Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

July Books 21) Chronicle in Stone, by Ismail Kadarë

Kadarë's classic account of growing up in his home city of Gjirokastër during the second world war. I've never been there though a friend of mine is one of the local MPs, a minister in the outgoing Albanian government. Another local, nameschecked here as "Enver, the Hoxha boy", ended up running the country for four decades until his death in 1985.

Reading it so soon after Survival in Auschwitz made for an interesting contrast: Kadarë depicts an ancient society unwillingly dragged into modernity by the occupying Italians, Greeks and Germans, and by the British bombs dropped on the city. Our narrator tries to make sens of all this, by reading Macbeth and observing the weirdnesses of his neighbours and relatives.

The partisans are portrayed in a way as a brutal internal response - I am surprised that Kadarë got away with showing them as he did, in 1971; Hoxha's Albania was obviously very different from North Korea. And the war also terminates human relationships - directly, through death, and indirectly, through the destruction of the old customs of courtship and marriage - one of the most memorable characters is Kako Pino, who makes up the brides of Gjirokastër on their wedding days.

The truth is sometimes a bit difficult to pin down, and so is the exact text: the cover of the book says that the translation is by David Bellos, but Bellos in a very good introduction explains that the translation is mostly by Albanian dissident Arshi Pipa, who fell out with the original publisher and demanded that his name be removed. Bellos doesn't make it entirely clear if the English text here actually corresponds to any Albanian version of Kronikë në gur. For all that, it's Kadarë's least weird novel, of those that I have read, and perhaps his most approachable.
Tags: bookblog 2009, world: albania, writer: ismail kadare

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.