LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. Tundj Hata, the imperial courier, is charged with transporting heads to the capital – a task he relishes and performs with fervour. But as he travels through obscure and impoverished territories, he makes money from illicit side-shows, offering villagers the spectacle of death. The head of the rebellious Albanian governor would fetch a very high price. A surreal tale of rebellion and tyranny from the master of European literature.
The narrative unfurls with the shifting intensity of a dream, enriched by unsettlingly surreal details... It is a brilliant examination of the way that authoritarian structures operate: Kafka on a grander political scale.
Although on the surface this is a deeply compelling historical novel, its scope is wider. At heart, what Kadare seeks to demonstrate is the terrible nature of a world in which every human element is suborned to the state... Kadare well deserves his growing European audience.
An extraordinary and complex novel whose time has come...40 years after its initial publication [in Albanian]
In John Hodgson’s lucid translation, The Traitor’s Niche is absorbing from start to finish. Kadare’s allegorical burlesque has rarely been so trenchant.
The novel is a hymn to language, something that, as Ottoman bureaucrats intent on obliterating it instinctively know, and as Kadare’s novels prove, is not easily silenced