Based on real events, The Successor tells the story of Mehmet Shehu who was considered as the successor to the office of Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha who many people hated However, on the night of December 13, 1981, Shehu was found dead inside his room with bolt in lock from the inside Despite the lock, people did not believe that it was suicide but foul play His daughter, an architect and the minister of interior told different versions of the story based on the last interactions with Shehu People also suspected the new successor, Adrian Hasobeu because he was the automatic heir to the position But was it really not a suicide You have to read up to the last page of the last chapter to find out Many of my friends here on Goodreads think that the last chapter was a letdown Me No I thought it was clever as I did not expect it I will not tell you who suddenly became the narrator in the end as I do not want to spoil your fun But believe me, the thrill in eating the cake is in the icing According to Wiki, Kadare served as a member of the Albanian government during the Communist rule between 1970 1982 When he was accused of using his writings in deliberately evading politics, he claimed asylum in France where he wrote most of his novels that got included in the 1001 books.This is my first time to read a work of Ismail Kadare born in 1936 and I have a mixed feelings whether to like this book or not The novel is short and easy to read However, the prose felt for me verbose but considering that this book was originally written in French, maybe there were somethings that got lost in translation Or maybe I had high expectations from Kadare considering that at least 3 of his books are included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and he won The Man Booker International Prize 2009 Or maybe I was expecting something like Kundera in Kadare because their books were originally written in French The only difference is that Kundera was originally a Czech while Kadare was an Albanian But they are both well renowned and frequently rud as strong contenders to Nobel Prize for Literature.Well, at this point, I am for Kundera rather than Kadare But again, it s me. Another great book by Albanian author Ismail Kadare It deals with the disappearance of Mehmet Shehu, Enver Hoxha s right hand man When I visited Albania in 1984, Enver Hoxha was still alive but Shehu s face had been airbrushed out of photographs on display in museums.The weird, frightening atmosphere of Albania, until recently the last bastion of Stalinism in Europe, is beautifully portrayed in this story. It is typical in a work of fiction to start with a disclaimer, something which includes the caveat Names, places , and incidents either are the product of the author s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental No such disclaimer here Instead, Kadare promises Any resemblance between the characters and circumstances of this tale and real people and events is inevitable The eponym in The Successor is Mehmet Shehu, a Communist leader in 20th Century Albania known for his brutality and, later, his suicide He could be inspirational, I suppose, in an Albanian sort of way, such as when he famously said, Whoever disagrees with our leadership in any respect, will get spat in the face, punched on the chin, and, if necessary, a bullet in his head You know, the better angels of our nature.At the time of his demise, Shehu was the second in command to Enver Hoxha and his presumed successor When Shehu died of a gunshot to his head one night in his home, it did not take long for suspicions to surface that perhaps he was murdered and not a suicide.Kadare calls Shehu The Successor and Hoxha The Guide in this fictionalized account of those events But everybody knows who he s talking about He expands the list of murder suspects, for artistic purposes, to include Shehu s daughter whose engagements he kept breaking for political reasons , another minister with ambition, and even an architect who may have created a secret passageway between Shehu s abode and The Guide s palace.There are some almost humorous depictions of Communist paranoia A pathologist who performs the autopsy on Shehu recalls another autopsy of a different suicide That corpse was buried with full honors in the Martyr s Cemetery But then signs of anti Yugoslavianism were found in his file so he was dug up and buried in a municipal grave Then Albania broke with Yugoslavia, so he was dug up again and re buried in his original tomb as a Herald of Anti Yugoslavianism This had some moments but was ultimately unsatisfying Although, I did learn a lot about Albania Well, maybe not a lot, but a general sense It reminded me of one of the early episodes of the American sitcom Cheers, when it was still funny, you know, before Kirstie Alley In the episode I m talking about, Sam and Coach are taking a night course to get their GEDs Both are academically challenged As a way to help his memory in Geography class, Coach puts what he needs to know about each obscure country to music Thus is Albania immortalized in song Al ban i a, Al ban i a,You border on the Adriatic,You are mainly mountainous, and your major export is chrome You re a communist republic,You re a red regime.If you don t believe me Story about to the long appointed number two The Successor to the country s dictator The Guide who, just as the dictator s health and sight are failing, is found dead after being denounced by the Guide in a party committee Initially the death is reported as suicide, and the impression given that the Successor was going to be pardoned by the Guide after presenting his self criticism the next day We follow the story through a number of different narrators the Successor s daughter who had recently been engaged to a possible state enemy , the architect of the Successor s new residence whose elaborate design may have incited the jealousy of the Guide s wife and which also had a secret passage rumoured to lead to the Guide s house and only to be able to opened from that side , the Successor s arch rival who was outside the residence on the night of the murder following uncertain instructions from the Guide , the Guide himself who rules by fear and uses the device of a break before self criticism to force rivals to commit suicide and then from the Successor commenting on the future fall of the Guide from beyond the grave.Kafkaesque in its world of denunciations, double speak and uncertainty, but without a K type figure Interesting ideas about the very existence of a successor reminds dictators of their mortality As with all Balkan type authors style is fable like and very simple actually too simple to seem engaging Kadare claims that this is in the tradition of the Greek epics, but also that was due to suppression of written forms of Balkan languages by Ottoman empire leading to the verbal form having to retain the culture s memory and hence due to the continuation of literature as folklore. The Successor is one of those rare books that can be read with equal pleasure by lovers of psychological or analytical writings, and by readers looking for action Written in the form of a thriller, the novel manages in some miraculous way to go to the essence not only of Communism, but of all dictatorships, revealing with unusual psychological finesse how throughout history there are some archetypal dramas that keep repeating themselves, from Greek myths to Macbeth to the history of the Balkans Here too, Kadare s most powerful gift resides in inserting a regional story within a universal model, in finding mythological equivalents to contemporary events, and in reading the signification of one through the other.The novel s plot, a fictionalized version of a political crime that happened in 1981 in Albania, is simple on the night of December 13 the designated Successor of Communist dictator Enver Hoxha is mysteriously shot dead From the beginning to the end of the novel, Kadare crafts a successful drama, in which the answer to the questions Was it suicide or murder And if it was murder, who was the killer shifts as the genre of the murder mystery demands from one chapter to the next But unlike the usual mystery novel, The Successor doesn t have a shocking ending In fact, the narrator tells the facts as if even he didn t know the answer Moreover, the dictator himself, referred to as the Guide an appellative shared by most Communist leaders doesn t seem to possess the key to the entire story either, although he obviously is the gray eminence behind the crime.Kadare s skill in creating an ambiguous situation that triggers the reader s curiosity to the maximum matches his genius in going straight to the essence of things, particularly in the scenes involving the Guide before and after the Successor s death, which reveal the mechanism of power in Communist dictatorships To begin with, when the Guide summons to his office the Successor s successor Hasobeu he never pronounces the words Kill him though this is what he is getting at What he says is so vague and ambiguous he orders Hasobeu to go to the Successor s house and do what is to be done, and, in spite of his confusion, Hasobeu doesn t dare ask What that Hasobeu goes twice to the house, wandering around and trying to interpret the Guide s words The game of interpreting is present throughout the book whenever the Guide appears, revealing a system in which everything is a sign demanding to be interpreted correctly if one wants to keep his head But the absurdity is that there are no rules one could follow in order to properly decipher the signs, and any head could fall at any time Because of the system s total arbitrariness it seems at times that the Guide himself, although theoretically the one who makes and changes the rules, doesn t know everything, as if Power secreted itself like a mythological monster mortals cannot touch, but can only surrender to Thus, Kadare s numerous comparisons of the Communist regime to a religion aren t simply metaphors, but deep insights into its power structure He compares the ties of comradeship forged at the beginning of Communism between those who spilled blood to come to power, with the ties of clan and family, because it too was a tie of blood but with a difference It wasn t based on inner blood, the blood in your veins, identical to the blood of your family going back a thousand years, according to genetics, but on the other kind, on outer blood That s to say, on the blood of others, blood they had drunkenly spilled in the name of Doctrine Trying to decipher the mystery of the Successor s death, Hasobeu keeps asking himself what did the Guide actually believe Perhaps, like half the population of Tirana, the Guide took him for the killer Or did he suspect that his minister i.e., Hasobeu had intended to commit murder, but hadn t managed to do so, seeing as someone else got his bullet in first Or that the Successor has beaten both his assassins to the wire by pulling the trigger on himself After leading us to believe that Hasobeu is the killer, Kadare implies that in fact he isn t But he also tells us that the Guide himself is engulfed in his own guessing game and deciphering of the signs, as if he didn t know either who the killer was Indeed, a few pages further we are told that the Guide didn t know and never had known, what had really happened at the Successor s residence on that night of December 13 And since he didn t know, it could take a thousand years for anyone else to find out At this point, what we have suspected so far is confirmed no one knows who the killer is But immediately after this revelation we are led to another possible suspect we are told that, apart from Hasobeu, the only other individual that seemed to have been implicated is the Architect of the Successor s house And then the story suddenly takes a turn, but the move is so subtle that the reader might still believe he is reading a murder mystery, when in fact the novel has become a reflection on art and the condition of the artist.We know that the Architect had had his own reasons to hate the Successor for having been once publicly humiliated by him We know that he had thought of punishing him, but when asked by the Successor to remodel his residence, the desire of punishing him by building something ugly is immediately replaced by a much stronger impulse that of building something of unsurpassed beauty In a Communist country where almost all buildings were state property and of a monotonous, uniform gray, the Architect has the rare chance of realizing his artistic vocation by building something unique Indeed, once finished, his work is so beautiful that at the Successor s party where the Guide himself is present, the gasps of admiration let out by the guests are indirectly saying the unsayable the Successor s house is beautiful even than the Guide s house Kadare s psychological analysis of the oldest and most common reason for committing a crime envy is doubled by another legend, this time a Hungarian one, which narrates a monarch s revenge on a vassal who not only had the cheek to have a castle built that was finer than his, but he had invited him to the inauguration party Now, it appears that the Guide had been, after all, the one who had ordered the Successor s death, because he was jealous of his house But this hypothesis is, again, undermined in the last chapter written in the voice of the Successor, who speaks from beyond the grave, and we are back to the idea that the enigma remains unsolved Even the opening of the secret archives after the fall of Communism hasn t managed to uncover the secret, says the Successor And if he tried to explain it, there is only one person who could understand him, Lin Biao, who had once been the Successor of Mao Tse Tung, and whose life ended in circumstances similar to those of the Albanian Successor No one will ever know what really happened on the night of December 13 Although, right before the end of the novel, the Successor seems to remember how that night, as he was dozing off, he saw his wife whom the Guide called Comrade Clytemnestra after her husband s death point a gun at him But did he really see her or was it just the vision of a man who was falling asleep We are fortunate that Albania s Ismail Kadare won the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005 because it resulted in his works being translated into over thirty languages and introduced to the world By the way, he faced serious competition for the award as the finalists included Gabriel Garc a M rquez, Milan Kundera, Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow, Gunther Grass, Naguib Mahfouz, Doris Lessing, Kenzabur e, Stanis aw Lem, Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, Muriel Spark and John Updike I count six Nobel Prize winners in this group.The Successor follows events from 1981 in Tirana about the unexplained death of Prime Minister Mehemt Shebu, the designated successor to dictator Enver Hoxha who ruled for 40 years and is referred to in book as The Guide Kadare interviewed many eyewitnesses, including Shebu s son The story unfolds through the interior monologues of people directly involved Several different theories are presented but never brought to any conclusion.This book is much, much than a detective mystery Kadare provides insights into a world of irrational and always menacing paranoia that was Albania in the 70s and 80s Kadare would know, since he was in Parliament at the time, although not a party member.There are universal truths told here that are not limited to Albania The mind of totalitarianism is shaped in similar manner, wherever we find it The Guide prefers to avoid issuing direct orders and uses indirect hints for his acolytes to interpret Without direct communication about the internal workings of the State, everyone obsessively searched for early warning signals who was seated next to whom, in what order did the leadership enter a room, and so on There was a continual feeling of uncertainty, new rules were invented and quickly changed Since power is never static and the leadership was ruthless, the uncertainty lead to an overwhelming feeling of dread Kadare had been compared to Kafka and Orwell, but while they warned us about these dystopic conditions, they did not live it like Kadare did For that reason, I find a stronger comparison with Arthur Koestler who wrote the magnificent Darkness at Noon and enabled us to understand the thinking inside the Stalin show trials.Kadare dark disturbing story is told in a casual manner that allows us to get to know the flesh and blood characters and even appreciate humor when it occurs, but the absurd logic of a society ruled so arbitrarily remains very chilling.Kadare sought exile in Paris in 1990, after Hoxha died but before Communists left office Almost immediately, the Sigurimi, Albania s secret police, began discrediting him as a collaborator, an informer Kadare admits he was not a dissident, but then no one was permitted to be a dissident in Hoxha s Albania In 2005, Albania s National Archives, released internal documents that show Kadare was at risk of arrest, relegation or worse throughout the Hoxha years, and he was only kept free due to his enormous popularity as a writer among his countrymen A well written and very enlightening book about a country that is mysterious to most of us. A new novel from the acclaimed winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize for achievement in fiction.The Successor is a powerful political novel based on the sudden, mysterious death of the man who had been handpicked to succeed the hated Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha The man who died was Mehmet Shehu, the presumed heir to the ailing dictator The world was so certain that he was next in line that he was known as The Successor And then, shortly before he was to assume power, he was found dead Did he commit suicide or was he murdered The Successor is simultaneously a page turning mystery, a historical novel based on actual events and buttressed by the author s private conversations with the son of the real life Mehmet Shehu and a psychological challenge to the reader to decide, How does one live when nothing is sure The Successor seamlessly blends dream and reality, legendary past, and contemporary history, and proves again that Kadare stands alongside M rquez, Canetti, and Auster From the Hardcover edition. Fascinating This is a novelization of the last days and death of Mehmet Shehu, the anointed successor of Enver Hoxha, the Stalin like dictator of Albania The names were changed to protect the guilty , and I don t know of any evidence that things played out as Kadare describes A fast, but not easy, read, it would be rewarding to readers who are curious about Albania, life among the elite in a Communist dictatorship, or dystopias in general Kadare uses several narrators and a jumbled chronology to tell the tale My appreciation benefited from several google searches of names and events in Albanian history.I expect to read of Kadare s work. Read this to help clear my desk Interesting Albanian thriller with a clever structure I wasn t that thrilled The the successor follows a plot thread established in agamemnon s daughter and is based on the apparent real life suicide of albanian chairman mehmet shehu kadare s novel is a work of political intrigue and totalitarian excess framed as a murder mystery told from multiple perspectives, the story leaves the reader, until the conclusion, questioning whether the title character has indeed killed himself or has, in fact, been a victim of the repressive communist regime while both the plot and the pacing lend an air of suspense to the story, it lacks an overall depth or richness that one would perhaps expect as complement to the action kadare s prose often seems too reserved or impersonal for the reader to develop any allegiance to the characters or the tale itself kadare writes about important themes, yet the successor lacks a necessary zeal we are a race apart, and we can only understand each other but we are so few in number that amid the dark turmoil of this world above which human souls swirl, it is only rarely, extremely rarely once every thousand years, maybe every ten thousand that we ever come across one of our own.