A blind man approaches his one hundredth birthday in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Frail and introspective, he spends his time musing on a magazine piece he read some years ago, before he lost his sight: explorers had come upon a company of jungle parrots that still spoke snatches of the language of an extinct society. The birds were then captured, caged and sent home, in the hope that linguists might begin to piece together the lost language from their puzzling squawks and screeches. But the birds died on the way back, taking with them the last remnants of a disappeared civilisation. The parallels are all too apparent to the blind man: he fears that he too carries within him only a shredded inheritance, and that he is too concussed, too remote to pass anything on. Wondering what wisdom he has to leave to the world, he embarks on an epic armchair journey through history, memory, and prophecy that he writes up in the Book of Life and the Book of Daydreams. Throughout this lyrical, moving and deeply imaginative novel, the blind man leads us through the twists and turns of his country's turbulent century and his own, equally engaging story of enlightenment, love and loss. A vision emerges of a beleaguered and damaged nation - stained by empire, monarchy, revolution, Fascism and Communism - and of a moribund man desperately trying to leave a part of himself behind.
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