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Spring Flowers, Spring Frost: A Novel Hardcover – June 10, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1559706353 ISBN-10: 155970635X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1 edition (June 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155970635X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559706353
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,613,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Working at the intersection of allegory and reality, Kadare (The Three-Arched Bridge, etc.) balances the forces of expression and repression in his latest novel, about an Albanian artist who struggles to keep his sense of equilibrium when the post-Communist government threatens to bring back the so-called "blood laws," which dictated behavior in the country's medieval past. Mark Gurabardhi is the protagonist, a sensitive soul who finds himself disturbed by political events in his strife-torn country, as well as by a bizarre bank robbery and a strange, lurid report that an attractive young woman has married a snake. Closer to home, Gurabardhi's relationship with his girlfriend who also models for him is an up-and-down affair, but what changes the artist's situation is the sudden death of his boss, the director of the art center, who is killed in murky circumstances. His death prompts Gurabardhi to investigate the rumor that the repressive government is about to reintroduce the ancient, family-oriented blood laws to help tighten their control of artistic expression. To learn more, Gurabardhi finds a way to eavesdrop on a conference of prominent leaders. The political turns personal when the artist's girlfriend reveals that her brother is being hunted by the state, and the book closes with the artist making a formal inquiry to the police chief to see if the old laws will be reinstated. Kadare's plotting is sometimes spotty and disjunctive, but despite the lack of continuity, each scene is as tight as the writer's razor-sharp prose. The juxtaposition of ideas and bizarre images is alternately beautiful, peculiar and provocative, as Kadare once again provides an excellent glimpse at the difficult nature of life in a politically unstable land.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Novelist and poet Kadare (Elegy for Kosovo), long considered Albania's foremost author, here depicts the time following Albania's liberation from the Communist totalitarian government. Protagonist Mark finds himself caught between the jubilation of a tantalizing freedom and the social chaos that has accompanied it. Ancient beliefs and practices suppressed by the state resurface to create a new reign of terror. Mark becomes obsessed with Greek and Balkan legend, confusing these stories with both the tyranny and crimes of past leaders and the current disappearances and arrests of friends and fellow artists. Eventually, his dreams and nightmares merge with the nightmares and uncertainty of his daily life, and Mark finds that his long-awaited freedom has disintegrated into lunacy. In the latest of his many novels to be translated into English, Kadare artfully portrays how an individual is affected when his society is suddenly released from long oppression. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

The very structure of the novel indicates a less-than-linear style.
M. J. Smith
I could see how it related to Albania and Albanians, but I found little relevence for the wider world; a message for all mankind.
An admirer of Saul
Bellos captures the style and tone exquisitely and conveys the rich and poetic language that Kadare has employed.
Friederike Knabe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have been a devotee of Kadare's previous books (and this one, like those, has been beautifully translated, this time by David Bellos); but I am afraid I found this one less satisfying. Unlike his other books, the treatment in this one can only be described as surrealistic. He moves between a number of themes - the story of Tantalus, the story of Oedipus, the sinking of the Titanic, an Albanian fable by which a young girl is married to a snake - whose relationship to the main story can perhaps be worked out by readers more sensitive than I am. And one never knows quite where one is, whether in a dream world or a real world, whether the central character is an artist or a deputy chief or police or both. The book also ends inconclusively: one's expectation that the fate of the characters will be resolved is not fulfilled.

I take the main theme of the book to be the disappointment with what happened in Albania when the Communist dictatorship collapsed. The vacuum this left was in part filled by a revival of the Kanun, the ancient code, which the communists had suppressed, of unending bloody vendettas between families. Kadare has written about the Kanun before, in Broken April, where one of his characters showed a romantic fascination for its "noble savagery" (see my review of that book). Now there is no longer any half-acknowledged admiration: only despair that such barbarity wells up again from the remote past, even while the shadows of the communist past still hover over the society and the Council of Europe is an ineffectual occasional presence. The tyranny of communism has been ended; but this is a melancholic and often poetic image of a society that is uneasily adrift.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on October 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
SPRING FLOWERS, SPRING FROST is without doubt Ismail Kadare's most ambitiously experimental novel. On one level, it is the chronological tale of a modestly successful painter named Mark Gurabardhi who lives in the Albanian town of B__ at the close of the Twentieth Century. The former Communist regime has fallen, and the springtime of a new way of life has arrived. New ways and old traditions are competing for primacy in the peoples' lives. As these changes unfold around him, Mark maintains an off again, on again relationship with a young woman who also models for him, but his life is otherwise rather empty of meaning. He works in the kind of cultural institute typical of socialist/communist states, but he has no meaningful relationships with anyone there. His lone friend, the mysterious Zef, never appears in the book, represented instead by his apartment's constantly unlit window as seen from the street.

On another level, however, Kadare presents a series of antic digressions that he labels Counter-Chapters. In one, a virginal young woman is married off by her family to a snake, although it turns out after the ceremony that the snake converts in the evenings into a handsome young husband who sheds his snakeskin for the marital bed. In another Counter-Chapter, the mythological Tantalus has stolen immortality from the gods, who hurriedly marshal their forces (including those of Death) to rein Tantalus in and ultimately punish him for the contrived and different offense of "voracity" based on an insatiable appetite. In yet another instance, Mark the painter becomes Mark the police investigator conducting an interrogation over a secret set of government files.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on January 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
After 40 years of Enver Hohxa's totalitarian rule the new democracy came in many fits and starts to Albania. Ismail Kadare explores the conflicts and contradictions left over from the old regime in a remote mountain town. People are still disappearing never to be heard from again. The secret police appears to remain in place and operating in the shadows. The blood feuds of the ancient rule book, the "Kanun", are rumoured to being revived. And the stories that the ominous secret state archives are hidden in vaults in the local area won't die. In this tense and confusing time, Mark Gurabardhi, a portrait artist, strives to live a "normal" life. With Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, Kadare has created an intriguing and engrossing story of realities and imaginations during a complicated period in his homeland. Kadare, who resides in France, was the inaugural recipient of the Booker International Prize and has only since then become better known in the English speaking world.

In "Spring Flowers, Spring Frost", history and legends mix with the banal day-to-day events of the protagonist's life. Greek mythological characters, such as Tantalus and Oedipus, mix with historical figures such as Brezhnev. The iceberg that was rammed by the Titanic takes on consciousness and presents its perspective of the tragedy. In his nightmares, Mark is imagining himself in an alternative role of a secret police officer. Or does he actually lead a double life and these are not dreams? Mark's model and girlfriend has secrets of her own that make her aloof and possibly dangerous to Mark. Can he help at all? Meanwhile his friend Zef is still missing... Kadare succeeds in creating an atmosphere of insecurity and suspense. Facts and imaginings increasingly intermingle, thus creating new realities.
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