Kadaré is an Albanian writer who splits his time between Tirana, Albania and Paris. The Concert was first published in 1989 in French and this new English edition was released by Arcade Publishing on October 8th.
The book involves the relations between China and Albania during the 1970s, near the end of Mao Zedong’s life. It follows several protagonists with intertwined lives and who all have some investment in the politics between the two countries. The author grew up under Communism in Albania, and it’s obvious in his writing. His depiction of Mao as a villain is almost cartoonish: the evil Chinaman plotting to use marijuana to soften the brains of mankind in order to take over the world. I almost gave up on the book after the first 70 or so pages, but kept going because of the good reviews it got and the fact that it won the Man Booker Prize in 2005.
I found it slow-moving and dull, to be perfectly honest. The bias I saw in the beginning of the book made me skeptical of the rest, and probably ruined it for me. It took me some time to finish it, and won’t linger on this review as I don’t want to spend any more time on the book.