In a profound and unsettling novel set in the Balkan peninsula, Ismail Kadare depicts an insidious and highly effective empire. At the heart of the Sultan's vast but fragile empire stands the mysterious Palace of Dreams: the most secret, powerful, macabre ministry ever invented. Its task is to scour every town, village, and hamlet to collect the citizens' dreams, then to sift, sort, and classify them, and ultimately to interpret them, in order to identify the Master-Dreams that will provide clues to the empire's ...
In a profound and unsettling novel set in the Balkan peninsula, Ismail Kadare depicts an insidious and highly effective empire. At the heart of the Sultan's vast but fragile empire stands the mysterious Palace of Dreams: the most secret, powerful, macabre ministry ever invented. Its task is to scour every town, village, and hamlet to collect the citizens' dreams, then to sift, sort, and classify them, and ultimately to interpret them, in order to identify the Master-Dreams that will provide clues to the empire's destiny and that of its monarch. An entire nation's unconscious is thus tapped and meticulously laid bare in the form of images and symbols of the dreaming mind. The people employed by the ministry work in constant dread of overlooking that one crucial dream that will forewarn the Sultan of impending doom. Mark-Alem, scion of a noble family that has provided Viziers to the Sultan from time immemorial, a family whose power the Sultan distrusts, is recruited into the Palace of Dreams at the humblest level. But rapidly he rises through the hierarchy. Through his bewildered eyes we see the intimate workings of this labyrinthine institution that must, fatally, grind him up - along with his family - in its blind mechanism of oppression. The Palace of Dreams stands at the center of the kingdom of darkness; it is the symbol of the thought-police who have, through history, been the most effective instruments at the service of dictators.
This is a strange book, difficult to characterize. . . . Mr. Kadare's evident knack is to be mordant, witty, amusing with his passing jokes and graceful sentences. He demonstrates a talent for invoking the extraordinary significance of a commonplace moment, which is no mean accomplishment. . . . Not much happens in the novel, and its series of small, self-conscious and even self-congratulatory moves can get to be, even in a relatively short book, a bit tiresome.
- Publisher's Weekly
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.)
The Palace of Dreams is the most powerful bureaucracy in the Ottoman Empire, for here ``all the dreams of all citizens without exception'' are interpreted, classified, and stored. Once a week a Master Dream is chosen to reveal ``the true state of the Empire.'' Into this infinitely treacherous labyrinth steps Mark-Alem, whose naivete brings injury to his ancient Albanian family and--paradoxically--propels him to the pinnacle of power. Kadare is Albania's best-known writer, and his new novel shapes an elegant metaphor for that country's late dictatorship, which he fled in 1990. Recommended for most collections of literary fiction.-- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.62 (d)
Meet the Author
Ismail Kadare is the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize, and is acclaimed worldwide as one of the most important writers of our time. Translations of his novels have been published in more than forty countries. He divides his time between Paris, France, and Tirana, Albania.
Barbara Bray has twice won the Scott Moncrief Prize for her translations, as well as the French-American Foundation Prize.
She has collaborated with Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey on a ﬁlm adaptation of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. She passed away in 2010.