Fates of State

Booker winner Ismail Kadare's art of enigma

It's not giving anything away to say that Kadare provides no solution to the mystery of the Successor's death. He nods with almost equal emphasis in every direction at once. "All these ingredients churned unrelentingly in somber spirals," he writes. "But in every variant of the mix, the ingredients themselves remained irreducible." Ultimate responsibility recedes into the infinite, mythic distance, "the offspring of a great disorder in the universe." Whether such stubborn opacity works as a confession or a dodge of the author's own complicity is hard to say. He lets his architect answer in defiance: "Art is your vocation, its laws alone you should obey. Even if your art engenders murder, your hands will be clean."

Kadare: Cognitive dissident
photo: J. Foley/Opale
Kadare: Cognitive dissident


The Successor
By Ismail Kadare
Translated by David Bellos from the French of Tedi Papavrami
Arcade, 224 pp., $24

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    Ben Ehrenreich's first novel, The Suitors, will be published in the spring by Counterpoint.

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