Twilight of the Eastern Godsby Ismail Kadare
One of the earliest novels from the Man Booker International Prize winner, Twilight of the Eastern Gods explores the Kafkaesque position of the writer under Communism.
In 1958, Kadare was selected to pursue his writing and literary studies as a graduate student in Moscow at the prestigious Gorky Institute for World Literature. Twilight of the Eastern Gods is Kadare’s fictionalized re-creation of his time spent at this “factory of the intellect,” a place created to produce a new generation of poets, novelists, and playwrights, all adhering to the state-sanctioned “socialist realist” aesthetic. During his time at the Gorky Institute, a kind of miniature Soviet Union where writers from deepest Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the Caucasus all came to study, Kadare was caught up in the furor over Boris Pasternak’s Nobel Prize win, when the Soviet Union demanded that Pasternak refuse the foreign, bourgeois award or be sentenced to exile. Kadare’s time at the Institute, the drunken nights, corrupt professors, and enforced aesthetics are fictionalized in a novel that entwines Russian and Albanian myth with Soviet history. Twilight of the Eastern Gods is a portrait of a city and a story of youth, disenchantment, and the incredible importance of the written word.
“An interesting insider view of one of the more famous periods of twentieth-century literature. . . .Readers are left not with any great insights, but instead with a sense of slow-motion, Kafkaesque torpor. . . . readers will come away from Twilight of the Eastern Gods with a better understanding of what it was like for one writer to trudge along under Nikita Khrushchev’s thumb.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“Kadare’s novels are full of startlingly beautiful lines . . . bracingly original similes swarm with an apparent casualness. . . . gloomy and death-obsessed, but also frequently hilarious. . . . it reminded me of Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives locked in a freezer, or a version of Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. set in a Brooklyn where it was always snowing, all the young writers in the city lived in the same building, everyone regularly consumed debilitating quantities of vodka, and each was suspected of being a government informer.” —Christian Lorentzen, New York Times Book Review
“A brilliant . . . treatment of Soviet literary culture during the later Leonid Brezhnev years.” —The Millions
A Millions Anticipated Book Of The Second Half of 2014