The Traitor's Niche
Author: Ismail Kadare
Translator: John Hodgson
Original language: Albanian
Published by: Harvill Secker, January 2017
At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. People flock to see the latest head and gossip about the state of the empire: the province of Albania is demanding independence again, and the niche awaits a new trophy...Tundj Hata, the imperial courier, is charged with transporting heads to the capital - a task he relishes and performs with fervour. But as he travels through obscure and impoverished territories, he makes money from illicit side-shows, offering villagers the spectacle of death. The head of the rebellious Albanian governor would fetch a very high price. The Traitor's Niche is a surreal tale of rebellion and tyranny, in a land where armies carry scarecrows, state officials ban entire languages, and the act of forgetting is more complicated than remembering.