cover image The Palace of Dreams

The Palace of Dreams

Ismail Kadare. William Morrow & Company, $19 (205pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11183-0

First published in 1981 in Albania, where it was immediately banned, this hallucinatory novel unfolds as an extended parable about an all-controlling dictatorship that monitors even the subconscious lives of its citizens. The setting is 19th-century Albania, a backwater of the Ottoman Empire, which in Albanian novelist/poet Kadare's tense allegory represents the modern totalitarian police state. Mark-Alem works in the bureau of sleep and dreams, which collects, sorts and analyzes tens of thousands of dreams duly reported by an abject, compliant populace to a state that avers that ``the interpretation of a dream, fallen like a stray spark into the brain of one out of millions of sleepers, may help to save the country or its Sovereign from disaster . . . '' Assisted by his powerful uncle, the Vizier, Mark-Alem enjoys a meteoric rise in the dream-interpreting bureaucracy, but his failure to decipher one politically significant dream gives the state an opportunity to lash out against his aristocratic, patriotic family, leaving behind a pile of corpses. The author of four previous novels published to acclaim in Europe, Kadare found asylum in Paris two years before Albania elected its first noncommunist government. (Sept.)