A fascinating exploration of the relationship between writers and tyranny, from the winner of the first Man Booker International Prize. In June 1934, Joseph Stalin allegedly telephoned the famous novelist and poet Boris Pasternak to discuss the arrest of fellow Soviet poet Osip Mandelstam. In a fascinating combination of dreams and dossier facts, Ismail Kadare reconstructs the three minutes they spoke and the aftershocks of this tense, mysterious moment in modern history.
Weaving together the accounts of witnesses, reporters and writers such as Isaiah Berlin and Anna Akhmatova, Kadare tells a gripping story of power and political structures, of the relationship between writers and tyranny. The telling brings to light uncanny parallels with Kadare's experience writing under dictatorship, when he received an unexpected phone call of his own. Translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson