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The Siege [Paperback]

Ismail Kadare
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Mar 2009
In the early fifteenth century, as winter falls away, the people of Albania know that their fate is sealed. They have refused to negotiate with the Ottoman Empire, and war is now inevitable. Soon enough dust kicked up by Turkish horses is spotted from a citadel. Brightly coloured banners, hastily constructed minarets and tens of thousands of men fill the plain below. From this moment on, the world is waiting to hear that the fortress has fallen. The Siege tells the enthralling story of the weeks and months that follow – of the exhilaration and despair of the battlefield, the constantly shifting strategies of war, and those whose lives are held in balance, from the Pasha himself to the technicians, artillerymen, astrologer, blind poet and harem of women that accompany him. Brilliantly vivid, as insightful as it is compelling, The Siege is an unforgettable account of the clash of two great civilisations. As a portrait of war, it resonates across the centuries and confirms Ismail Kadare as one of our most significant writers.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main ed edition (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847671225
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847671226
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 304,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The Siege is a compelling tale of the savagery and uncertainty of war, and a brilliant historical novel by one of the world's greatest living writers Simon Sebag Montefiore A rallying cry to people besieged by the forces of tyranny. -- Alice Fordham The Times One of the most important voices in literature today. -- Alan Chadwick Metro A tale steeped in blood, a snapshot of a centuries-long conflict, but at the same time Kadare's realism and lively sense of irony give it a modern twist. -- Adam Lively Sunday Times The urgent gestures towards something that's not quite said somehow make the story linger in the mind long after the regime in which The Siege was written went the way of the empire it dreams back to life. -- Christopher Taylor Guardian His fiction offers invaluable insights into life under tyranny - his historical allegories point both to the grand themes and small details that make up life in a restrictive environment. He is a great writer, by any nation's standards. -- Ben Naparstek Financial Times Powerfully atmospheric. -- Jane Jakeman TLS One of the great writers of our time. Scotsman A master storyteller John Carey Ismail Kadare is one of Europe's most consistently interesting and powerful contemporary novelists, a writer whose stark, memorable prose imprints itself on the reader's consciousness. Los Angeles Times There are very few writers alive today with the depth, power and resonance of this remarkable novelist, regularly cited as a Nobel Prize contender ... On no account must this be missed. Herald "Homeric" wouldn't be too exalted a term for this work. Writing with deceptive simplicity, Kadare builds up a world of flesh and blood characters almost without the reader noticing. ... Kadare was already a master of his craft nearly 40 years ago. -- Alistair Mabbot Herald Gravid, quasi-classical prose...invigorated by ironic observations. -- Alfred Hickling Guardian A story that is both stirring at a human level and steeped in historical symbolism ... A vast and varied cast is expertly marshalled by a writer who is increasingly enjoying a worldwide reputation. -- Sally Cousins Sunday Telegraph The Siege is more relevant and powerful than ever ... Kadare's early novel is stunning. The full panoply of the Ottoman's multi-ethnic empire is vividly rendered. -- Heather McRobie Daily Telgraph Mystery and suspense fuel a classic parable of power and its pitfalls. Independent

Book Description

Compelling historical fiction from one of the world's greatest living writers

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking narrative of a siege to the death 7 Mar 2011
By davidT
The story revolves around the siege of an unidentified castle in Albania, as the Turks were beginning their invasion of the Balkans. Given that they eventually won and hung around for about 350 years, the result of this particular skirmish - win, lose or draw - doesn't really matter in the long run, but the author focuses on what it means to the people involved, and for all of them, it's a matter of life and death.
The view of the besieged is given only by an unidentified occupant of the castle, who tells how they prepared for the assault and fought off the ferocious attacks of the Turkish army, right up until the end.
Far more time is spent with the attacking force, and this is where the story really comes to life.
It's easy to think of an army - espcially a historical one - as a single unit, but here we see how it consists of different groups and individuals. There's the official chronicler, who has to record the whole thing, producing an account almost like poetry. There's the 'caster of spells' who is supposed to curse the castle, and when that doesn't work is accused of sabotage and sent to work digging under the fortifications.
In overall charge is the Pasha, and he is well aware that if he fails he might as well commit suicide, because there will be no mercy if he returns home defeated. His harem, which he has brought with him, is also concerned in this, as they will be up for grabs by another man if their current husband dies.
Peraps the cleverest trick is to focus on the Quartermaster, not normally at the forefront of battle narratives, but a very sensible choice here, as he is the one who is most aware of the overall state of the army - how big it is, what it requires, and how much needs to be sourced from the surrounding area in the way of provisions.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent book 1 Aug 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an easy read. It's a great story too. I'm pretty sure that, were I to be an intellectual, I would find a lot more in this book. I'm not- I just want to be entertained and this book did not disappoint.

I read this in 3 days and that was only because I had to waste time going to work and sleeping.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
I was looking forward to reading this, personally enjoying historical fiction. But after finishing it I felt a bit underwhelmed. The story centres on the Ottaman Turks who go on a conquest of Albania lead by Pasha who besiege an unnamed citadel. After constant bombardment and depleting the besieged of food and water, the Albanians continue to resist.
The subject is interesting but there is no description in the writing, the book coming off as procedural with the reader continually informed of what happens next and left me feeling rather cold.
All in all not a bad novel but there could have been more drama included to captivate the reader.6\10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read many times 5 July 2011
It's an anti-war novel. It's an anti-totalitarianism novel. It's a book of ideas rather than characters. It's all those things and much more.

I love the way that none of the besieged Albanians are mentioned by name and that they seem an anonymous, faceless immovable object to the Turks. It sums up the way, like a beehive, an army becomes a being of its own, rather than a collection of individuals.

I've just finished this for the first time. I'm going to read it several more times and I fully expect to discover more with each reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic of the Communist Era 9 Feb 2011
By Kloot
The Siege tells the story of Ottoman expansion into Europe in the 15th century, or more specifically Kadare's Albania. It does so in simple and descriptive language. The Sultan's forces lay siege to an unidentified citadel in an ultimately futile attempt to take control. The novel is epic in scale. The cast is impressive, from the Commander-in-Chief or Pasha with his hareem of wives and eunuch who reside within his pink tent. His War Council of various members and interests, and religious and civil dignitaries, official historians, doctors and poets and gun-smiths and so on. And then a colorful array of the almost endless Ottoman forces. The besieged Albanians or defenders rarely appear, occasionally as corpses. Their leader Skanderbeg is referred to throughout though does not appear except as perhaps an idea. The chapters are interspersed with short accounts from the Albanian perspective written it would appear by a christian scribe. The story deals with a clash of civilizations, aggressive Ottoman expansion into Christian Europe. It was written shortly after Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1968 to quell the encroaching liberalism of that country. The hard line government in Tirana panicked and thousands of concrete pillboxes were hastily constructed all over the small state in order to quell an attack that never came. Paranoia reigned. The parallels are clear. This is a novel set in the 15th century but it is very much a classic of the communist era. Though veiled it absolutely resonates today. Ismail Kadare is a wonderful writer. He is finding a new and appreciative audience outside his homeland and this is to be greatly welcomed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A well written historical novel set at a time when the author's homeland Albania was under attack from the Ottoman Empire. Because of this backdrop, he was able to get it published in his home country in 1969, though it contains subversive messages about the nature of an arbitrary and authoritarian political system. I must say I found much of it rather unengaging and a little flat, though perhaps in part that may be down to the double translation into French then English.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars To finish or not to finish?
Having made my way through half of this book already, I am still undecided as to whether to read the rest. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jonathan M. Terry
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent novel
An excellent novel from one of my favourite Albanian writers. It takes you back in the dark times and it introduces you into the world of two opposing... Read more
Published 14 months ago by F.T.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my usual read but very pleasanty surprised
Following a recommendation from a work colleague i bought this and after a few pages I was gripped. It's a fascinating story and despite being set many years ago has a certain... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Whitechild76
3.0 out of 5 stars A chronicle for all time
This book was chosen for the book group that I belong to, and to be honest, I wouldn't have chosen to read it otherwise, and if I hadn't been on a lazy holiday, with plenty of time... Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2010 by Jane @The Owl Pen
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding as Both Historical Fiction and Allegory
Originally published in Albania in 1970, and then translated into French in the mid-90s, this excellent novel has finally made it into English. Read more
Published on 2 Oct 2009 by A. Ross
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Historical Novel, Not Quite as Great as Some Reviewers Say...
On the surface this appears to be the story of the siege of a medieval Albanian fortress by the Ottoman Turks. Read more
Published on 26 Jun 2009 by wolf
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound thriller
Kadare is less economical in his use of words producing a creative, colourful and descriptive narrative of a tense prolongued seige, reflecting on the effects and consequences of... Read more
Published on 11 Oct 2008 by Flembo
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