AGAMEMNON'S DAUGHTER: A NOVEL AND STORIES By Ismail Kadare Translated from the French of Tedi Papwami and Jusuf Vrioni by David Bellos Arcade, $24,00, 226 pages
Before getting to the three tales that comprise Ismail Kadare's "Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories," readers must traverse two sections that amount to an extended preface.
From the "Translator's Note" readers learn that the three stories, "Agamemnon's Daughter," "The Blinding Order" and "The Great Wall," were written at different times, set in different historical periods and have been translated from the Albanian by two different people — Tedi
Paparvrami and Jusuf Vrioni — who wrote their translations in French. David Bellos has translated the French into English for the current volume.
From the section cited as being "Adapted from the publisher's preface to the French," readers hear from the Man Booker International Prize-winning author's French publisher, Claude Durand, that Mr. Kadare smuggled several of his writings from Albania into France bit by bit with passages disguised to make it look "like an Albanian translation written in the West."
Tlie publisher adds, "The manuscripts were deposited in a safe at the Banque de la Cite in Paris. With the Bank's approval Kadare entrusted me with the key to the safe and gave me authority to open if and when I thought it necessary, "At that time Ismail Kadare had no greater inkling than anyone else that Albanian Communism would collapse." In other words, before one even reaches the fierce and elegant stories that make up this book, one is pummeled with the enormity of the undertaking. It turns out; however, that the hardship of even getting the works to print is consistent with the many deprivations described in the art itself From the title story onward, the pages move to a beat that hammers out the cold corners of tyranny and oppression. Tliese are doleful tales that; nearly without relief^ capture the dehumanizing machinations of totalitarianism.