Power, Albert - Azerbaijan Tales
Three novellas, set in Azerbaijan during Soviet control.
“Matinee In Baku” luncheons with a forgotten film star, waiting in a word-of-mouth popular cafe. In walks an older man, scruffy, yet charged with a probing intensity. He soon rakes the slumbering embers of memory. Secrets from the actress’s past; also secrets of her own mother, an even more legendary actress.
Buried business, ugly business. One wants suppressed, another wants excavated.
“The Pit-Crypts Of Kish” carries ripples of the first story. A minor character from “Matinee” is part of an archeological dig at Qabala, along with three men, and a party apparatchik.
Faith and history run parallel, if unevenly.
The ending felt not so much unresolved as unfinished, with several shingles of narrative tacked on in a concluding act. I was dissatisfied.
“The Sanatorium At Chakhirshirincelo” makes for a murky finale, yet compelling and fulfilling.
The director of the institute wonders if he can release an inmate, accused of murder, back to her hometown. To help him decide, another apparatchik arrives.
Different voices, conflicting agendas, diverse recollections, all muddy the waters. Not one unreliable narrator, but a handful, force the reader to grope in darkness.
Power has a sure hand throughout, sitting us inside the director’s office, then drawing us deeper and deeper, down and down, into a labyrinth of underground passages, heavy with ancestral memory.
As a bonus, there is also a poem, of which I will not elaborate. This feels like a window, cracked open by the author, providing, ever so slightly, a glimpse of the muse.