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Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories…

Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories (2006)

by Ismail Kadare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1027181,954 (3.43)14
A searing story of love denied, then shattered under the chilling wheels of state, 'Agamemnon's Daughter' is Ismail Kadare's compelling prequel to 'The Successor'.



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» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Kafka meets Communism. The world described is very much like Stalin's Russia, which, given that Albania went off on its own, makes me wonder: were all communist states so similar? Wry humour, pessimism and bullseye simplicity are the hallmarks. Other books of Kadare's more vivid, but the Great Wall story reverberates in my mind. ( )
  vguy | Nov 11, 2014 |
The title story and The Blinding Order are great, chilling short stories depicting the horrors and arbitrariness of a totalitarian regime (only the title story is actually set in the author's native Albania). The Great Wall has some interesting things to say about clashes of civilisations, but I thought was less effective. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 14, 2011 |
Agamemnon’s Daughter is a novella that, together with “The Blinding Order” and “The Great Wall” constitutes the most recent translation into English of Kadare’s books. Agamemnon’s daughter, Suzana, also a protagonist in The Successor, is here the narrator’s lover, though she only appears indirectly through the latter’s reminiscing. The novel’s title is not gratuitous, however: “Agamemnon’s Daughter” is a metonymy for the idea of sacrifice, viewed as a pact of blood that lays the foundation of all dictatorships. The “campaigns of purification” or “great purges,” as they were called during Communism—names that call to mind religious rituals accomplished periodically in order to appease the angry gods—were campaigns of terror in which anyone (or rather, anyone except the Leader of the Communist Party, significantly called “Himself” in The Successor) could be accused of being an enemy of the State or of the people, forced to do his self-criticism, then punished. The punishment ranged from having one’s membership in the Party revoked, to a downgrading of one’s career, to being moved to the countryside and constrained to embrace the joys of farming, to being sent to the chrome ore mines and shoved into a deep, nameless pit by some unknown hand in the dark. Often, the punishment began with its lightest form, the revocation of the card, and ended in the mine pit.

As a reflection on sacrifice, Agamemnon’s Daughter links stories of sacrifice from different times and places—the ancient Greeks, the Russians under Stalin, the Albanians under Hoxha—and ties them into an eternal, universal story. It wasn’t for a noble cause that Iphigenia was sacrificed, in the same way it wasn’t for a noble reason that Stalin’s son, Yakov, was sacrificed. The latter had been, apparently, sent to war by Stalin in a gesture implying that all Russians were equal; in fact, says Kadare, Stalin’s gesture had a much more sinister and cynical motivation: the sacrifice of his own son gave him free hand in demanding anyone’s life from then on. The Successor’s daughter, Suzana, is sacrificed by being forbidden to see her lover because their relationship could compromise her father’s political career. Reflecting on all this as a spectator at the May 1st Parade—one of the biggest Communist holidays—the narrator compares the father to a successor of that grand master of all sacrificers, “Comrade Agamemnon MacAtreus,” member of the Politburo.

Even more than The Successor, Agamemnon’s Daughter describes with clinical lucidity the mechanism of power in a society resembling a concentration camp. The Communist concept of “self-criticism” was, in Kadare’s words, a truly “diabolical mechanism,” because once you’ve debased yourself, it was easy to sully everything around you. The complete lack of logic or coherence of the system, its schizophrenia, are exemplified by several accounts, including the narrator’s own experience, which, fortunately, has a happy ending. In all these accounts the precise accusation against the accused is never mentioned out loud by the officials, as if pronouncing the words themselves carried some great danger.

As in all of Kadare’s stories, here too there is a folktale whose meaning functions as an allegory for the contemporary story. It is the ancient tale of Bald Man, who one night fell into a hole, and kept falling until he reached the netherworld. After his fall, Bald Man strove to find the way and the means to clamber back to the upper world, and found an eagle that took him back on one condition: if Bald Man would feed him raw meat all the way up (Incidentally, Albania is called “the land of the eagles.”). When Bald Man finished off the piece of meat he had brought, he cut into his own flesh and fed the eagle with it, and by the time the eagle came out into the upper world, Bald Man was a mere human skeleton carried on the bird’s back. This tale is told in fragments interspersed in-between the story of a man who, in order to stop his fall from grace with the Communist regime, feeds the latter not only his own flesh but also that of others, people he denounces and tramples on as he finds his way back up.

Written in 1984, “The Blinding Order” is an allegory set, like The Palace of Dreams, in the Ottoman Empire, but its political allusions to Communist Albania are transparent even for the uninformed reader. In their desire to preserve society from the evil eye, nineteenth-century Turkish authorities pass an edict enforcing the blinding of those suspected of exercising the eye’s maleficent power. But how are the carriers of misophtalmia (or “eye trouble”) going to be identified? Although many of them are said to have blue eyes, eye color alone is not enough for their proper identification, and the lack of any specific characteristics of these potential enemies, the fact that anyone could be one of them, contribute to the sense of terror among the population. In its magnanimity, the State doesn’t sentence to death the carriers of the evil eye, but prevents them from perpetrating their deeds by depriving them of their eyes. In addition, those who turn themselves in before being identified by others as carriers of the evil eye receive a monetary compensation from the State after their disoculation. Everyone is encouraged to practice denunciation, and any resistance is punished. After a campaign of terror in which we can easily recognize the Communist purges or “campaigns of purification,” the authorities decide to hold a Banquet of Forgiveness or of Reconciliation, where all the blind people are invited. There, as the blind are playing the Balkan lyres and lahutas, and a huge cacophony is rising to the skies, the authorities bestow forgiveness upon their victims, and the terror of the past is conveniently forgotten for the greater good of the State.
2 vote Ifland | Jul 15, 2009 |
The plot of Agamemnon's Daughter is fairly simple; the narrator has been dating the daughter of one of the higher-ups in the Communist regime, but she tells him that she needs to break up with him, and change her lifestyle to an unspecified degree, for the sake of her father's career. The narrator watches Suzana, the girl, from his seat during a government procession. As he does so, he thinks about the sacrifice she is making for her father, and compares what Suzana is doing for her father to the human sacrifice of Iphigeneia in order to call the winds so that her father, Agamemnon, could sail off to Troy for war.
The book is an exploration of tyranny, the sacrifices that are required, and why we make or ask for them. The questions it asks are important and poignent. I'm impressed with the prose, which leads to being impressed by the translators who worked on it.

I found the second short story in the book, The Blinding Order, impressive as well. It is set in the Ottoman Empire, where the government has ordered individuals suspected of having the Evil Eye must be blinded. It read like a fable, chilling and poignent. ( )
  legxleg | Mar 1, 2008 |
Agamemnon's Daughter is spectacular. Kadare's voice is soothing... poetic, lyrical, sparse... each word is perfectly placed and his mix of fables and myths into his story create such a fine woven piece of material. His writing didn't just connect with me, it possessed me. The chapter concerning a dialog on blindly following the principles and ideology of the 'guide' between the narrator and his uncle left me breathless. It was brilliantly written and left me in awe. ( )
  Banoo | Feb 28, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Agamemnons datter og Etterfølgeren er to korte romaner som begge behandler livet i Albania under Enver Hoxha. Hvordan forholder man seg til seg selv og til hverandre i et nettverk av løgner, absurditeter, paranoia og ondskap?

Agamemnons datter ble smuglet inn noen sider om gangen til Frankrike på midten av 80-tallet, mens Etterfølgeren er skrevet nesten tyve år senere.

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ismail Kadareprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bellos, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From outside came sounds of holiday music, bustling crowds and shuffling feet – the special medley of a mass of people on their way to the start of a parade.
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Canongate Books

An edition of this book was published by Canongate Books.

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Arcade Publishing

2 editions of this book were published by Arcade Publishing.

Editions: 1611451086, 1611458749

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