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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moral resistance to ruthless regimes
Albania is overpowered and tossed around between predators ; first Italy, then Nazi Germany, then the Soviet Union. Its ancient city Gjirokastėr represents historic cultural traditions of honour and virtue, but its population squirms and vacillates under the successive invaders' threats. Enver Hoxha and Ismail Kadare both come from Gjirokastėr, but represent diametrically...
Published 12 months ago by Geoff Crocker

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stone City Disappoints
I was looking forward to this having been on order for some months and having read all his other books - some of which were truly outstanding. This, however, truly disappoints. Its a short book but lacks the impact of many of his other stories. It is disjointed despite it's cover statements and the blurb setting out the thread of the story line. The story line of the two...
Published on 12 Sep 2012 by Mr. I. Philliskirk


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stone City Disappoints, 12 Sep 2012
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I was looking forward to this having been on order for some months and having read all his other books - some of which were truly outstanding. This, however, truly disappoints. Its a short book but lacks the impact of many of his other stories. It is disjointed despite it's cover statements and the blurb setting out the thread of the story line. The story line of the two doctors and then the introduction of one doctor and his college friend a German Army Officer entering the Albanian town where the doctor lives, destruction of the town [??] and then references to ladies living in towers just didn't make for any story line that was helpful or even remotely interesting. I didn't see the thread of much of what was alleged to be a transition from war time Albania to 1950's communism. A huge disappointment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moral resistance to ruthless regimes, 13 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Fall of the Stone City (Paperback)
Albania is overpowered and tossed around between predators ; first Italy, then Nazi Germany, then the Soviet Union. Its ancient city Gjirokastėr represents historic cultural traditions of honour and virtue, but its population squirms and vacillates under the successive invaders' threats. Enver Hoxha and Ismail Kadare both come from Gjirokastėr, but represent diametrically opposite persona, the first to become Albania's ruthless Stalinist dictator, and Kadare his literary critic. Reminiscent of Mikhail Bulgakov's taunting of Stalin, and of Franz Kafka's depiction of the totalitarian state, Kadare mocks the control and inquisitions of the communist state. Like K in Kafka, and the artist in Bulgakov, Kadare's story's victim, the elderly doctor Gurameto, though cruelly manipulated and tortured, remains noble and fearless under the thuggish regimes, a model of moral resistance which they cannot eradicate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Folklore or history, you decide, 22 Sep 2012
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Curiosity Killed The Bookworm (Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
The people of Gjirokastėr spend their days speculating on the rivalry between two doctors; Big Dr Gurameto with his German connections and Little Dr Gurameto with his Italian. When, in 1943, the Nazis roll up to the city gates, a group of citizens fire upon them. Whilst the city folk fear the implications of this rebellion, Big Dr Gurameto recognises an old college friend in the Colonel and invites him and his men to dinner. Soon rumours are flying.

The Albanian city of Gjirokastėr is a character in its own right in The Fall of the Stone City. The people are more representative of the city than individual personalities and this gives it the feeling of being a piece of folklore. The doctors come across as being the equivalent of celebrities but Big Dr Gurameto's actions become entwined with the fate of the city. The style is full of charm and gives in the impression that the Nazi occupation was much more civilised and amenable than the Communist rule that came after.

I always appreciate learning a little bit of history in a novel and I previously had no knowledge of Albania during the war. However as the story progresses, the lines blur between fact and fiction and something at the end makes me feel that is a reworked piece of Albanian mythology. And it's the ending that really brings it together for me to make it a great little novella. I think you need to approach it as a piece of folklore rather than straight forward historical fiction.

I haven't read any other works by Ismail Kadare so I can't compare but I will be looking out for his work in future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Hours, days are passing and we are still stuck somewhere...out of time. In reverse or minus time.", 5 Feb 2013
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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(3.5 stars) Writing of Albanian life in Gjirokaster, the city of his birth, during World War II and its aftermath, Ismail Kadare creates a novel which appears, initially, to be a simple morality tale, clear and to the point, then becomes increasingly complex and enigmatic. Kadare, constantly observed by Albania's communist officials as a beginning novelist, always had to disguise what he really wanted to say without being censored, and he created a unique style - a literary performance mixing fact and fiction, past and present, reality and dream, truth and myth, and life and death. By juggling time periods, bringing ghosts to life, repeating symbols and images, and leaving open questions about the action of a novel, he disguised the harsh truths of everyday life and the horrors of past history, a style which continues in this new book.

This novel begins in 1943, with the retreat of the Italians, who have ruled Albania since 1939, and the arrival of the Germans. As the Germans enter the city, however, someone fires on the advance team. No one is hurt, but the Germans plan reprisals: a hundred citizens are taken hostage, and the city will be blown up. Soon, however, the townspeople hear music from the home of Big Dr. Gurameto. Colonel Fritz von Schwabe, commander of the German division, is having dinner with his "great friend, from university," Big Dr. Gurameto. Shortly afterward, the city learns that the citizens held as hostages, including Jakoel the Jew, are being released, and the city will not be bombed. No one knows how this came about.

In Part II, from 1944, the German Army retreats, and the communists arrive to take their place. People, including hospital patients still under anesthesia and "stuck somewhere out of time" are arrested. Nine years later, when word arrives that Stalin is going to visit the city: Time "was not just suspended; it was going backwards at great speed." For mysterious reasons, the communists have started investigating the dinner between Big Dr. Gurameto and Col. von Schwabe from nine years before.

The novel is rife with symbols regarding the fate of the country - anesthetized patients, Big Dr. Gurameto's dreams of being operated on by himself, and Col. von Schwabe's memory of the doctor operating on him. Scars also appear in the imagery. Old stories, like folk tales, repeat, and ghosts and the dead participate in "real" life. Trying to figure out what is to be taken at face value, what may be symbolic or mythical, and what events are "real" in one place but mythical in another becomes a real challenge, and the many chronological shifts leave the author's narrative direction and purpose open to question.

The tone of the novel is inconsistent, with Part I resembling a morality tale and Part II, a year later, beginning as a history lecture. This then shifts to an almost farcical style about the communists, before it evolves into the gruesome interrogations and tortures which dominate Part III. The author, too, may have recognized a problem of coherence since he himself enters the narrative in the concluding pages, stating "Here is what happened," then explaining some events going back to 1953. His explanation contains some surprises, but it still contains Kadare's trademark combination of fact and fiction, reality and dream, truth and myth, leaving questions about what "really" happened here. Perhaps that was the author's point.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An evocation of life in Albania from 1943 to 1953, 19 April 2014
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The Stone City is Gjirokaster in Southern Albania. Albania was once under Ottoman rule; then was briefly independent; then became a part of Mussolini’s empire. Part One of the novel begins in 1943 when Italy surrendered to the Allies, and the Germans rush in to occupy the country. Part Two starts in 1944, when the Germans have withdrawn and the Stalinist Communists have taken over. Part Three starts in 1953, just before Stalin’s death.

At every stage all sorts of rumours about the situation and about the fate of the city circulate in it; and indeed under each regime life is so unpredictable that anything could happen. In Parts One and Two there are arbitrary arrests and then equally arbitrary releases. Events are related in a symbolical but bizarre and surrealistic manner, humorous on the surface but of course reflecting an atmosphere that is far from amusing.

Two of the citizens are doctors, unrelated but with the same name: Big Dr Guarameto, who had been trained in Germany, and Little Dr Guarameto, whose training had been in Italy. Big Dr Guarameto’s standing varied with the standing of Germany. When the Germans are in occupation, his position is relatively strong, especially as the German commandant was an old university friend of his, and Dr Guarameto gave a great dinner to him and his staff. When the Germans leave, his position is weakened; but then, when Germany was divided into a capitalist and a communist country, it becomes rather arbitrary with which Germany he is identified.

In Part Three, at the time of the “Doctors’ Plot” in the Soviet Union, both doctors are put under arrest while investigators, trained in Moscow, collect “evidence” that they had killed many of their patients. And that dinner Big Dr Guarameto had given to the German officer in 1943 was used in evidence against him. The interrogation of the doctor is a prolonged part of this section of the book - no longer bizarre now, but grimly representative of the knowledge that the investigators in such cases had accumulated before the questioning. As in the case of the Russian doctors, there was an attempt to link this case with a Zionist conspiracy, and Dr Guarmeto is tortured to make him sign statements which he knew were not true.

In the Soviet Union the death of Stalin led to the release and rehabilitation of the seven surviving Jewish doctors who had been arrested in connection with the “Plot”. Kadare’s novel does not end in a similar way.

I did not find this one of Kadare’s better novels. These often have surrealistic elements, but in this book I found the admixture less successful than in some others, inconsistent and somewhat off-putting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The fall of the stone city, 7 Jan 2013
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Read it twice to see if I actually got it. I liked the humour of the opening stages even though not knowing much of Albanian history and culture before. The final sequence was almost heart breaking even if entirely logical on second reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what happened!, 27 Nov 2012
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This was an unusual story- after reading it I am still not sure what happened!

If it has a theme, I would summarise it as a consideration of what is " reality".

I found the book intriguing but more of a puzzle than a book with a point to make or with an emotional pull.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ironic and sad, 6 Oct 2014
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written from the perspective of the common person, there to be ruled, to be told little and understand nothing or half truths at best. it is a savage indictment of Stalinism and of human behaviour which behaves if allowed to with cruelty. superb
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever, 16 Dec 2014
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This review is from: The Fall of the Stone City (Paperback)
Best book ever. Kadare has a way of writing that really engages you into the book. Could not put down. Will be buying more of his books soon. Cannot wait :)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, 30 Jun 2013
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Fantastic kids book, should have more Kosovar and Albanian books,especially for us of Kosovar descent. Our kids will learn the language more easy
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The Fall of the Stone City
The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare (Paperback - 5 Dec 2013)
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