You never quite know where you stand with this book - but that is precisely the point. The paralysingly confusing world of a closed communist society (Albania), where Party is all, but the Guide (dictator, clearly based on Enver Hoxha) leads all. He expects his whims and hints to be obeyed as divine oracles - except that people too often don't really know where they are leading. The fear is driven precisely because of the impossibility of interpreting situations. That is the genius of this book - it keeps the reader (as well as all the characters) guessing to the end, like all the best books - but does arrive at some sort of resolution by the end (albeit a very unpalatable one). A word of praise, or a visit to an engagement party by the Guide could be all that is required to sign a death warrant. Black is white and history is a resource for the present regimes (just as Orwell observed in 1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four
). The casualties of the party machine are everywhere, a party which for all its claims of progress and purpose, is as directionless and meandering as the whims of the Guide.
This is sparsely written but i know of no other recent book that conveys the utter insanity and terror of living under a dictatorship. Ingenious