Book review: A Girl In Exile

ALBANIA’S most internationally celebrated author here returns to the dying days of his country’s Stalinist (and intermittently Kafkaesque) tyranny. 

Ismail Kadare

Harvill Secker, €21.35;

ebook, €12.55

Playwright protagonist Rudian Stefa is anxiously awaiting the authorities’ approval of his latest work when he becomes involved in their investigation of a young internal exile’s suicide.

The dead girl had one of Stefa’s books, autographed to her, despite the two never having met. 

The only link between them seems to be Rudian’s lover Migena ... who has herself disappeared.

It’s in the book’s opening chapters, when it most resembles a historical thriller, that the novel is weakest; it’s hard to care as Rudian’s own self-absorption keeps entrapping him, especially when he somehow keeps dodging the worst of the consequences which should follow.

However, once we finally get closer to the heart of the mystery, mythic allusions and a convincing central concept confer a new power on an unusual tale.


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