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Elegy for Kosovo: Stories Hardcover – May 10, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1st English-language ed edition (May 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559705280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559705288
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1389, a battle was fought against the Ottoman Turks at Kosovo, ending in a momentous standoff that amounted to a defeat for the Balkan defenders. According to Serb tradition, in a nationalist legend inflamed and exploited by Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbs stood virtually alone against the Turks in a battle that defined Serbian identity. Kadare, an Albanian national, here takes up the Battle of Kosovo in three brief elegiac narratives from a critical perspective. He is sympathetic to the suffering on all sides, but also eager to correct the Serb view: it was a coalition of Albanians, Rumanians, Serbs and other Balkan peoples that clashed with the forces of Sultan Murad I on the Field of Blackbirds. Kadare's point is important and well taken, but this small book is a disappointment. These epic events demand a much fuller and deeper exploration than he offers. Moreover, one hopes that the often lame English--awkwardly pitched in a sort of faux-epic idiom--does not fairly reflect the Albanian original. For Kadare is certainly a novelist of importance. Now in his mid-60s, he remains Albania's foremost intellectual. Though originally trained in Moscow at the Gorky Institute to be a purveyor of the party line, Kadare became a dissident in his homeland and eventually found it necessary to flee. He has lived in Paris since 1990, and is a powerful presence on the French intellectual scene, but his Elegy for Kosovo, however right-minded, is not likely to attract new readers to the fine novels (The Three-Arched Bridge, The Palace of Dreams, etc.) he currently has in print here. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This is a retelling of the legendary battle in which a combined force of Serbs, Bosnians, Romanians, and Christian Albanians was defeated by the superior military of the Ottoman Empire on June 28, 1389. The battle took place on the plains of Kosovo. Kadare's purpose, of course, is to show how violence repeats itself in Balkan history. Yet what makes this story even more interesting is not just the fact that ancient enemies came together in a common cause, but also that even as allies they could not forget their enmity toward one another. The story itself, told in a kind of mini-epic style, abounds with many voices detailing their points of view regarding the battle and its aftermath. It concludes in a magic realist way as the shade of Sultan Murad I, who died in the battle, recounts the whisperings of renewed violence he has heard over the centuries, particularly in the late twentieth century. Frank Caso
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
What beautiful language and powerful image.
Hamilton R
I often hear "polemic" applied to fiction as if it were always a weakness.
M. J. Smith
The style of narrative is pure, and makes it an easy one-afternoon-read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Hamilton R on September 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am a fan of Kadare's and recomend all his books, this one in particular. What beautiful language and powerful image. This is also one of the few books of his that was translated directly from the Albanian, and not from the French, which is important too. We see Kosovo from a completely different angle, as a Serb and an Albanian are thrown together by fate during a medieval battle. The book is full of superb surprises.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Kosovo unraveled before our eyes in the ending years of the twentieth century. In ELEGY FOR KOSOVO, Ismail Kadare takes us back to the Field of the Blackbirds in 1389 to explain when, as the Russian proverb goes, the cloth began unraveling at the edges. There, Albanians, Bosnians, Romanians and Serbs loosely unite under Serbian Prince Lazar to fight the invading Ottoman Emperor, Murad I.
The author presents peninsular residents as quarrelsome types. Things get out of hand only when the newest kid on the block makes the fight ugly. Such happens, from the Albanian perspective, with the invading Slavs in the 5th to 7th centuries and the conquering Muslims in the 14th century.
Known for hospitality to guests, invited or otherwise, the peninsular fighters let the Ottomans get to the battlefield first. The peninsular battle campers then throw a loud party with much drinking and musical bickering while the Ottomans get a good night's sleep. The next day, the peninsular troops lose, and their leaders either hightail it home or become slaughtered captives.
The peninsular history draws on an old oral epic tradition, so minstrels are among the battle's surviving witnesses. They wander north, where only a Great Lady recognizes that the Greek-credited civilization cradling Europe is still among the peninsular fugitives. Accompanying them part of the way, a runaway Turk aspires to three faiths, and just as the three religions fertilize the peninsular killing fields, he too loses his life.
The diverse peninsular peoples never agree to one name for their homeland until the Ottomans call them Balkans. This is the apple of discord left by the Ottomans, along with the buried blood and intestines of their sultan.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on July 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The French philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal once suggested that we "imagine a number of men in chains and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of man."

It is also the image of Kosovo and the rest of the Balkans painted so vividly by Albanian poet and writer Ismail Kadare in his masterfully imagined "Elegy for Kosovo". Elegy consists of three inter-related stories centered on a famous battle that took place in Kosovo more than 615 years ago. On June 28, 1389 a combined army of Serbs, Bosnians, Albanians and Romanians waged a fierce battle against an Ottoman-Turkish army in Kosovo on the Field of the Blackbirds. The battle was seen as one in which the combined Balkan armies fought on behalf of Christian Europe to halt the surging westward expansion of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman army, led by Sultan Murad I was victorious. The Sultan was killed on the day of the battle and was buried in Kosovo. Ironically, despite their victory the Turks never followed up on this victory and did not return to the region for another 150 years.

The first part of the story takes us from the night before the June 28, 1389 battle and through the battle itself. In the camp of the combined army on the eve of the battle peoples who have long fought each other prepare to fight a common enemy. Old animosities are forgotten temporarily. The soldiers and officers, drinking perhaps too much, demand that their minstrels sing songs to prepare them for battle.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on January 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
is told from the viewpoint of eyewitnesses. Although it is fiction: the message is clear, strong & real there are "rumors of impending war", "rumors of peace", "newly sealed alliances" so the story begins. Kadare's use of natural imagery and poetical lyrical language is unsurpassed. You understand how the anxiety of the mountain people adds to the tensions as political alliances are created, ancient memories of past battles won and lost are discussed while musicians strum on the gusle & bards sing about the past. The Turks, Serbs & Bulgarians (Byzantine empire) and other kingdoms once existed in cohesion ... but now with rumours & past memories inflaming emotions. the inevitable occurs. This is one *great* epic story told in about 120 pages!!!! Amazing detail making one feel as if present on the battlefield itself! Erika Borsos (erikab93)
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ITS on January 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While I took Western Civilization in college many years ago, the amazing professor Thacker managed to comment on the current situation in Kosovo circa 1998. Some kid had asked about what the Serbs and the Albanians were fighting over. His response was, "they just hate each-other and they have been hating since the beginning of time." Dr. Thacker wasn't very far off the mark.

And in "Elegy for Kosovo", world-renown novelist Ismail Kadare has attempted to deliver a big message through the use of a parable-legend. The message that blind hatred continues to spawn between the Albanians and the Serbs in the region for over a millennium. Yet, these very people fail to grasp why they hate each other so much.

Milosevic tried to evoke the battle between the Ottomans and the Balkan coalition as a tool to pursue his agenda of ethnic cleansing in the region. That's what sparked the attention of Kadare to the issue, who based on some historical research, and on the epic legends that get carried on from generation to generation wrote this nice account of the battle. As a matter of fact in that part of the world history and legends run hand in hand.

The book is short, and having read many volumes of Kadare, I was a little disappointed. However, the story is right on target. It is absurd to use a battle that happened over 600 years ago, as a tool to annihilate an entire ethnic group.

The style of narrative is pure, and makes it an easy one-afternoon-read. I would highly recommend this book to whoever is interested on the Balkan conflict, as a mean to sort through some of the cloudy logic surrounding this matter.
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