International Banned Book Pick: The Palace of Dreams by Ismail Kadare (Albania)


The mysterious palace of dreams stands at the heart of a vast empire. Inside, workers sift, sort, and interpret the dreams the empire’s citizens. They search out Master-Dreams that will provide clues to the destiny of the empire and its Sultan. Mark-Alem, scion of a noble family that has provided viziers to the Sultan from time immemorial, and whose power the Sultan distrusts, is recruited into the palace of Creams at the humblest level. He immediately feels the terrible pressure that drives his coworkers, the dread of overlooking a crucial dream whose capture and interpretation might avert political disaster.

But he rapidly rises through the hierarchy—only barely finding his bearings in one section of the Palace’s labyrinthine passages that represent the entire empire’s consciousness laid bare before he is promoted to another. And the pressure only increases as he becomes familiar with the fates of subversive dreamers and personally responsible for the sort of dreams that might ruin an entire family. A family like his own.


“In early 1982, due to the novel’s obvious allusions to Stalinist Albania, in the presence of several members of the Politburo, including Nexhmije Hoxha and Ramiz Alia, an emergency meeting of the Albanian Writers Union was called and The Palace of Dreams was expressly and severely condemned. Kadare was accused of attacking the socialist government in a covert manner. At the end of the meeting, Ramiz Alia warned Kadare: “The people and the Party have raised you to Olympus, but if you are not faithful to them, they will cast you into the abyss.” Nevertheless, the authorities were reluctant to imprison or purge Kadare, as he had become an internationally recognized literary figure and it would have caused an international backlash, which, given the country’s rapid economic decline, the authorities wanted to avoid at all costs.” (Wikipedia)

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