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The Fall of the Stone City Hardcover – January 29, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Traitor or hero? The people of Gjirokastër endlessly debate the role of Dr. Gurameto in hosting a regal dinner for the commander of the Nazi army invading their ancient Albanian city. Some regard the German-schooled gynecologist as a quisling who welcomed an enemy; others view him as a brave tactician who saved scores of hostages—including a notable Jew—from death camps. Kadare’s mesmerizing novel allows readers to see how conflicting rumors about the dinner complicate the competitive relationship between Dr. Gurameto—Big Dr. Gurameto—and his Italian-trained rival and doppelgänger, the little Dr. Gurameto, and then how these rumors acquire new virulence under the Communists who replace the Nazis as Albania’s rulers. Commissioned to investigate the matter, one Shaqo Mezini interrogates Big Dr. Gurameto with a zeal incubated in his own paranoid fantasies about international medical conspiracies against Stalin. The interrogation veers further into the surreal as doubts surface as to the identity of the mysterious German colonel Dr. Gurameto feted with champagne and Schubert. As memorable as Dostoyevsky’s Porfiry and Orwell’s O’Brien, Mezini ruthlessly tears an opening into Dr. Gurameto’s turbulent mind, loosing a flood of dark secrets rooted in childhood anxieties and sepulchral nightmares. A well-crafted translation of a European masterpiece. --Bryce Christensen


—Shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

“An incisve, biting work. . . . [The Fall of the Stone City] refines our understanding of satire’s nature. . . . If you don’t know [Kadare’s] work, this is a good place to begin. I hope you won’t stop here.”—NPR

"What’s most interesting apart from Kadare’s use of folk tales and dreams is [The Fall of the Stone City’s] gender politics. . . . Like an unreconstructed Freudian, Kadare is fascinated by how men use ideological structures as proxy mechanisms to shore up their masculinity and carry out dominion over others. . . . Kadare’s skill as a storyteller [is] that he renders conventional wisdom with the force of a childhood trauma.”—New York Times Book Review

“The town’s quirks, destiny, and characters—comic, extravagant, and all but floating an inch or two off the ground—are in some ways reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. . . . After a first part centering around a cheerfully extravagant wartime story, cracks develop; a hallucinatory crumbling ensues and descends into tightening nightmare. . . . the nexus between totalitarianism and madness is twisted tight. . . . The novel starts in the blithe wackiness of a place where gossip and rumor play the role that facts might anywhere else.” —The Boston Globe

“Complex and exacting.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Kadare’s books reflect his country and are imbued with Albanian myths and metaphors. The book gives both the sense and essence of a totalitarian state in language that, while straightforward, is literary and often allegorical. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is a strong addition to Kadare’s body of translated work and which further demonstrates that he is deserving of wider acclaim and readership.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Mesmerizing. . . A well-crafted translation of a European masterpiece.”—Booklist (starred review)

"A harsh but artful study of power, truth and personal integrity... [The Fall of the Stone City is] an ironic, sober critique of the way totalitarianism rewrites history, from an Albanian author who’s long been the subject of Nobel whispers."—Kirkus Reviews

“A dreamworld where history and fiction come together . . . Ismail Kadare’s subject, as always, is the presence of the past. . . . more astonishing and truthful than any mere documentary chronicle.”—The Guardian

“The prose frequently evokes Albania's rich tradition of folklore. . . This is classic Postmodern fiction; literature which tells us that we can never be sure about the past. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is a masterly recuperation; an outstanding feat of imagination delivered in inimitable style, alternating between the darkly elusive and the menacingly playful.”—The Independent on Sunday

“In his latest novel, Kadare features many of his motifs—bloody Balkan histories; bleak totalitarianism lives under silky threads of magical realism—that have made him a perpetual shortlister for Noble Prize laureate. A thoughtful exploration of the colluding forces of fascism and communism and a country caught between them that is at once obscure and enigmatic, lucid and insistent.”—Publishers Weekly

“Kadare was awarded the inaugural International Man Booker prize in 2005, and in this disorienting, absorbing, Kafkaesque novel his skill is clearly evident as he conjures the city’s nervy mood. Plot advances obliquely through a whirl of rumors to the doctor’s horrifying final act. A masterful performance.”—Daily Mail

The Fall of the Stone City is playful, supremely sarcastic, mystifying, charming and bleak, by turns and all at once. Kadare raises ambiguity to an art form, and perfectly evokes the uncertainties of life under arbitrary rule.” —The New Zealand Herald

“This wonderful little novel, by the intriguing Albanian master Ismail Kadare, opens in September 1943. . . as witty and as dark as is everything he has written in a magnificent career. . . . The Fall of the Stone City is written with a persuasive lightness of touch. Kadare’s authorial tone is invariably ironic and his fiction is playful, as if he has never lost sight of exactly how ridiculous humankind tends to be.”—The Irish Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #664,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on June 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I wonder if Ismail Kadare is capable of writing a bad book. Mixing myth, allegory, history,and a kind of wry humor, he has produced an amazing genre over the years as yet unrewarded by the Nobel Prize committee, who often choose writers half as talented. If his work seems dark and somehow menacing, like a sudden view of an approaching storm, Albania's fate might have something to do with it. Emerging from centuries of Ottoman rule in 1912, this small country went through monarchy, a few years of a chaotic republic, more monarchy by a self-proclaimed king, Italian occupation, German occupation, a devastating civil war at the same time as war against the occupiers, and 47 years of Communist dictatorship, before finally being cast up unprepared on the beach of modern Europe in 1991.

Enver Hoxha, the ultimate victor in the WW II years in Albania, wrote the history of those times and you had to swallow it on pain of your life. But what really went on in that time of destruction and chaos ? Nobody inside really knows what goes on in totalitarian societies or in the time of a war involving Italians, Germans, Communists, royalists, nationalists, and even the Western allies. Everything is either confused or secret, so truth (or even a semblance of truth) disappears. Magical realist explanations of the times are as good as any---maybe they are explanations for things that have no explanation. Garcia-Marquez wrote a magnificent portrayal of dictatorship and tyranny in "The Autumn of the Patriarch"; Kadare has written a different, but equally strong book here. The Germans are about to occupy Gjirokaster (the stone city) and Albania. Two doctors in town have different takes on the event. One is closer to Germany, the other to Italy. The former gives a dinner---or does he?
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Format: Hardcover
(3.5 stars) Writing of Albanian life in Gjirokaster, the city of his birth, during World War II and its aftermath, Ismail Kadare creates a novel which appears, initially, to be a simple morality tale, clear and to the point, then becomes increasingly complex and enigmatic. Kadare, constantly observed by Albania's communist officials as a beginning novelist, always had to disguise what he really wanted to say without being censored, and he created a unique style - a literary performance mixing fact and fiction, past and present, reality and dream, truth and myth, and life and death. By juggling time periods, bringing ghosts to life, repeating symbols and images, and leaving open questions about the action of a novel, he disguised the harsh truths of everyday life and the horrors of past history, a style which continues in this new book.

This novel begins in 1943, with the retreat of the Italians, who have ruled Albania since 1939, and the arrival of the Germans. As the Germans enter the city, however, someone fires on the advance team. No one is hurt, but the Germans plan reprisals: a hundred citizens are taken hostage, and the city will be blown up. Soon, however, the townspeople hear music from the home of Big Dr. Gurameto. Colonel Fritz von Schwabe, commander of the German division, is having dinner with his "great friend, from university," Big Dr. Gurameto. Shortly afterward, the city learns that the citizens held as hostages, including Jakoel the Jew, are being released, and the city will not be bombed. No one knows how this came about.

In Part II, from 1944, the German Army retreats, and the communists arrive to take their place. People, including hospital patients still under anesthesia and "stuck somewhere out of time" are arrested.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The Stone City is Gjirokaster in Southern Albania. Albania was once under Ottoman rule; then was briefly independent; then became a part of Mussolini’s empire. Part One of the novel begins in 1943 when Italy surrendered to the Allies, and the Germans rush in to occupy the country. Part Two starts in 1944, when the Germans have withdrawn and the Stalinist Communists have taken over. Part Three starts in 1953, just before Stalin’s death.

At every stage all sorts of rumours about the situation and about the fate of the city circulate in it; and indeed under each regime life is so unpredictable that anything could happen. In Parts One and Two there are arbitrary arrests and then equally arbitrary releases. Events are related in a symbolical but bizarre and surrealistic manner, humorous on the surface but of course reflecting an atmosphere that is far from amusing.

Two of the citizens are doctors, unrelated but with the same name: Big Dr Guarameto, who had been trained in Germany, and Little Dr Guarameto, whose training had been in Italy. Big Dr Guarameto’s standing varied with the standing of Germany. When the Germans are in occupation, his position is relatively strong, especially as the German commandant was an old university friend of his, and Dr Guarameto gave a great dinner to him and his staff. When the Germans leave, his position is weakened; but then, when Germany was divided into a capitalist and a communist country, it becomes rather arbitrary with which Germany he is identified.

In Part Three, at the time of the “Doctors’ Plot” in the Soviet Union, both doctors are put under arrest while investigators, trained in Moscow, collect “evidence” that they had killed many of their patients.
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