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Chronicle in Stone: A Novel Paperback – July 1, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Albania, that remote, unknown land, has found its voice in the novels of Kadare. In this one, the first of a forthcoming series, he takes as his subject the shattering impact of World War II as that cataclysm is lived by a small, immensely sensitive boy. After centuries of bondage to the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, Albania falls to the invading Italian fascists, then the Greeks, the Italians again, then the Nazi hordes. Amid floods, British bombing, the action of partisans, the boy undergoes another kind of turbulence, that of growing up, the inner and outer experience ringing strange harmonies. He responds to the beauty of unattainable women, to witchcraft, literature, and later, when he is evacuated from his "stone city" to peasant and village life. Now his existence will be "marvelous, terrifying and extraordinary." Instead, it is primitive, barbaric, a world where the severed arm of a British airman becomes a talisman and "deflowered" girls disappear, possibly murdered by their fathers. Kadare commands a tumultuous, whirling scene as he brings his homeland into the literary mainstream.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A great novel ... a joyful, often comic piece of work -- James Wood * New Yorker * Sophisticated and accomplished in its poetic prose and narrative deftness -- John Updike * New Yorker * A master storyteller -- John Carey Ismail Kadare has sometimes been compared with Kafka, and you can see why * Mail on Sunday * There are very few writers alive today with the depth, power and resonance of this remarkable novelist * Herald * Chronicle in Stone is stunning, the quintessential tale of war seen through a child's eyes -- Susan Salter Reynolds * Los Angeles Times * Writing like this is hard to stop quoting...It is musical not only in rhythms that survive in this deft...translation but in its most elemental perceptions * -Evan Eisenberg, The Nation * [Albania's] most remarkable export: the novels of Ismail Kadare * Ken Kalfus, The Village Voice Literary Supplement * Chronicle in Stone is epic in its simplicity; the history of a young Albanian and a primitive Albania awakening into the modern world * Michael Dregni, Minneapolis Star Tribune * --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; Reprint edition (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161145039X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611450392
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on May 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gjirokaster, Albania. Not a spot that rings a lot of bells for most people. But if you read this brilliant novel, you will never forget the place, even if you never actually get there. Once, four years ago, I did go there. Square gray houses rise from the steepest, most outlandish spots, houses made in the Ottoman merchant style of the mid-19th century, half-fort, half-mansion. The narrow streets wound around the hillsides that looked out over a vast green valley, snow-capped peaks towering into the clear blue sky. Grape arbors and trees poked over walls, quiet passersby disappeared into crooked alleys. A small boy guided me to Kadare's house. I wished to see the cistern underneath, the one that trapped all the raindrops that "recalled with dreary sorrow the great spaces of sky they would never see again". But the house was closed. The descriptions of the house--fictional or actual--made me recall how I imagine the house of my own childhood. Higher up the hill, after twisting through more lanes of stone, I came to former supremo Enver Hoxha's house, recently turned into an "ethnographic museum". A scorpion skittered across the floor and I killed it. I visited the great vaults under the citadel where the citizens escaped the bombings. The whole town was alive for me because I had read CHRONICLE IN STONE. Other great writers bring Paris, London, Moscow, New York, or Tokyo to life. Kadare has put Gjirokaster on the list of immortal towns with this volume. It is a wonderful book of a town and its bad times-from 1939 to after the end of World War II-through the eyes of a boy. In his usual style, the author weaves many thoughts, dreams, scenes, tragedies, and historical events into a seamless whole. It's a tour de force. Read it.
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Throughout the Cold War era, the Albanian People's Republic was ruled with an iron hand for nearly fifty years by Enver Hoxha, a man virtually unknown to the West. Thus, it is certainly by no means accidental that Ismail Kadare sets his wry, satirical novel, CHRONICLE IN STONE, in Hoxha's (and, remarkably, Kadare's) hometown of Gjirokaster, an ancient stone town not far from the Greek border. Hoxha actually appears as a marginal character in the story as a Communist partisan sought by the invading German army. In addition, and presumably biographically, the author at one point mentions in passing that among those lost to a recent aerial bombardment was one L. Kadare.

In the early years of World War II, Gjirokaster suffers the travails of an essentially defenseless city, overrun first by the Italian Army, then the Greeks with the assistance of the British Royal Air Force, and eventually the Nazis before finally succumbing to the oppressive thumb of Stalinist Russia. The uneducated townfolk, still heavily prone to superstition and fantastical beliefs, exchange rumors of a red-bearded man, Yusuf Stalin, who will drive out the unwelcome invaders. "Is he a Muslim?" one character asks another. After a moment's hesitation, the other replies confidently, "Yes. A Muslim." "That's a good start," the first answers. Later, it is the infamously sun-glassed Hoxha who is believed to have started a new kind of war, the one that brings the Germans to Gjirokaster.

Kadare hilariously personifies the absurd effect of this constant changing of hands. Albanians leks become Greek drachmas, then Italian lire, then back to leks again. At one point, a plane drops leaflets on the town that begin, "Dear citizens of Hamburg.
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Format: Paperback
Ismail Kadare's Chronicle in Stone is the tragic story of a city steeped in history and Old World traditions that is forced to change or be destroyed by the madness and brutality of twentieth-century warfare. The story is told through the eyes of a child, and just as the narrator's innocence and sense of wonder are lost forever as he comes to understand the violent nature of all that is happening around him, so it goes with the city as a whole, which also loses something irrevocable as it is wrenched from its sleepy, timeless existence into the chaotic modern world.

The choice to use a child narrator heightens the sense of immense change that the city is undergoing, for this child sees the city's buildings, streets, and bridges as living entities which shift and move and change their mood from day to day, one day seeming to offer firm comfort and shelter, and the next seeming menacing and hazardous, depending on the weather, the attitude of the people around him, the relative brutality of the occupying army, and the intensity and closeness of the bombing campaign. In the stone facades, steep winding streets, and rain-streaked rooftops of the city, the narrator personifies the desires and sufferings of his people, but he does so unselfconsciously, for he is merely reporting what he sees and feels, because for him the city really is alive.

As a child, he is also able to report what he sees with a peculiar mix of detachment and awe that would not be possible from an adult. When the city is bombed, the emotion he feels above any other is pride in the fact that his house, as one of the biggest and strongest in his neighborhood, is chosen as a bomb shelter.
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