A Girl in Exile is the work of a historic talent who is still at the peak of his power. It confirms Kadare to be the best writer at work today who remembers—almost aggressively so, refusing to forget—European totalitarianism. Kadare tackles Albania’s specific strangeness with a ferocious rigor that would feel scientific if it were not for the haunted, haunting humans he writes into being. Albania is a different country now, but the way it exists for Kadare will continue to exist as long as he writes. Ghosts do not die.
""A Girl in Exile is a compelling amalgam of realism, dreaminess and elegiac, white-hot fury. Kadare communicates with awful immediacy the nature of tyranny and the accommodations that those subject to it must make — as Kadare himself had to do. After reading it, one feels like giving four cheers for poor old battered democracy.""
[Kadare] returns again and again to the legends around Orpheus, for example, his addition of two strings to the traditional lyre — in Kadare’s telling, a radical breakthrough that causes a bureaucratic hubbub in Olympus. The author doesn’t tether his own story to the classical one too tightly, but the parallels are obvious — for Rudian with his forbidden ghost; and for Kadare, who once spirited his messages past Communist censors. The two extra strings may signify more than the headaches of writers, however. Perhaps they create an altogether new sound, beyond the range of human hearing. It is, after all, the vibration that lulled Cerberus, the hound of Hades, and rescued Orpheus’ beloved Eurydice from the underworld.
Kadare is one of those intensely readable writers; like Graham Greene, Coetzee, or Chekhov, he possesses the easy, walking gait of the master storyteller, who traverses his narratives with a shrewd eye for detail and a thorough command of the whole landscape ... A Girl in Exile is both a timeless, ghostly love story, and a trenchant portrait of the artist in a totalitarian state.
This bantam masterwork by Albania’s most eminent novelist has been fired in the forge of actual horror: Albania’s Stalinist dictatorship, which ravished the citizenry from 1945 to 1991. Kadare’s mellifluous fever dream is a portrait of madness: the madness of the Stalinist state and the madness of men and women in the clamp of the state’s machinations ... Kadare’s characters would be right at home inside the purgatorial world of Waiting for Godot ... At a time when parts of the world are indulging nostalgia for communism, Kadare’s novel confronts the infuriating impossibility of art in an autocratic, anti-individualist system.
...a brilliant novel that captures the horrors of a totalitarian regime so repressive that its five-year sentences on political internees continued even after a prisoner’s death … By gradually doling out information to the reader, Mr. Kadare builds the mystery behind Linda B.’s death. Was Migena a spy for the government, as Rudian had once supposed? And did Migena have a connection to Linda B. and her family of royalist émigrés? … Mr. Kadare blends all of these elements into a mesmerizing whole that builds to a heartbreaking finale.
Kadare takes us through Rudian’s entire psychic sphere, successfully designing a character that immediately draws readers in and that, unfortunately, because he is himself a storyteller, may know a bit too much about character creation to dutifully play one for Kadare ... Readers are asked to consider what it means for a character to be frustrated with the conversations he is forced to have with other characters in the book. Such frustration implies a deeper, more unusual dissatisfaction with the author ... Beautifully, the text addresses the cruelties of dictatorship through Linda’s exile from the main city, showing the rise and fall of a character whose potential may have outshone that of the other characters in the book. Nonetheless, despite the political oppression festering within the text and a hasty resolution to the enigma that takes up the totality of the novel, Kadare creates a compelling narrative environment that is fully self-reflexive and autocritical.
Mr. Kadare’s dialogue with the Western canon continues in the novel A Girl in Exile ... Mr. Kadare gradually unravels a parable about the temptations of power ... [with] stark expository writing and sudden swerves into hallucinatory imagery ... The past is uncannily present in his books—a phantom that walks among the living, or a severed head that seems to lock you in its gaze.
A Girl in Exile is late, great Kadare ... The novel is translated directly from the Albanian by John Hodgson, who has translated a number of Kadare’s books, and the prose is pleasingly odd, the locutions and idioms strained and startling. In English, Kadare sounds ponderous and precise, like someone continually reaching – and overreaching – for the right words ... A Girl in Exile is a book about learning to live with the dead, and with death, with shadows and with loss. It’s about ghosts – about spectres haunting people, places, states and psyches ... Kadare is a double man, writing about divided selves.
What begins like a conventional thriller devolves into a muddled ghost story about the way the persecution of the few can infect a whole society. There are engaging riffs on Orpheus, flashbacks to the partisan struggle, a cameo by Hoxha himself, and a subplot about aluminum exports, but the novel never gains the tragic force of Kadare’s major works ...
The novel is by turns a probing exploration of the strict censures on everyday life—from which coffee shop one drinks at to the friends and lovers one has and the art one makes—under a totalitarian regime, and by turns epic in its connections among the present of life under Hoxha in the 1980s and the ancient past of Western mythology and history ... A Girl in Exile achieves what so few of these wearisome novels about sad-urban-male-artist types today do: it makes clear, through their very lack of interest in other humans as anything but artistic muses, the ease with which artists—under communism or capitalism, repressed by tyranny or freed from it by revolution—dehumanize and make myths of the pain of others.
A Girl in Exile, from internationally acclaimed Albanian author and perennial Nobel Prize favorite Ismail Kadare, is a powerful and complex tale of life in the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' ... Mysterious, oblique, and oddly compelling, A Girl in Exile is a striking exploration of love, art, paranoia, and the limits of freedom in a totalitarian state.
Myth and dream, memory and repression, all converge as the novel illuminates the essence of art in totalitarian Albania. An author respected throughout Europe should reach a wider American readership with this subversive novel.
Comparisons to Kafka are inevitable, but there’s also some Joseph Heller here. Kadare successfully renders Big Brother, and, though Linda’s hopeless scheme strains credulity, this is nonetheless a poignant narrative about exile.