A Dictator Calls

A Dictator Calls

Summary

'Comrade Stalin wishes to speak with you.'

A fascinating exploration of the relationship between writers and tyranny, from the winner of the first Man Booker International Prize.


In June 1934, Joseph Stalin allegedly telephoned the famous novelist and poet Boris Pasternak to discuss the arrest of fellow Soviet poet Osip Mandelstam. In a fascinating combination of dreams and dossier facts, Ismail Kadare reconstructs the three minutes they spoke and the aftershocks of this tense, mysterious moment in modern history.

Weaving together the accounts of witnesses, reporters and writers such as Isaiah Berlin and Anna Akhmatova, Kadare tells a gripping story of power and political structures, of the relationship between writers and tyranny. The telling brings to light uncanny parallels with Kadare's experience writing under dictatorship, when he received an unexpected phone call of his own.

Translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson

'Kadare is one of Europe's most consistently interesting and powerful contemporary novelists, a writer whose stark, memorable prose imprints itself on the reader's consciousness.' Los Angeles Times

Reviews

  • One of Europe's most decorated authors... Seasoned fans [of Kadare] will be enthralled by this very personal meditation on the circumstances in which, against the odds, he [Pasternak] still managed to thrive
    Sunday Times

About the author

Ismail Kadare

Ismail Kadare is Albania's best-known novelist and poet. Translations of his novels have appeared in more than forty countries. He was awarded the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in 2005, the Jerusalem Prize in 2015, the Park Kyong-ni Prize in 2019 and the Neustadt Prize in 2020.
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