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Published on September 22nd, 2014


Twilight of the Eastern Gods by Ismail Kadare

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Blurb: 1958. In a dorm room in Moscow, a young writer is woken by the sound of angry voices on the radio. Through the fog of a hangover he hears the news that a novel called Doctor Zhivago has earned its author the Nobel Prize. There is uproar. The author, Boris Pasternak, faces exile, the press hound him and demand that he refuse the award. A few days earlier the young writer found a copy of this book – could those simple pages really be so dangerous? Based on Ismail Kadare’s own experience, Twilight of the Eastern Gods is a fictionalised recreation of his time as a student at the prestigious Gorky Institute for World Literature – a strange ‘factory of the intellect’ set up to produce a new generation of Socialist writers. With its drunken nights, uninspiring professors, specially selected students and enforced Socialist Realism his time at the Gorky Institute brought Kadare to the brink of abandoning writing altogether. (Canongate Books, August 2014)

Robert MacQuarie, New Statesman

“The plot remains under-developed and secondary characters drift in and out of focus without any significant time devoted to their description or clarification. Perhaps this is a weakness. But Twilight of the Eastern Gods presents an absorbing microcosm of Kadare’s psychological resistance against communism. The keenness, and universality, of Kadare’s troubles lend the book its strengths.”

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Oliver Moody, The Times

“Kadare is wonderfully good at satire, at one point describing a gathering of the priests of Socialist Realism: “Most were old, some had been publishing trilogies for 40 years; if my memory serves me right, five had published novels with titled that contained the word ‘earth’, and two had gone blind.” There are some serious flaws in this novel, most importantly the absence of plot and its handling — literal and figurative — of women. For its poetry, its pastiche and its tonic bitterness, though, this is a book that was worth redeeming.”

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Jonathan Gibbs, The Independent

“The novel drifts engagingly enough through Kadare’s life of dull lectures, drunken evenings and heartbreaking liaisons, but these are interrupted by one dramatic – and real life – event: the “Pasternak affair” … What is most affecting is the sense of Kadare’s situation as foreigner, and the camaraderie that existed among the denaturalised writers called to Moscow from the furthest corners of the Soviet empire.”

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Ranjit Bolt, The Spectator

“It’s doubtless good writing to evoke pessimism and totalitarian greyness so vividly, but it has its disadvantages, and at times we get bogged down. For this reader, the women are the highlight.”

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