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The Curious Curator's Book Blog

Contemporary art curator. Student. Book addict. Art lover. Geek. Dreamer. Curious about everything. Check out my website http://thecuriouscurator.com/

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Palace of Dreams

The Palace of Dreams - Ismail Kadaré, Barbara Bray

This book follows Mark-Alem, a young man from an aristocratic family in the Ottoman Empire, who, at the bid of his family, starts working in the Palace of Dreams. This is a place where the dreams of every person in the empire are collected, sorted and interpreted, in order to control the citizens and find the Master Dreams, the ones that give clues into the future of the Sultan and the Empire. The building is a nightmarish maze that engulfs Mark-Alem in despair, and his powerful family's interests are frequently at odds with those of the Palace, so he fears that his life will eventually be touched by disaster.


The premise of this book is quite interesting, but I had problems getting into it because of, well, everything else. I don't know how much was lost in translation (this is an English translation from the French version - the original is in Albanian) but the writing style didn't work for me. Mark-Alem's disposition in the entire book went from very nervous to outright panic, and I couldn't understand why. It felt like the book was telling me that he had reasons to feel terrified but wasn't actually showing me the reasons. I really liked the premise, and I usually like metaphors and political dystopias, but this one just didn't work for me.


P.S. Even though I wasn’t crazy about this book, I do have an interesting back story about it. My friend André bought it in Cuba (of all places!) when we went there a couple of years ago, but only managed to read it on a journey to London. He lent it to me so I could read it on our trip to Scotland last week. So this is a very well traveled book!