changes compared to the original Albanian text), and is therefore subject to royalties.
There are cameo appearances by real people, such as Yevtushenko and other writers, and certainly the novel is atmospheric and a valuable slice of Moscow literary life, but as a novel there is little plot and little effective characterisation and it plods along quite tediously most of the time.
It was a shame what Pasternak went through but what would be a real shame is that he went through it and nothing ever changed.
E fra incontri amorosi e fraterni, fra epidemie che vere o presunte costringono l'allontanamento fra le genti di Mosca, lo scrittore cerca di non soccombere a ciò che viene imposto dall'alto, lì dove i suoi compagni sono pronti a seguire senza remore gli ordini del partito. Frammentario, non nei tempi ma nelle vicende che paiono quasi scollegate fra loro, si ricongiunge solo nella fine, dove tutto il disegno dello scrittore finalmente si chiarisce, pur lasciando un finale completamente aperto.
Then she declared, "We are in the very same hammam where Aragon, Elsa Triolet and Lida took a bath, but the aesthetico-ideological nature of a hammam is conditioned in the first place by 'tuuli unch bll,' that is to say by the typical situation in other words by 'tuuli zox'".The position of writers in the Soviet Union was like something out of Kafka or Ishiguro. They have their own union, their own residence halls, their own summer retreat centers on the Baltic or the Black Sea. But this is more a restrictive community than a liberating one; the most interesting literary section in the novel concerns the concerted campaign against Boris Pasternak when his Nobel Prize was announced in 1958. Though I am prepared to accept that Kadare is a major writer and that this novel, in the context of his other work, makes a real contribution.
He has divided his time between Albania and France since 1990. In 1960 Kadare returned to Albania after the country broke ties with the Soviet Union, and he became a journalist and published his first poems. His first novel, The General of the Dead Army, sprang from a short story, and its success established his name in Albania and enabled Kadare to become a full-time writer.