A sinister totalitarian ministry called the Palace of Dreams recruits Mark-Alem to sort, classify, and interpret the dreams of the people in the empire, seeking the master-dreams that give clues to the empire's destiny.
"Echoes of Kafka and Borges meet the dystopia of recent Balkan history in this first English translation of a novel by exiled Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. An unusually complete vision of totalitarianism, the story is set in an Ottoman capital slightly beyond the reach of time and involves the career of Mark-Alem in the Palace of Dreams. In Kadare's world, the empire is controlled via the systematic collection of the dreams of its populace by the agents of the Palace of Dreams. Mark-Alem is taught to sift, sort, classify, and ultimately interpret the dreams of the imperial populace in order to discover the "master-dream" that will predict the empire's bloody future. Obviously a metaphor for the Albanian police state Kadare fled in 1990, the novel is a disturbing psychological study of the cost upon the individual of servicing the machine of state oppression. Kadare draws Mark-Alem deeper and deeper into the nightmare world of the Palace of Dreams and examines the growing toll upon his hero's personality and mind of his service to an empire addicted to inexplicable acts of violence toward its citizens and its own servants. This is a well-written, disturbing story that explores a unique point of view. ~--John Shreffler"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved