Albania-born, Paris-based Kadarâ (Broken April, 1990, etc.) returns with a nightmarish tale from the dark side of totalitarianism (a book first published in 1981 in Albania and ``immediately banned''): a young man finds employment in a mammoth state-run institution for dream analysis, only to see the job become his life as he rises through the ranks. Mark-Alem belongs to the illustrious Quprili family, which for hundreds of years has served as the right hand to the rulers of the Empire--even though occasionally purged from power under suspicion of treason. Appointed to the Tabir Sarrail, or Palace of Dreams, a maze of endless empty corridors and bureaucracy in which minions labor ceaselessly to interpret the night thoughts of the land in order to produce the weekly Master-Dream used to guide State policy, he is assigned to Selection, where noteworthy dreams are categorized and culled from the rest. However, he is promoted swiftly to the inner sanctum, the Interpretation group, being told simply by the Director: ``You suit us.'' With reality receding from him under pressure from long hours spent in contemplation of others' dreams, he is caught unawares when a family gathering is disrupted and his favorite uncle is arrested and executed--events brought on by the reading of seditious intent in a dream that Mark- Alem himself handled but was unable to interpret. An ensuing shakeup in the Palace of Dreams leaves him miraculously in charge, a victory of sorts for his family--which he dutifully records in the Quprili Chronicle but which gives him no optimism for the future. Brooding, mysterious in its dreamlike states and logic: a memorable portrait of a man powerless before the caprices of Fate and its handmaiden, the State.