After last summer's hype surrounding the first International Man Booker Prize, the English-speaking world woke up to another strong foreign literary presence, Ismail Kadare. A flurry of debate followed, asking why so little translated literature makes it onto our bookshelves Ã¢Â€Â“ our market lags far behind others. Kadare, from Albania, has been writing since the 1950s (he is now 70) and 'The Successor' is his first novel printed in English since the Booker. It draws on his country's history Ã¢Â€Â“ the unsolved 1981 death of Albania's probable next leader, Mehmet Shehu, during the brutal Hoxha dictatorship Ã¢Â€Â“ though Kadare avoids real names or outright reference. And while events seem vague at first, we are soon drawn into a frightening world where uncertainty is the permanent reality - and dreaming and waking merge. Information is controlled so tightly that second-guessing, fear and guilt consume everyone but the leader himself. Orwellian comparisons will stand Ã¢Â€Â“ it's nightmarish stuff Ã¢Â€Â“ but, as Kadare points out, it's from "human memory", and not an invented dystopia. We rarely hear voices from this still-troubled corner of Eastern Europe. This atmospheric, gripping mystery, infused with awareness of the place and its people, only confirms how lucky we are to have Kadare's.
Published by Canongate. Out Now. (Cover Price Ã‚Â£9.99).