The General of the Dead Armyby Ismail Kadare
The General of the Dead Army is a moving and timely meditation on war and its consequences by the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize, available again in paperback. Twenty years after World War II, an Italian general—armed with maps, measurements, and dental records—is sent to Albania to recover the remains of his country&rsquo/b>… See more details below
The General of the Dead Army is a moving and timely meditation on war and its consequences by the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize, available again in paperback. Twenty years after World War II, an Italian general—armed with maps, measurements, and dental records—is sent to Albania to recover the remains of his country’s fallen soldiers. A quarrelsome priest joins him, and in rain and sleet they dig up the Albanian countryside—once a battlefield, now a graveyard—checking teeth and dog tags, assembling a dead army in pine-box uniforms. In addition to the brutal weather, they also battle the hostility of the Albanians working for them. This may be an errand of mercy for the general, but the chance to humiliate their one-time conquerors offers the Albanians a welcome vengeance. Fighting the hopelessness of his undertaking, the general finds his movements shadowed by a German general on the same gruesome mission for his own country. In a terrible crescendo at a wedding, the Italian general must answer for the crimes of his country and all countries that have invaded this land of eagles, seeking to destroy its people. Enthralling and poignant, The General of the Dead Army is an elegy for the young people of every country who are sent abroad to die in battle.
The New York Times
This early novel by controversial Albanian author Kadare was originally published in 1963; Coltman's English translation, based on the French edition, first appeared in 1971. (The only other English translation currently available is by W.H. Allen.) The book's protagonist is an Italian army officer who has come to Albania to recover the bodies of soldiers who died twenty years earlier in World War II. The General and his team carry crudely drawn maps and directions to burial sites supplied by aging war veterans. At first, the General fantasizes about returning home in triumph with his army of dead soldiers, but his optimism quickly fades. Rain and cold weather make recovery difficult, and the sullen Albanians continue to treat the Italians as invaders. It doesn't help that German recovery teams are there at the same time. The clerical routines of the mission become increasingly oppressive. Before long, the General is haunted by terrifying dreams and hallucinations. He starts to see living people as skeletal remains and, fatally, begins to feel sympathy for the Albanians. This gloomy but powerful antiwar novel provides an excellent introduction to Albania's best-known author.
Edward B. St. John
Times Literary Supplement
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A wonderful which exposes the aftermath and conclusions war bring to all nations involved. Kadare writes to bring the reader in to beg for more.
The most famous Albanian writer and one of the most famous alive writers in the world has said it all. It sends your mind in another world. Superb.