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Translated by Barbara Bray from the French version of the Albanian by Jusuf Vrioni
At the heart of the Sultan's vast empire stands the mysterious Palace of Dreams. Inside, the dreams of every citizen are collected, sorted and interpreted in order to identify the 'master-dreams' that will provide the clues to the Empire's destiny and that of its Monarch. An entire nation's consciousness is thus meticulously laid bare and at the mercy of its government...
The Palace of Dreams is Kadare's macabre vision of tyranny and oppression, and was banned upon publication in Albania in 1981.
First published in 1981 in Albania, where it was immediately banned, this hallucinatory novel unfolds as an extended parable about an all-controlling dictatorship that monitors even the subconscious lives of its citizens. The setting is 19th-century Albania, a backwater of the Ottoman Empire, which in Albanian novelist/poet Kadare's tense allegory represents the modern totalitarian police state. Mark-Alem works in the bureau of sleep and dreams, which collects, sorts and analyzes tens of thousands of dreams duly reported by an abject, compliant populace to a state that avers that ``the interpretation of a dream, fallen like a stray spark into the brain of one out of millions of sleepers, may help to save the country or its Sovereign from disaster . . . '' Assisted by his powerful uncle, the Vizier, Mark-Alem enjoys a meteoric rise in the dream-interpreting bureaucracy, but his failure to decipher one politically significant dream gives the state an opportunity to lash out against his aristocratic, patriotic family, leaving behind a pile of corpses. The author of four previous novels published to acclaim in Europe, Kadare found asylum in Paris two years before Albania elected its first noncommunist government.