The General of the Dead Army
, Ismail Kadare's meditation on the consequences of war, is a hugely moving account of duty and loss. It is 20 years since the end of the Second World War and an Italian army general is sent to Albania to search again for the bodies of those who lost their lives in the campaign. He is armed with maps, lists, measurements, dental and other records. He tours the countryside organising digs and disinternments and, as he tries to find the dead sons of forgotten families, he wonders at the sense, and scale, of his task. He discusses and argues with the curt Italian priest who is accompanying him. He finds his footsteps followed, sometimes anticipated, by a fellow general who is also looking for bodies; the bodies of his German countrymen. He struggles with the Albanian countryside, weather, labourers who work for him and peasants who watch their work. And he fights the despair that grows as the size, scope and, ultimately, the hopelessness of his task becomes ever more apparent.
Kadare's plaintive novel is a consistently heartfelt lament to all those who have died and been effected by war but it is also a beautiful work displaying the skills that make him one of the great modern European writers. --Mark Thwaite
Kadare is a novelist of dazzling mastery -- PAUL BINDING, Independent
Kadares first novel caught on in the West as nothing out of Albania had in living memory -- Observer