26) The Successor, by Ismail Kadarë
A short but really gripping novel exploring the death of the designated Successor to Albania’s Communist ruler (referred to as the Guide); did he shoot himself, or was he murdered? The event referred to is clearly the mysterious death of Mehmet Shehu in December 1981, though Kadarë has changed or invented a lot of the details – it was Shehu’s son, not his daughter, who had entered a politically unwise engagement; the date of death was the 17th not the 14th; the party session at which he was denounced was the previous month not the previous day. This is beside the point anyway; Kadarë’s point is about the damage the regime did to itself and to its people, and he tells the story from several points of view, including the foreign intelligence analysts trying to understand what had happened, the Successor’s daughter (a particularly good passage), the architect who designed his building, and the interior minister suspected of the crime, if crime there was. There is also a fantasy element, of ghosts and mediums, which adds to the sense of layers of reality. A fascinating book.