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Freewheeling Andy

Ismael Kadare

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Possibly a new name to some here, but Ismael Kadare won the International Booker Prize a month or so ago. The international Booker is for the body of work, rather than the individual's books.

 

Anyway, I'm utterly delighted that he won because I've been enjoying his books for a few years now because he deserves a wider audience (even if it does gazump my "I'm into a very obscure great Albanian novelist" chat-up line - what do you mean, you're not surprised I'm single?).

 

They are all about Albania, and usually about the mad tribal stuff that still goes on in the highlands. In particular a number of books focus the blood feud, and its codified, formalised, legalistic description in the "Kanun".

 

Because of the codified blood feud there's some very, very cold killing in the books, which makes them at times incredibly black.

 

The blackest of the lot, and my favourite, is Broken April. About a boy who is obliged to kill under the blood feud, but who then knows that in the middle of April his life will be fair game. A marvellous, marvellous dark book.

 

My other favourite is much more comedy (although very wry comedy) and is The File On H, about some Irish-American scholars wandering the Albanian highlands desperately trying to find the origins of the Homeric epic, whilst loads of petty politicians and drunk inn-keepers suspect them of spying and are desperately trying to shop them to higher powers.

 

Anyway, it's all marvellous. And a thoroughly deserved award for a desperately underrated writer (you can tell he's underrated because nobody in Waterstones was expecting him to win, and therefore there were none of those stupid over-sized displays with his books on).

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I'll drag this back to the top, because I think that all of you people who want to read a bit outside of your normal field might like to try Broken April. It's both mad and alien enough, I think, to appeal to the horror and the fantasy people. Even though it's set in the real world, with real people and real things.

 

And it's also pretty high profile at the moment with Kadare having won the international booker.

 

Before you mention it, yes, I am nagging. :D

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Well, I'd certainly recommend it as a reading circle book. Not too big or heavy, but very good. Trouble is that I'd be at an unfair advantage of having already read it, and an unfair disadvantage that I last read it years ago...

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Ok, I've read the following by Kadare:

 

Three Elegies for Kosova

Three Arched Bridge

Broken april

The Palace of Dreams

The File on H

Spring Flowers, Spring Frost

The Pyrimid

The Successor

 

and I have The Concert on my TBR shelf.

 

What should I go for after that?

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They are all about Albania, and usually about the mad tribal stuff that still goes on in the highlands. In particular a number of books focus the blood feud, and its codified, formalised, legalistic description in the "Kanun".

 

Sounds interesting. I may give Broken April a try.

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You've done most of it already, Kenny.

 

The obvious one you're missing is The General Of The Dead Army, which I love. It's about an Italian general going to Albania post WWII to try and recover the bodies of fallen soldiers, and his encounters with a German officer trying to do the same, and of the obstructions put in their way by Albanians who resent their presence after what they did during the war.

 

It's so wonderful, but it's one of the bleakest books I've ever read.

 

I take it, from that list, that you are a fan.

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He's probably somewhere in my top ten favourite writers.

 

There are a few I don't have:

 

The Castle

Doruntine

The General of the Dead Army

Albanian Spring (which seems to be non-fiction)

As well as a few that don't seem to be in print anymore like Chronicle in Stone.

 

Anyway, I'll put down "The General of the Dead Army" as my next Kadare Purchase.

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Ah. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've just finished the Successor, which I didn't really enjoy so much (although I preferred it to Spring Flowers...). He sometimes writes these great, full novels, and sometimes seems to write these fragmentary things that are almost novellas rather than novels, like The Pyramid and Spring Flowers and Successor.

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Chronicle in Stone has been re-printed by Cannongate...in fact I'm reading it now...

 

Which would you reccomend as a followup to Broken April? (Since I've gotten over my ridiculous fear of dead Russian writers, Kadare just doesn't seem so scary either;) )

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Which would you reccomend as a followup to Broken April? (Since I've gotten over my ridiculous fear of dead Russian writers, Kadare just doesn't seem so scary either;) )

 

I mentioned before that my personal favourites are 'The Pyramid' & 'The Palace of Dreams'. Both beautifully written political allegories. If pushed I'd say 'The Pyramid'; you’d never think descriptions of pulling large chunks of stone could be so much fun.

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I mentioned before that my personal favourites are 'The Pyramid' & 'The Palace of Dreams'. Both beautifully written political allegories. If pushed I'd say 'The Pyramid'; you’d never think descriptions of pulling large chunks of stone could be so much fun.

 

Could be. I would have never imagined a book about blood feuds to be so memorable either..go figure.

 

 

(Abc skips off to the library site...toodles!)

 

Ps...good news-three listings in English, life is sweet)

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My personal favourites (after Broken April) are The General of the Dead Army - one of the blackest books I've come across - and The File On H, which is the funniest book I've ever read about Irish American academics travelling to discover the modern descendents of traditional Homeric epic.

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I finished The Pyramid over the weekend, and I have to admit I wasn't overly impressed. Some fault might lie with me, since I may have been coming down with a tummy bug..but I just couldn't get enamored with this one. I'll not give up on Kadare though, since I liked Broken April very much. B)

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I've read a lot of Kadare, and struggled with The Pyramid, abecedarian. For me, it's too much centred on allegory, and the detached style of writing bothers me (as it did with "The Successor", too). The style works better in The Three Arched Bridge, but I prefer the more novel-like of his books. As mentioned above: Broken April, The File On H, The General of the Dead Army.

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Personally I'm happy with allegory as such, and love Bulgakov. My problem with The Pyramid was that it was all political allegory (or even political parable) and seemed to be missing characters and plot, whereas Bulgakov (for example) manages to be what feels like a complete novel whilst also being allegorical. I also have difficulty with Kadare's completely detached voice that he uses in both The Pyramid and The Successor

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A new book by Kadare has just been published by Cannongate:

 

Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories

 

Got it on Monday in London. It's a novella plus two short stories, using a couple of characters which appear in other Kadare books.

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