- 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: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Spring Flowers, Spring Frost: A Novel 1st Edition
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Kadare's Albanian work was doubly translated: into French and from that into English. The excellent work by David Bellos makes the reader forget the language distance between the original and this version. Bellos captures the style and tone exquisitely and conveys the rich and poetic language that Kadare has employed. Bellos' account of his discussion with Kadare and reflection on indirect translations are an interesting complement which, unfortunately is not reproduced in the book itself. [Friederike Knabe]
The very structure of the novel indicates a less-than-linear style. Chapter 1 is followed by Counter Chapter 1 etc. This structure permits Kadare to present a relatively simple and straight forward account of a love affair in the context of the post-Communist confusion of Albania. The protagonist, an artist assigned to the local town's art center, reminisces about the past - the "justice" and oppression. He explores his discomfort with the present. And, most importantly, he mulls over the universal questions raised about crime, death, punishment, freedom, oppression, ... in light of the material presented in the Counter Chapters. The Counter Chapters present the tales from mythology and folklore i.e. Tantulus, Oedipus, Snake-Bride.
The whole coheres splendidly. The book truly earned its awards: New York Times Notable Book, Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, The Man Booker International Prize ...