It's the 1970s and cracks are starting to appear in the alliance between China and its Communist cohort Albania. When an Albanian steps on the foot of a Chinese diplomat the tension cranks up - couriers between Tirana and Beijing carry annotated x-rays of the foot back and forth. The Chinese intend to punish their interfering little ally discreetly. But is the Sino-Albanian axis about to come adrift? This is Kadare's surreal black comedy about the inner sanctums of political power and the mysterious causal chains that transform ordinary lives.