“The Fall of the Stone City” by Ismail Kadare (2008)
From the outset, through the first couple of chapters, I got increasingly frustrated with the habit of war. The rationale behind violence, by the Albanians and the Germans alike, seemed archaic and primitive. As a 101 level historian, the source of World War Two was a response to frustrations of World War One, notably by the fascist German government under the Nazi party. Colonel von Schwabe doesn’t seem to understand the difference between nation and the individual, when some of his men were fired upon and he speaks with his German-Albanian friend about it, whom he was close with during his younger days at university. Some of the misconceptions about violence and war were illuminated, to me as the reader, in the first couple of chapters.
The novel is not just about German occupation… students of history are familiar with the beginning of the Cold War, the “Iron Curtain” (as the British / Americans called it, and do in history books today) that was set up in the end years of World War Two. The New Order was set up, in Albania and elsewhere, and that is documented in this historical fiction. It was interesting to see how the communists handled things, in comparison to the Germans, ostensibly for the better of their society. Arrests were made, judges were appointed, and the like. The second part of the three part novel chronicles this transition, seemingly to the smug dismay of the narrator. However, it is not clear that the people all disliked the new regime, as they looked forward to the visit of Stalin, as they did Hitler and the Ottoman sultan in 1908. The third part? You can read it yourself… the first part takes new light, under a new regime, and new information comes into play. Recommended for history majors interested in 20th century Europe, but not for casual summer readers.
Fastidious, hinterland, inured, mollify, vanguard, conciliate, bangle, rankled, exonerate, brusquely, abeyance, magnanimity, dudgeon, flagrante, vituperation, repertoire, aureole, vainglory, liaised, morass, avuncular