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"They're like people, stones are," muses the young narrator of this 1971 novel, first published in the United States in 1987 and appearing now in a new edition based on the definitive text. "They're young or old, hard or soft, polished or rough...and now, just like people, they're spattered with blood by the war." Kadare, dark-horse winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in 2005, based this narrative on his own childhood experiences in the mountainside city of Gjirokastër, Albania, occupied alternately by Italy, Greece, and Germany during World War II. The magical setting of a city of stone built around an ancient citadel is matched with dreamlike description and atmosphere; by thrusting these elements into a horrific modern conflict, Kadare creates fabulous tension. The book's other main asset is the unique and endearing voice of the impressionistic narrator, who finds himself caught between the grownups' hatred of the occupying forces and his instinctive love of the machinery of war; a scene in which his favorite plane bombs the city is heartbreaking. Surprisingly accessible for an author often referred to as difficult and Kafkaesque, this is a memorable and moving work. Recommended for all libraries.
“A triumph . . . A beguiling conjunction of realism and fantasy.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“No mere curiosity but a thoroughly enchanting novel–sophisticated and accomplished in its poetic prose and narrative deftness, yet drawing resonance from its roots in one of Europe’s most primitive societies.”
—John Updike, The New Yorker
Posted January 20, 2012
No text was provided for this review.