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)
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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 CasoCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved