cover image A Girl in Exile

A Girl in Exile

Ismail Kadare, trans. from the Albanian by John Hodgson. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $260 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61902-916-3

A middle-aged writer’s oblique connection to a young suicide is the avenue by which Kadare (The General of the Dead Army) provocatively explores the intrusive Albanian state apparatus of the 1980s. When the Party Committee summons writer Rudian Stefa, he worries artistic censors complained to the regime about his latest play. If not the play, perhaps he should worry about shoving his girlfriend Migena, or accusing her of being a spy. The regime’s invasiveness becomes increasingly clear as the tragedy of the dead girl—who grew up in exile—unfolds and connects her to Rudian; Migena asked him at a signing to autograph a book “for Linda B.” The authorities have Linda’s copy of the book and her diary, which reveals an obsession with Rudian and provides clues to a desperate plan that involves Migena. Comparisons to Kafka are inevitable, but there’s also some Joseph Heller here. Kadare successfully renders Big Brother, and, though Linda’s hopeless scheme strains credulity, this is nonetheless a poignant narrative about exile. (Jan.)