The Fall of the Stone city by Ismail Kadare
Original title – Darka e gabuar
Translator – John Hodgson
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 ?