The fall of the stone city by Ismail Kadare

the fall of the stone city

The Fall of the Stone city by Ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

Original title – Darka e gabuar

Translator – John Hodgson

Source Library

Well when this was named on the longlist for this years Independent foreign fiction prize longlist I was please ,not being a big fan of reading completely the works of writers ,I was pleased to have a chance to revisit Ismail Kadare ,this is the fourth book by Him I will have read ,I have also under review the pyramid .The big difference between that book and this one is the fact this one has been translated directly from Albanian not French like a number of the earlier novels were as secondary translations .Ismail Kadare is probably the best known Albanian writer (there are others dalkey archive have published one I know off ),his books have opened the lid on Albanian life for more than fifty years .He was born in Gjirokastër which happens to be the setting for this novel .

And what happened was this :on the afternoon that preceded the dinner ,after the tanks and armoured vehicles had rumbled and rattled their way into town ,there stepped out from one of the military cars onto the city square Colonel Fritz Von Schwabe ,commander of the German division and bearer of the Iron cross his legs still stiff ,he stood surveying the scene and announced “Gjirokastër I have a friend here .”

The colonel arrives and remembers his friend the doctor

This book starts in the second world war and just as the Germany army is heading in Albanians direction as they look to grab land and recourse .They arrive in Gjirokastër. A troop of soldiers is sent to the town they are led by a Colonel Von Schwabe .This Nazis officer is happy to be coming to Gjirokastër as he has a very old friend that lives in the town ,the town doctor ,with whom he studied when younger .So he is invited to the Doctor Gurmante for dinner .The next day we see the troops move out of the town the doctor is called a hero by the people in the town ,are these two events connected ? what will happen after the war to the doctor when the communist take over the country .The facts are clear the Germans were bad ,but then the authoritarian regime that followed the war was also very brutal .This book shows war and the aftermath in one place ,on one man and what repercussions happen due to friendship he had with a german officer .We see one man go from Hero to villain over the course of this book .

As evening fell ,another man was listening carefully to the tumult from the upper floor .The unhinged Remzi Kadare ,the former owner of the house ,huddled in army blankets added his own expletives to the bedlam above .”you tart ! You whore !” he shouted ,addressing the house that had been his own house before he lost it at poker .

Is this a member of Ismail Kadare’s family ?is kadare a popular name in Albania .

Well this one shocked me I have found in the past Kadare uses a lot of imagery like in the pyramid where the building of a pyramid in egypt echoes events in communist Albania .But, no this felt a much more personnel book from Kadare than pother by him I have read ,I think because it is set in his home town of Gjirokastër ,there is a character with the same surname as him in the book makes me think this is Kadare want to talk about his childhood ,he seven when the Germans invade his home town .In some ways the way the story is worked is like a child remembering what happen ,there is truth and there is lies ,the germans came but didn’t leave as in the book .Was there a doctor ? well to me it doesn’t matter at the heart of this book is a discourse on extreme regimes and their effect on the public whether right-wing or lef wing it is the way they treat the people who is remembered .I felt Kadare’s writing follows better in this book sure that is due the nature of it being a direct translation .But part of me thing that fact this is published after the Albanian regime has fallen Kadare is free to speak about past events than before .

Have you read Kadare ?

31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. biblioglobal
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 18:17:59

    I haven’t read any Kadare yet, but I plan to. Do you have a favorite?


  2. storberose
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 20:46:38

    I read this novel in Portuguese a few years ago, I liked it, but it didn’t blow me away. Also although I’m seldom one to nitpick about translations, I remember that was one of the few cases where I felt the translation was so-so, lots of clumsy syntax in it. I hope the English translation did better.


  3. Tony
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 21:52:35

    This is one I enjoyed, definitely up there in my top six. It’s a very funny book at times too, with hints of Kundera and GGM. Godo to see that it was translated from Albanian too 🙂


  4. Lisa Hill
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 00:01:02

    I am still toying with reading Chronicle in Stone first…


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  6. Parrish
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 05:16:43

    Not yet read this writer although I have a couple on my shelves & am still waiting for this to arrive at my local library. At the moment I’m reading Trieste


    • winstonsdad
      Apr 08, 2013 @ 03:49:21

      Mine was library but had read large print lol as Mia clicked when ordering a large print not normal I ve read a few but hope to read them All over time all the best stu


  7. Brian Joseph
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:20:43

    This sounds to be interesting yet tragic. This was such a terrible era for Eastern Europe. You mentioned that at one point the book shocked you. Reading about such times can be disturbing. I find that such books bother me more and more as I get older.

    I like the pyramid allegory.


  8. Caroline
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 14:32:56

    An author I really want to try. It’s a problem that most of his books are indirect translations but then again, I don’t want to miss out on a great writer just because I don’t speak Albanian. Good to know this has been translated directly.


  9. Guy Savage
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 00:45:38

    No I haven’t read this author, but his name has been crossing in front of my eyes lately so I bought a couple of his titles. Not this one though.


  10. BB
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 14:25:49

    I’ve had Kadare on my TBR list for years. And this sounds so interesting! Perhaps I’ll finally give it a try once I’m done with Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Tear-Old-Man…


  11. 1streading
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 18:21:16

    I enjoyed this far more than his previous novel, The Accident. I think you’re right about it being personal – the ending of his autobiographical Chronicle in Stone is very similar to the beginning of this.


  12. JoV
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:25:36

    It’s a shame I haven’t read Kadare before but his books are in my radar for a long time. I am glad you reviewed this. His latest book perhaps is the right place to start. Thanks for the review Stu, you read such important books.


  13. Seamus Duggan
    Apr 06, 2013 @ 21:03:02

    Kadare is someone I, like many above, have been meaning to read for years. Thanks for the reminder, Stu. Judging from what’s been said above, I may try Chronicle in Stone and then move on to this if I like that.


  14. Dark Puss
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 12:12:03

    Yes. I read with pleasure “The General of the Dead Army”. You can read my (brief) thoughts on it here:


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  19. Mytwostotinki
    Sep 11, 2014 @ 11:37:54

    I liked this book and Kadare is one of my favorite authors. I have lived a few years in Tirana and he was a frequent sight on the street and the coffeeshops in the center. (He is dividing his time between Paris and Tirana). Three of his books blew me away: The General of the Dead Army, Broken April and The Palace of Dreams, and also the others are simply very good. The Kadare character in the novel might well be someone from his family, the surname Kadare is very common in Gjirokaster.


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April 2013


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