The Fall of the Stone City Paperback – 5 Dec 2013
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"One of the most important voices in literature today" (Metro)
"A master storyteller" (John Carey)
"One of the world's greatest living writers" (Simon Sebag Montefiore)
"There are very few writers alive today with the depth, power and resonance of this remarkable novelist" (Herald)
"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" (Financial Times)
"One of the great writers of our time" (Scotsman)
"Ismail Kadare has sometimes been compared with Kafka, and you can see why" (Scottish Mail on Sunday)
"There are books which seem less the second-time round; Kadare's seem more . . . one can relish his mastery of tone and the tireless probing intelligence of narrative" (Allan Massie The Scotsman)
"Both in his deployment of material and in his vision of life, Kadare is the equal of the often invoked Kafka" (Literary Review)
"Ismail Kadare is a great writer, by any nation's standards" (Financial Times)
"He is seemingly incapable of writing a book that fails to be interesting" (New York Times)
"One of the most compelling novelists now writing in any language" (Wall Street Journal)
"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)
"An outstanding feat of imagination delivered in inimitable style, alternating between the darkly elusive and the menacingly playful" (Peter Carty Independent on Sunday)
"This novel is a perfect showcase for [Kadare's] wonderfully powerful, eccentric storytelling" (Kate Saunders The Times)
"Brilliant but unsettling" (Irish Mail on Sunday)
"The Fall of the Stone City is written with a persuasive lightness of touch. Kadare's authorial tone is invariably ironic and his fiction is playful, as if he has never lost sight of exactly how ridiculous humankind tends to be" (Irish Times)
"A mysterious and masterful novel that captures a pivotal moment in Albania's history" (Independent)
"[Kadare] is on brilliant but unsettling form here" (The Mail on Sunday)
"The story is a tragic-comic satire of the inhuman senselessness of the Albanian (and any other) dictatorship . . . [Kadare's] work gives a unique insight into the history of this, the strangest corner of Europe" (Edward James Historical Novel Society)
"A dreamworld where history and fiction come together. . . Ismail Kadare's subject, as always, is the presence of the past. . . more astonishing and truthful than any mere documentary chronicle" (Guardian)
"In his latest novel, Kadare features many of his motifs-bloody Balkan histories; bleak totalitarianism lives under silky threads of magical realism-that have made him a perpetual shortlister for Noble Prize laureate. A thoughtful exploration of the colluding forces of fascism and communism and a country caught between them that is at once obscure and enigmatic, lucid and insistent" (Publishers Weekly)
"Mesmerizing. . . A well-crafted translation of a European masterpiece" (Booklist (starred review))
"A harsh but artful study of power, truth and personal integrity... [The Fall of the Stone City is] an ironic, sober critique of the way totalitarianism rewrites history, from an Albanian author who's long been the subject of Nobel whispers" (Kirkus Reviews)
"The Fall of the Stone City is playful, supremely sarcastic, mystifying, charming and bleak, by turns and all at once. Kadare raises ambiguity to an art form, and perfectly evokes the uncertainties of life under arbitrary rule" (New Zealand Herald)
The much anticipated new novel from the Man Booker International Prize winner - a story of the great city of Gjirokaster and of a secret meeting that may have changed the face of Europe in the twentieth centurySee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The Albanian city of Gjirokastër 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.
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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