Kadaré, Ismail. "The Great Wall." Granta 91 (2005): 147-65. Inspector Shung, inspecting the dilapidated but still imposing great wall from the inside (China side), ruminates about its history and the meaning of rumors of impending repair work before an expected assault by the nomads. On the other side, the nomak Kutluk, emissary of Timur i Leng, gallops by, scouting the wall and wishing he could pass to the other side of it to see the finery and debauchery reported there. But the wall takes on unexpected meanings for both the inspector, on the inside, and the nomad scout dying (literally) to get in.
This story intrigued me especially because of its references to Timur and to Ottoman sultan Bayezid, so prominent in my just-completed novel. But quite apart from that, it is an amusing and provocative meditation on the Great Wall that stands before each of us.
I've been reading more short stories lately, and plan to resume writing my own--it's been years since my last one. The two recent publications are older pieces now re-issued or published for the first time: "On a Page from Rilke" in Above Ground first appeared in Milk magazine some years ago, and "Adultery in Africa," soon to appear in Neworld, was originally scheduled for publication in Yellow Silk in 1993 -- but that issue never appeared. Kadaré and especially Quim Monzo, a Catalan writer I've just discovered, help stimulate the imagination.
See also my note on Ismail Kadaré's novel The Siege.