cover image Night


Bilge Karasu. Louisiana State University Press, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-1849-8

Karasu's Kafka-esque political parable, first published in his native Turkey in 1984, evokes the fear and paralysis of will that grip ordinary citizens in a modern police state. His dystopia is a tyranny where squads of ``nightworkers'' randomly shoot or beat to death victims. The plot concerns a nameless, open-minded writer whose ex-schoolmate (known simply as ``N''), now the head of a repressive state agency, orders him to attend a symposium abroad. The writer learns in advance that he is to be shot--though not killed--at the conference for propaganda purposes. Sevinc, the agent assigned to set him up, becomes his homosexual lover; another agent, Sevim, N's former wife, develops a conscience and turns up dead on the writer's doorstep. In postmodern footnotes, Karasu periodically interrupts the narrative to further the plot while commenting on its artifice. Winner of the Mobil Corporation's Pegasus Prize honoring works from countries whose literature is rarely translated into English, this is a fiercely inventive novel, but the dreamlike atmosphere and setting tends to weaken its impact. (Apr.)