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The Accident: A Novel Hardcover – November 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Man Booker International–winner Kadare (The Siege) builds a strange world out of a "most ordinary" traffic accident. Diplomat Besfort Y. and his longtime girlfriend, Rovena, are killed in a Vienna taxi accident after distracting the driver by "trying to kiss." As it turns out, Besfort may have had a checkered political past, and as various Balkan intelligence agencies review the accident, speculations emerge: was Rovena really a long-suffering girlfriend, or was she a call girl? Was Besfort murdered for political purposes? Was he involved in the collapse of Yugoslavia? But without hard facts, the case grows cold until an unnamed researcher at the European Road Safety Institute decides to write a speculative account of the last 40 weeks of Besfort and Rovena's lives. Kadare's excursions into an eccentric style--meticulous procedural scenes bloom into the surreal, languid eroticism mingles with the banal, dreams are scrutinized as readily as actual events--provide moments both curious and brilliant as the researcher teases out an almost entirely speculative narrative rife with complexities and possibilities. Should be manna for the Gauloise and bitter espresso crowd.
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“The name of the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare regularly comes up at Nobel Prize time, and he is still a good bet to win it one of these days. . . . [He] is seemingly incapable of writing a book that fails to be interesting. His new novel, The Accident, is provocative . . . not least because of the way it starts out as one kind of book and turns into something else entirely. This, you feel, is how Kadare sees the world: as a place always shifting and remaking itself. . . . [The Accident] takes you to the sort of place novels don’t routinely visit these days.”—The New York Times

“Vivid . . . Kadare dives deep into the pulling currents of love and death, carrying us down with him into a world which ranges, on the one hand, from dirty limericks about Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes to profundities about the relation of stories and death. Anyone who has ever suffered through a love affair or wondered about other people caught up in such torments will find this brief novel essential reading.”—NPR

“[The Accident] is spare and often powerful . . . Kadare is inevitably linked to Orwell and Kundera, but he is a far deeper ironist than the first, and a better storyteller than the second. He is a compellingly ironic storyteller because he so brilliantly summons details that explode with symbolic reality. . . . [Kadare] is deeply interested in misreading, yet his prose has a classical clarity, so that much of his power as a storyteller has to do with his ability to provide an extraordinarily lucid analysis of incomprehensibility.”—The New Yorker

“A rich and strange examination of change . . . Kadare has constructed a maze of maybes where opaque motivations lead to startling ramifications . . . turning from realist mystery into surrealist foray. . . . Echoing with literary references, enriched by political relevance, Besfort and Rovena's investigation manages to seem groundbreaking.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Absorbing . . . In his layering of truth-quests, Kadare, [echoes] the experimental-fiction writers Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jorge Luis Borges. . . . A gripping account of a star-crossed romance.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Kadare’s excursions into an eccentric style—meticulous procedural scenes bloom into the surreal, languid eroticism mingles with the banal, dreams are scrutinized as readily as actual events—provide moments both curious and brilliant.”—Publishers Weekly

“Meticulously rendered and subtly nuanced. . . [The Accident] demands the reader’s attention as it delves deeper and deeper into tortured love. . . . At once an exploration of human nature and a keen observation of Albanian life in the aftermath of socialist rule. . . . . The text is spare, urgent . . . as compelling as the love affair it documents.”—The Brooklyn Rail

“Dark, dreamlike . . . A provocative exploration of the sinister underside of human relations . . . [and a] compulsive and unnerving excavation of love, power and the imperfect art of storytelling.”—The Observer

“[A] forceful tale . . . Haunting . . . Lean, calm, and footsure, Kadare’s writing keeps you reading. . . . With a Milan Kundera-like quality . . . [The Accident] is a compelling performance.”—Sunday Times (UK)

“An author who richly deserves the Nobel Prize.”—The Huffington Post (Most Anticipated Novels for 2010)

“If only most thriller writers could write with Kadare’s economy and pace. . . . Kadare, magician that he is, offers just enough information for his readers to make myriad interpretations. He is the most beguiling and teasing of writers who understands that what may not be apparent now may well be in a distant future. As he writes in the final pages of The Accident, ‘From every great secret, hints occasionally leak out.’”—The Sunday Herald (Scotland)

“A thriller laden with reflections on the abuse of state power. . . . Deftly, Kadare recreates the shadowy atmosphere of rumor and recrimination in Albania during the dying days of communism in the late 1980s.”—The Evening Standard

“[Kadare] has created Kafkaesque fables, nightmarish historical allegories, and his own very distinct mystery.”—The Guardian Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802129951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802129956
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alfred J. Kwak on August 22, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Thanks to a long history of censorship Balkan writers have a reputation for approaching and describing their subject matter indirectly, using dreams, symbolism, allegories, and historical events rather than tackling any theme head on. IK is no exception. What appears to be a fairly straightforward novel in Parts 1 and 2, is undone in Part 3 and ends in obfuscation, playing with symbols and an ending that will convince or satisfy few readers.
Besfort and Rovena, both Albanians, have known each other for 14 years and have been engaged in a LAT-relationship for nine. B, a former freedom fighter, works for the Council of Europe in a human rights/international law capacity and is constantly on the move between certain European centres of power like Luxemburg, Vienna, Brussels and Strasbourg, but not The Hague, where the International Crminal Court is based...
Rovena is a pale, beautiful local NGO-staffer in Albania, who secures a scholarship to Graz, Austria, a more convenient venue from which to honour B's occasional invitations for a rendezvous, which are always consumed in hotels. She is a confused person, permanently insecure about B, herself, her own feelings and acts, challenging B for being a tyrant, apologising the next day and wondering why she said it.
The pair dies in the first pages of the book. Part 1 is a summary of the Austrian officials' efforts to discover the cause of the fatal car accident and possible motives for foul play. One nameless investigator (who is IK, of course) continues the quest for truth for several years. He put together Part 2 describing the couple's last 39/40 weeks on the basis of airline tickets, hotel bills, letters, content of agendas, interviews.
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Format: Hardcover
(3.5 stars) Shortly after a taxi leaves the Miramax Hotel in Vienna for the airport, it somersaults into a gully, and kills the man and woman passengers, both Albanian. Three witnesses give information to the Austrian police. The dead man, Besfort Y., was an analyst for the Council of Europe on western Balkan affairs, and he had been a "thorn in the side of Yugoslavia" before its divisions-there is suspicion that he might have been responsible for the bombing of the country. Despite this, the accident is initially thought to be a routine traffic accident. It is not till several months later that the European Road Safety Institute regards this as an "unusual" accident. Three months after that, the State of Serbia and Montenegro, which had had both victims under surveillance, begins to look into the accident, and their interest, in turn, sparks the interest of the Albanian Secret Service, an eventuality which makes the narrator wonder if this is a political murder after the fall of communism, or an example of residual "communist paranoia."

At this point at the beginning of this new novel by Albanian author Ismail Kadare, the story appears to be fairly straightforward--a police procedural or the beginning of an espionage thriller, but despite the author's almost bare-bones style, the novel quickly becomes full of confusing information and evidence. Nothing is as simple as it seems here. About the characters, we know only what they actually tell us about themselves and their relationship, not what the reader may be accustomed to concluding after seeing the characters in action and interaction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Martin on April 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Firstly, I'm a fan of Ismail Kadare. He's written some excellent books some of which are my favourites including The Dead General's Army, Broken April, The Siege, The Palace of Dreams and The Files on H.

The Accident is the ninth Kadare book I've read and it's the only one I've been really unimpressed with. The writing is fine but the story just doesn't hold up. It's like a really bad crime reconstruction novel with a variety of pointless asides.

In summation Kadare is an excellent and important writer but let's just pretend that this one didn't happen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on November 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I once heard it said (perhaps with some sarcasm) that if a film has an ending, it is a movie; if it just stops, it is art. I suppose it can be said the same is true of books: if it has an ending, it is a novel; if it just stops it is literature. Ismail Kadare's latest work published in English, The Accident, just stops. It would be a stretch, however, to call this a great piece of literature.

Ismail Kadare is an Albanian poet and writer. He is also the winner of the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005 and was selected from a list of nominees that included Saul Bellow, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Naguib Mahfouz, Milan Kundera, and Gunter Grass. I've read and admired many of his works, including The Palace of Dreams: A Novel (Arcade Classics), The Successor: A Novel, and The Pyramid. So I began The Accident with great anticipation. Although well-written, The Accident, did not engage me as other, better works by Kadare have.

The story, in short, involves the deaths of an Albanian woman, Rovena, and her long term lover, Bersfort in a taxi accident in Vienna. Given Bersfort mysterious background and his involvement with Rovena, Albanian and other Eastern European countries take a heightened interest in the crash investigation. When the investigations reveal nothing of particular interest a long researcher takes up the cudgels on his own. For the most part the book consists of this researcher's narrative account of the last 40 weeks of the couple's lives.
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