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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling.
This novel is set in the author's native Albania, in its bleak and fierce High Plateau. In the early 20th century the writ of central government does not run up there, and the mountain communities live by their own centuries-old law, the Kanun, which regulates every aspect of their lives. In particular, this code regulates and indeed insists upon blood-feuds. Every...
Published on 24 April 2005 by Ralph Blumenau

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3.0 out of 5 stars Grim tale
Grim scenery, grim situation, sometimes grotesque, Broken April is not for enjoyment. If this is an allegory about communist Albania, I missed the symbolism - this book left me cold.
Published 10 months ago by michele


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling., 24 April 2005
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
This novel is set in the author's native Albania, in its bleak and fierce High Plateau. In the early 20th century the writ of central government does not run up there, and the mountain communities live by their own centuries-old law, the Kanun, which regulates every aspect of their lives. In particular, this code regulates and indeed insists upon blood-feuds. Every killing must be avenged, and that includes the killing of the avenger. Once an extended family is drawn into such a feud, therefore, honour demands that there is effectively no end to it. A killer is safe only during the bessa, the period of one month following a killing. When the bessa has expired, he is doomed. He even has to wear a black ribbon on his sleeve to show the rest of the world that his life is forfeit. Only by immuring himself for the rest of his life in one of the dark towers (or kullas) dotted over the landscape, could he escape. The novel begins with the story of Gjorg, who has been forced to avenge his brother's death, and who now cannot expect to live through the whole of the month of April.
Into this world intrudes a newly-married couple from the city, Bessian and Diana. Bessian has written extensively about the Kanun, and his idea of a honeymoon is to take his young wife to the High Plateau to show her something of the life that has obsessed him for so long.
It seems to me that Bessian and Diana represent two sides of the author himself. Bessian is fascinated by the majestic primitivity of the mountain people; he finds a rationale in the blood-feud enjoined by the Kanun, and, because so many people are involved with it, he sees fatalist acceptance frequent early and sudden deaths giving a kind of intensity to life. In some of his other powerful novels (The File on H, The Three-Arched Bridge, The General of the Dead Army), Kadare shows a similar Romantic fascination with a society of Noble Savages - savage, it need hardly be said, in a violent sense that is a million miles away from their peaceful Rousseauesque prototypes! Only the laws of hospitality redeem this society somewhat, though even here the Kanun seems positively to glory in its extremism and irrationality. Then, in Diana, Kadare shows, I suspect, the other side of his personality: perhaps some sense of guilt about this very fascination. In his treatment of Diana, Kadare is still a Romantic: she cannot or will not find the words with which to confront her husband's obsession. But her muteness conveys better (and more artistically) her sense of horror than any more articulate and rational exposition of it could do.
The whole book is a work of artistry: the chilling, rain-soaked and largely featureless uplands, the dour mountain folk who inhabit them, the intricacy and implacability of the Kanun are all brilliantly described.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and gripping book, 16 Dec 2000
By 
Gerard Lynch "paddingtonw2bear" (Belfast, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Broken April (Panther) (Paperback)
A dark thriller set in Albania's Northern Plateau in the inter-war years. Gjorg finds, despite himself, that he is trapped in a blood feud which has consumed the lives of so many of his family for several generations. His path crosses with that of a rich playboy couple from Tirana, whose honeymoon in the mountains ends up being more adventurous than they bargained for.
I couldn't put this book down. It is not exactly light reading - in fact it's bloody depressing - but it's plot doesn't let you go and confirms Kadare's position as a master.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars blood feud as classic tragedy, 22 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Broken April (Panther) (Paperback)
Set in Albania in the 1930s when blood feuding functioned as the only effective system of government. This is a tragedy of classic Greek dimension, a sociological essay, a modernist novel of hysteria, an existentialist myth, all combined. Kadare is a novelist of world status.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 20 Feb 2011
This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
Truly wonderful book by Ismail Kadare. I had never heard of the author prior to buying this book purely on impulse and it is simply one of the best books I have ever read.

It's the story of a man who lives on Albania's high plateau and who under the laws of the region, the kanun, must murder someone and who in turn will be murdered himself in line with the requirements of these old laws which apparently still exist in Albania. Into the region comes a newly wed couple on honeymoon, with the husband who is fascinated by the operation of the laws as a whole in the region hoping that his wife will be impressed also. Instead, having briefly come across the murderer while travelling, the husband seems to completely alienate his wife by showing her such an extreme and horrifying "justice" system, the blood feud.

Kadare's book is superbly written in plain, accessible, straight to the point language; his descriptions of the region are excellent as is his portayal of a murderer who never wanted to be in this position but had to and the almost accepting explanations of how the kanun operates in all areas of these peoples' lives puts you in the position of the honeymooners, as a voyeuristic spectator watching the kanun being played out and waiting, just waiting, for someone to be killed.

It is astonishing to think that people accepted this as a way of life and Kadare's book hammers home the sheer futility of a system which has such a blatant disregard for human lives. It made be feel uncomfortable at times but I'm very glad I read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder by law, 21 Jun 2006
This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
Kadare's `BA' is a novel that skilfully contrasts the attitudes of its different characters to acts of violence. The highlands of Albania, in which the book is set, were ruled by the Kanun, a set of laws governing crime and punishment. The central character, Gjorg, comes from a family which is feuding with its neighbours, and the interpreters of the Kanun have determined that Gjorg is permitted to kill a member of that family. When he does so, his life also becomes forfeit, and he has only a month to live. The book opens with the murder Gjorg commits. On his way to pay the blood tax, Gjorg encounters an intellectual, Bessian, and his new wife, Diana. Bessian is taking her on a tour of the highlands, and he is extolling the virtues of the Kanun as a legal system. His cold-hearted approach contrasts sharply to her visceral horror of the endless chain of killings. Thus Kadare skilfully blends three attitudes towards Gjorg's inevitable murder by relatives of the man he killed. Gjorg is resigned because it is law, Bessian believes that it is good, and Diana feels nothing but horror.

Kadare's book raises questions of right and wrong, crime and punishment, that reach far beyond the Albanian highlands. `BA' forces the reader to examine what violence means when violence is enshrined in law, as it is in countries with corporal or capital punishment. I found `BA' to be an easy read in terms of style, but difficult in terms of content. It is a bleak book, necessarily so, but don't let that put you off. It is though provoking, simple yet effective, and a well-constructed parable, and well worth a read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 9 Jan 2011
This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
Being from the region the book is set in, i must say it does capture a certain reality that still exists there. Readers should be aware however that the area its set in has greatly modernized so it shouldn't be considered as an accurate portrayal of the area by any means yet Kadares book is still quite a good portrayal of the darker side of Highland law that still persist in the modern day including some blood feuds continuing to this day (they're all often similar in fact). As a work of fiction, it made a fantastic, albeit tragic story. Great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fact Disguised as Fiction, 1 Aug 2012
By 
heretic666 (High Dudgeon, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
Very early on in the book you will get the feeling that the author invented nothing; rather he just added together a few histories and just changed the names.
Other reviwers have stressed the archaic notions expressed here as an ancient cultural obligation with no modern counterparts.
Not so. If you are conversant with the criminal gangs that have arisen since the fall of communism and their acts, you will quicly realise that not much has changed; the redeeming feature is that the problem has remained in Albanian enclaves and outsiders/foreigners seldom impinge on their world.
It has been postulated that you could walk through a gunfight between two warring factions with complete safety as you would not be harmed because you are not "in blood" with either side. I would prefer not to test that theory, but anyone believing the values and mores expressed in this book are ancient history would be surprised to learn how little has changed in a culture of vendetta down the generations
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broken April, 26 Nov 2010
By 
Mr. A. Mcinnes "A McInnes" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
This book was a selection by our Round the World Book Group. It was an excellent choice, and was the first to give me a real feeling of being introduced to a completely unknown world and culture. Kadare was still nearly two years away from being the first Man Booker International prize winner (2005) when we read this book. We voted it straight to the top of our list (January 2004) and it stayed there against several serious challengers until it was pipped recently by "Reading Lolita in Tehran". The topic of the book is the vendetta or Kamun. The approach reminded me very much of Robert Silverberg's "A Time of Changes" and Ursula Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness", both of which introduce the reader to familiar, yet unusual, worlds. The inevitability of Gjorg's death is the thread which binds the whole story together. I wonder if the Kamun was introduced originally to control and limit the number of revenge killings which were taking place. The horrific perversion of the Kamun is shown clearly in the section in which Mark muses on how to increase the income from the blood money so as to preserve his position (and his livelihood), as if human lives can be traded like horses. Could someone from outside that culture truly understand such an alien way of life? Thank goodness Kadare resisted any temptation to reconcile Bessian and Diane. After finishing this book I read, within a couple of months, every one of Kadare's books which had been translated into English. If you only read one author this year, make it Kadare. You won't regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broken April, 20 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
Having recently made a very brief visit to Albania, I met a delightful local guide who recommended this book, one which I never might have chosen to read. However, I was fascinated by the social background and the feuding which was an integral part of society, so I was inspired to read this novel. Not only is Kadare an excellent writer but he brings the landscape alive and against this harsh backdrop, it is easier to understand how the country became cut off from those surrounding it. Even the main character in the novel is deeply and permanently affected by her journey through the countryside of her own land. A truly intriguing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Books I've Ever Read, 17 July 2009
This review is from: Broken April (Paperback)
This book makes a superb introduction to one of the twentieth century's greatest authors. Unsettling, but easy to read and never less than gripping. The novel takes you to, and completely immerses you in, an utterly alien world, yet one not too far removed in time or distance from our own. A society ruled by the rigid code of blood feud, whose cold logic dictates the terrible path that our hero Gjorg has to follow. And follow him we must, across a couple of hundred pages so enthralling that I missed my train stop in order to finish them.
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Broken April
Broken April by Ismail Kadare (Paperback - 6 Nov 2003)
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