Fall of the Stone City

Fall of the Stone City

by Ismail Kadare
     
 

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It is 1943, and the Second World War is ravaging Europe. Mussolini decides to pull out of his alliance with the Nazis, and withdraws the Italian troops occupying Albania. Soon after, Nazi forces invade Albania from occupied Greece. The first settlement in their path is the ancient stone city of Gjirokastër, an Albanian stronghold since the fourteenth century.…  See more details below

Overview


It is 1943, and the Second World War is ravaging Europe. Mussolini decides to pull out of his alliance with the Nazis, and withdraws the Italian troops occupying Albania. Soon after, Nazi forces invade Albania from occupied Greece. The first settlement in their path is the ancient stone city of Gjirokastër, an Albanian stronghold since the fourteenth century. The townsfolk have no choice but to surrender to the Nazis, but are confused when they see that one of the town’s residents, a certain Dr. Gurameto, seems to be showing the invading Nazi Colonel great hospitality. That evening, strains of Schubert from the doctor’s gramophone waft out into the cobbled streets of the city, and the sounds of a dinner party are heard. The sudden disappearance of the Nazis the next morning leaves the town wondering if they might have dreamt the events of the previous night. But as Albania moves into a period of occupation by the Nazis, and then is taken over by the communists, Dr. Gurameto is forced to answer for what happened on the evening of the Nazi’s invasion, and finally explain the events of that long, strange night.

Dealing with themes of resistance in a dictatorship, and steeped in Albanian folklore and legend, The Fall of the Stone City shows Kadare at the height of his powers.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Christopher Byrd
For a novel that delights in riddles…what's most interesting apart from Kadare's use of folk tales and dreams is its gender politics…Like an unreconstructed Freudian, Kadare is fascinated by how men use ideological structures as proxy mechanisms to shore up their masculinity and carry out dominion over others. There is nothing startling here. But such is Kadare's skill as a storyteller that he renders conventional wisdom with the force of a childhood trauma.
Publishers Weekly
In his latest novel, Kadare (The Ghost Rider) features many of his motifs—bloody Balkan histories; bleak totalitarianism lives under silky threads of magical realism—that have made him a perpetual shortlister for Noble Prize laureate. This novel, set in the isolated Albanian city of Gjirokastër, covers roughly 10 tumultuous years, encompassing the Italian withdrawal and subsequent German invasion during WWII. Always aware of this historical backdrop, Kadare considers its impact on private lives. The mystery preoccupying both the city and novel centers around events of September 16, 1943, a night when “Big Dr Gurameto” hosted a dinner for Col. Fritz von Schwabe, commander of the first German division to enter Albania and old friend of Gurameto’s from their college days. That party, resulting in the unexpected release of hostages held by the Germans, remains shrouded in inscrutability until Gurameto is made to account for his actions when the country’s new Communist leaders force a reckoning after the war. The answer doesn’t explain the circumstances of September 16 so much as shine a light on the impossibilities of negotiating the relentless press of history. A thoughtful exploration of the colluding forces of fascism and communism and a country caught between them that is at once obscure and enigmatic, lucid and insistent. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

—Shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

“An incisve, biting work. . . . [The Fall of the Stone City] refines our understanding of satire’s nature. . . . If you don’t know [Kadare’s] work, this is a good place to begin. I hope you won’t stop here.”—NPR

"What’s most interesting apart from Kadare’s use of folk tales and dreams is [The Fall of the Stone City’s] gender politics. . . . Like an unreconstructed Freudian, Kadare is fascinated by how men use ideological structures as proxy mechanisms to shore up their masculinity and carry out dominion over others. . . . Kadare’s skill as a storyteller [is] that he renders conventional wisdom with the force of a childhood trauma.”—New York Times Book Review

“The town’s quirks, destiny, and characters—comic, extravagant, and all but floating an inch or two off the ground—are in some ways reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. . . . After a first part centering around a cheerfully extravagant wartime story, cracks develop; a hallucinatory crumbling ensues and descends into tightening nightmare. . . . the nexus between totalitarianism and madness is twisted tight. . . . The novel starts in the blithe wackiness of a place where gossip and rumor play the role that facts might anywhere else.” —The Boston Globe

“Complex and exacting.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Kadare’s books reflect his country and are imbued with Albanian myths and metaphors. The book gives both the sense and essence of a totalitarian state in language that, while straightforward, is literary and often allegorical. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is a strong addition to Kadare’s body of translated work and which further demonstrates that he is deserving of wider acclaim and readership.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Mesmerizing. . . A well-crafted translation of a European masterpiece.”—Booklist (starred review)

"A harsh but artful study of power, truth and personal integrity... [The Fall of the Stone City is] an ironic, sober critique of the way totalitarianism rewrites history, from an Albanian author who’s long been the subject of Nobel whispers."—Kirkus Reviews

“A dreamworld where history and fiction come together . . . Ismail Kadare’s subject, as always, is the presence of the past. . . . more astonishing and truthful than any mere documentary chronicle.”—The Guardian

“The prose frequently evokes Albania's rich tradition of folklore. . . This is classic Postmodern fiction; literature which tells us that we can never be sure about the past. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is a masterly recuperation; an outstanding feat of imagination delivered in inimitable style, alternating between the darkly elusive and the menacingly playful.”—The Independent on Sunday

“In his latest novel, Kadare features many of his motifs—bloody Balkan histories; bleak totalitarianism lives under silky threads of magical realism—that have made him a perpetual shortlister for Noble Prize laureate. A thoughtful exploration of the colluding forces of fascism and communism and a country caught between them that is at once obscure and enigmatic, lucid and insistent.”—Publishers Weekly

“Kadare was awarded the inaugural International Man Booker prize in 2005, and in this disorienting, absorbing, Kafkaesque novel his skill is clearly evident as he conjures the city’s nervy mood. Plot advances obliquely through a whirl of rumors to the doctor’s horrifying final act. A masterful performance.”—Daily Mail

The Fall of the Stone City is playful, supremely sarcastic, mystifying, charming and bleak, by turns and all at once. Kadare raises ambiguity to an art form, and perfectly evokes the uncertainties of life under arbitrary rule.” —The New Zealand Herald

“This wonderful little novel, by the intriguing Albanian master Ismail Kadare, opens in September 1943. . . as witty and as dark as is everything he has written in a magnificent career. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is written with a persuasive lightness of touch. Kadare’s authorial tone is invariably ironic and his fiction is playful, as if he has never lost sight of exactly how ridiculous humankind tends to be.”—The Irish Times

Kirkus Reviews
An ironic, sober critique of the way totalitarianism rewrites history, from an Albanian author who's long been the subject of Nobel whispers. The novel opens in 1943, as the Nazis are poised to move into Albania, retaking the country from Italy and invading the city of Gjirokastër. The locals are understandably restless, and an advance party is fired upon. Hostages are taken, and bloodshed seems inevitable. But in an effort to calm tensions, a leading doctor, Gurameto, meets with the Nazi commanding officer, Col. Fritz von Schwabe, who also happens to be an old college classmate. The loose plot of Kadare's novel (The Accident, 2010, etc.) turns on the question of what exactly happened at that meeting. Various theories circulate among the citizenry: the invasion was all about locating and handing over a prominent Jew, Gurameto was angling for a governorship, the Albanians were being punished for their own incursions into Greece, and so on. Through these stories, Kadare explores the way people project their own nationalistic anxieties and prejudices onto every situation; the lyrics of a local bard turn the events into a kind of folklore. Kadare's omniscient view emphasizes political processes at the expense of characterization, but if we don't get to know the doctor, the colonel or the residents very well, Kadare is still a potent storyteller, and as the story jumps to 1944 and then to 1953, he reveals the grim consequences of dictatorships on identity. The tail end of the novel focuses on Stalinist interrogators' efforts to bully and torture the truth about the meeting out of Gurameto, and his refusals don't symbolize heroism so much as resignation--a realization that the facts will never be clear in the face of anti-democratic thuggery. A harsh but artful study of power, truth and personal integrity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780857860118
Publisher:
Canongate Books
Publication date:
05/28/2012

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Kadare’s books reflect his country and are imbued with Albanian myths and metaphors. The book gives both the sense and essence of a totalitarian state in language that, while straightforward, is literary and often allegorical. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is a strong addition to Kadare’s body of translated work and which further demonstrates that he is deserving of wider acclaim and readership.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Mesmerizing. . . A well-crafted translation of a European masterpiece.”—Booklist

"A harsh but artful study of power, truth and personal integrity... [The Fall of the Stone City is] an ironic, sober critique of the way totalitarianism rewrites history, from an Albanian author who’s long been the subject of Nobel whispers."—Kirkus Reviews

“A dreamworld where history and fiction come together . . . Ismail Kadare’s subject, as always, is the presence of the past. . . . more astonishing and truthful than any mere documentary chronicle.”—The Guardian

“The prose frequently evokes Albania's rich tradition of folklore. . . This is classic Postmodern fiction; literature which tells us that we can never be sure about the past. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is a masterly recuperation; an outstanding feat of imagination delivered in inimitable style, alternating between the darkly elusive and the menacingly playful.”—The Independent on Sunday

“In his latest novel, Kadare features many of his motifs—bloody Balkan histories; bleak totalitarianism lives under silky threads of magical realism—that have made him a perpetual shortlister for Noble Prize laureate. A thoughtful exploration of the colluding forces of fascism and communism and a country caught between them that is at once obscure and enigmatic, lucid and insistent.”—Publishers Weekly

“Kadare was awarded the inaugural International Man Booker prize in 2005, and in this disorienting, absorbing, Kafkaesque novel his skill is clearly evident as he conjures the city’s nervy mood. Plot advances obliquely through a whirl of rumors to the doctor’s horrifying final act. A masterful performance.”—Daily Mail

The Fall of the Stone City is playful, supremely sarcastic, mystifying, charming and bleak, by turns and all at once. Kadare raises ambiguity to an art form, and perfectly evokes the uncertainties of life under arbitrary rule.” —The New Zealand Herald

“This wonderful little novel, by the intriguing Albanian master Ismail Kadare, opens in September 1943. . . as witty and as dark as is everything he has written in a magnificent career. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is written with a persuasive lightness of touch. Kadare’s authorial tone is invariably ironic and his fiction is playful, as if he has never lost sight of exactly how ridiculous humankind tends to be.”—The Irish Times

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Meet the Author


Ismail Kadare was born in Albania in 1936. His first novel, The General of the Dead Army established him as a major international voice in literature. His work has since been translated into forty languages, and in 2005 he became the first winner of the Man Booker International Prize.

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