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Chronicle in Stone Hardcover – 4 May 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 277 pages
  • Publisher: New Amsterdam Books; Open market ed edition (4 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 094153300X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0941533003
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,840,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A great novel . . . a joyful, often comic piece of work" (James Wood New Yorker)

"Sophisticated and accomplished in its poetic prose and narrative deftness" (John Updike New Yorker)

"A master storyteller" (John Carey)

"Ismail Kadare has sometimes been compared with Kafka, and you can see why" (Mail on Sunday)

"There are very few writers alive today with the depth, power and resonance of this remarkable novelist" (Herald)

"Chronicle in Stone is stunning, the quintessential tale of war seen through a child's eyes" (Susan Salter Reynolds Los Angeles Times)

"Writing like this is hard to stop quoting...It is musical not only in rhythms that survive in this deft...translation but in its most elemental perceptions" (-Evan Eisenberg, The Nation)

"[Albania's] most remarkable export: the novels of Ismail Kadare" (Ken Kalfus, The Village Voice Literary Supplement)

"Chronicle in Stone is epic in its simplicity; the history of a young Albanian and a primitive Albania awakening into the modern world" (Michael Dregni, Minneapolis Star Tribune) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

An early masterpiece from the inaugural winner of the International Man Booker Prize with an introduction by James Wood. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gjirokaster is an ancient stone city in southern Albania - not far from the Greek border. It was the birthplace and hometown of the wonderful novelist, Ismail Kadare. It was also where the terrifying Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha came from. Hoxha is a ghostly figure who lurks on the peripheries of many of Kadare's books (e.g. The Successor and Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories). And this, his great (semi-autobiographical) masterpiece, Chronicle in Stone is no exception. As I'm due to return to Albania in a few weeks, I eagerly picked this book up on holiday and my expectations were surpassed.

The narrator is a young boy trying to come to terms with the turmoil of war. His ancient city is swarming with occupiers, collaborators, revolutionaries, survivors, ordinary folk just trying to exist. And in the early 1940s, all is confusion - only a few decades after Albania's independence from the Ottoman Empire, the city changed hands several times back and forth between Italians, Greeks (with the aid of the British RAF bombers), Nazis - not to mention the various Albanian factions each with their own agendas (monarchists, nationalists, communists). Trying to understand the world of adults is hard enough for children - but when this is going on, it's impossible.

Kadare recaptures the innocent confusion of children with pitch perfect poignancy. Here is a little moment where the young narrator has a go.
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Format: Paperback
Another atmospheric book about Albania by its great national writer. This one is about his native town, the ancient, higgeldy-piggeldy, stone-built city of Gjirokastër, near the Greek border. It seems to be permanently either swept by freezing winds or drenched in rain. Its older inhabitants are primitive and superstitious, especially the old women, and they believe in witchcraft. The story is told in the first person by a child. He must be very young, though his age is unspecified. He has a poetic imagination and the ability to put it into words which are both so extraordinary that they defy credibility: for example, he sees the raindrops which are caught in a cistern as sentient and resentful prisoners; or he imagine his eyes as sucking in images. Never mind that these seem to be more like the imagination of an adult poet - simply enjoy these and other wonderful conceits throughout the book for what they are. More credible: the boy becomes obsessed with words, tries to fit images to idioms like `devouring someone with his eyes'. When he hears that soon there will be `a slaughter of nations', the boy, whose has been horrified by a visit to a slaughter-house, tries to imagine what the slaughter of nations might look like.

He soon finds out. The story covers the period from 1939 to 1944. When it opens, the Italians, who had taken Albania in April 1939, are in occupation. The Greeks capture the town in 1940; the Italians recapture it briefly, are driven out again, but then return once more. When Italy leaves the war in 1943, the Germans take over Albania.

The first sign of war is that, just outside the town, the plain where the cows have been grazing is being turned into an aerodrome.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kadare recreates the irrepressible wonderment and imagination of childhood. All the characters come alive, their traits seemingly emphasised by child-like observation and innocence. Unsophisticated routines of long sheltered traditions and community are shattered by war and foreign intervention but there is a timeless quality in the depiction of human foible and behaviour.
The introduction is informative. The translation reads well,suggesting a poetic quality in the original.
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Format: Paperback
In this intriguing novel Kadare creates wonderful atmosphere and portrays his childhood town through the eyes of a young boy. He allows the reader both to picture all the idiosynchracies of Southern Albanian life with its mixture of traditions and superstitions for him/herself, and through the narrators youthful innocence.
Kadare allows us to see how the all consuming nature of the second world war broke into the relatively insular life of Gjirokaster.
The narrative through a young boys eyes also provides humour and fear.
An easier read than most Kadare novels
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ismail Kadare was born in 1936 in Gjirokaster, southern Albania, the same town in which this book is apparently set. He studied in Albania's capital Tirana, and Moscow, returning to his homeland in 1960 after the country broke ties with the Soviet Union.

I found this to be a beautiful and eloquently written book, based on a childs perceptions of war - the outbreak of WW2. The age of the child is unspecified, but one wonders whether this book is at least autobiographical, given the age of the author and the fact that it is apparently set in his hometown. The child, whomever and however old he is, has a vivid imagination, seeing images in raindrops and imagining that the echo from the cistern is an actual voice and therefore consciousness, answering him back.

Life is not easy for this child, as he grows up in one of Europe's most superstitious countries, steeped in tradition, where any form of moral transgression is severely frowned upon - the men as they say are men, and the women, women, who have to know their place. When the boy pays a visit to the local slaughterhouse, he tries to imagine what the slaughter of a nation would look like, and sadly it is not too long before he begins to find out.

The first sign that anything is amiss is when an aerodrome begins to be built. The narrator is excited by this event, imagining the planes with their own personalities, just like people, but the adults around him recognise that this is the first sign of war. Then the blackouts begin, with his house, or rather the cellar, turned into an air raid shelter, where half the villagers, or so it seems, seek refuge. As the air raids intensify, the villagers begin to share their stories, one by one, and we learn what makes these people tick.
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