The Fall of the Stone City, By Ismail Kadare
E premte, 15.02.2013, 07:59 PM
mysterious and masterful novel that captures a pivotal moment in
Brian Morton, Saturday 15 December 2012
Kadare is this generation's Kafka, bleakly comic, ethically impenetrable,
plain-spoken to the point of obscurity. The prolonged issue about his political
Kadare is more profoundly concerned with the nature of narrative and the slippages of language than with politics. His work has ranged in time from ancient Egypt to the post-Hoxha years, but the new novel returns him to the theme, if not the strict time-frame of his first book The General of the Dead Army, which was set in the 1960s and concerned the repatriation of Italian war dead from Albanian soil. Events in The Fall of the Stone City happen after the wartime surrender of Italy, which had claimed Albania along with Abyssinia as part of Mussolini's empire, and with German troops (invaders? occupiers? liberators?) pushing south through the Balkans to fill the vacuum.
As tanks arrive in Gjirokastër, Kadare's place of birth, the populace hears rumours that the German educated Big Dr Gurameto, is entertaining the friend of his student years Colonel von Schwabe, who leads the Wehrmacht column. Loyalties ebb and flow. There is a dinner. Gramophone music, most sinisterly Schubert's Death and the Maiden, echoes across town from Dr Gurameto's house. Hostages are freed in batches but the German commander will not trade on the sole Jewish prisoner.
morning, mysteriously, the Colonel and his men have gone. Has a deal been
struck? Whatever the cause,
Previous English translations of Kadare have been taken from the French texts. John Hodgson's version is from the Albanian original. It's a wonderfully mysterious story, masterfully told.