Two Irish-American scholars from Harvard journey to Albania in the 1930s with a tape recorder (a 'new fangled' invention) in order to record the last genuinely oral epic singers. Their purpose, they say, is to show how Homer's epics might have been culled from a verbal tradition. But the local Governor believes its an elaborate spying mission and arranges for his own spy to follow them.The two dedicated scholars realise only too late that they have stumbled over an ants' nest.
This simple tale by Albania's most eminent and gifted novelist serves to lift the veil on one of the most secret and mysterious countries of modern Europe.
Ismail Kadare, born in 1936 in the mountain town of Gjirokaster, near the Greek border, is Albania's best-known poet and novelist. Since the appearance of The General of the Dead Army in 1965, Kadare has published scores of stories and novels that make up a panorama of Albanian history linked by a constant meditation on the nature and human consequences of dictatorship. Kadare's works brought him into frequent conflict with the authorities from 1945 to 1985. In 1990 he sought political asylum in France, and now divides his time between Paris and Tirana. He is the winner of the inaugural Man Booker Prize.