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Chronicle in Stone

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Masterful in its simplicity, Chronicle in Stone is a touching coming-of-age story and a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. Surrounded by the magic of beautiful women and literature, a boy must endure the deprivations of war as he suffers the hardships of growing up. His sleepy country has just thrown off centuries of tyranny, but new waves of domination inu Masterful in its simplicity, Chronicle in Stone is a touching coming-of-age story and a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. Surrounded by the magic of beautiful women and literature, a boy must endure the deprivations of war as he suffers the hardships of growing up. His sleepy country has just thrown off centuries of tyranny, but new waves of domination inundate his city. Through the boy's eyes, we see the terrors of World War II as he witnesses fascist invasions, allied bombings, partisan infighting, and the many faces of human cruelty as well as the simple pleasures of life. Evacuating to the countryside, he expects to find an ideal world full of extraordinary things but discovers instead an archaic backwater where a severed arm becomes a talisman and deflowered girls mysteriously vanish. Woven between the chapters of the boy's story are tantalizing fragments of the city's history. As the devastation mounts, the fragments lose coherence, and we perceive firsthand how the violence of war destroys more than just buildings and bridges.


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Masterful in its simplicity, Chronicle in Stone is a touching coming-of-age story and a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. Surrounded by the magic of beautiful women and literature, a boy must endure the deprivations of war as he suffers the hardships of growing up. His sleepy country has just thrown off centuries of tyranny, but new waves of domination inu Masterful in its simplicity, Chronicle in Stone is a touching coming-of-age story and a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. Surrounded by the magic of beautiful women and literature, a boy must endure the deprivations of war as he suffers the hardships of growing up. His sleepy country has just thrown off centuries of tyranny, but new waves of domination inundate his city. Through the boy's eyes, we see the terrors of World War II as he witnesses fascist invasions, allied bombings, partisan infighting, and the many faces of human cruelty as well as the simple pleasures of life. Evacuating to the countryside, he expects to find an ideal world full of extraordinary things but discovers instead an archaic backwater where a severed arm becomes a talisman and deflowered girls mysteriously vanish. Woven between the chapters of the boy's story are tantalizing fragments of the city's history. As the devastation mounts, the fragments lose coherence, and we perceive firsthand how the violence of war destroys more than just buildings and bridges.

30 review for Chronicle in Stone

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    Knowing where the title comes from tells us a lot about this book. The city and the stone houses themselves play such a part that they are like characters. The story is set in Gjirokaster, Albania, a city of stone perched on such steep topography that a drunk can slip off the road on one street and land on a roof of a street below. The uniqueness of the city has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Landmark status. Kadare is the classic national writer of Albania. He was born in 1936, so this coming o Knowing where the title comes from tells us a lot about this book. The city and the stone houses themselves play such a part that they are like characters. The story is set in Gjirokaster, Albania, a city of stone perched on such steep topography that a drunk can slip off the road on one street and land on a roof of a street below. The uniqueness of the city has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Landmark status. Kadare is the classic national writer of Albania. He was born in 1936, so this coming of age story is set around WW II and the events leading up to it. Gjirokaster changed hands from Italians to Greeks many times in just a few years. While in Italian hands it was bombed numerous times by the Allies. Eventually the Germans invaded and that started a civil war among monarchists, nationalistic rebels and communists. Folks caught in the middle of this strife learned the meaning of hell. For comparable war-time horrors I'm reminded of the Indonesian story All That Is Gone Albania at this time was a pre-modern culture. Christians and Moslem Albanians had negotiated a truce and lived side by side in the city surrounded by Greek peasants and Gypsies. There were epidemics of witchcraft that terrified the residents. There were two categories of widowed "old crones:" younger ones who dressed in black who walked the streets gossiping and causing trouble, and those old, blind and deaf who were seers and never left their homes, even during the bombings. Grandmothers practiced divination from chicken bones when chickens were available - a rare event, so that tells us how often they had meat. The foreword tells us that the author's numerous references to homosexuality and bisexuality are veiled allusions to the supposed sexual orientation of the former Communist dictator of Albania, Hoxha, who was a native of Gjirokaster. So, in the local idiom, we hear a lot about "women who grew a beard overnight." Starving war refugees and defeated soldiers wander though the city at various times. In this coming-of-age story, a young boy runs through the town with friends, experiences puppy love, is taught how to smoke by his grandfather, and interprets life around him though snippets of adult conversation. Since it is wartime, these youthful experiences are surreal. You might see a body lying on your front steps, stabbed to death, or turn a corner and see a woman hanging from a lamp post. It's a fascinating book, well-written and a rare opportunity to look into Albanian culture. Top photo from SarandAlbania.com. Bottom photo from tripadvisor.com (revised 6/24/2017)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Araz Goran

    أعمق وأصدق وأغرب قصص الحرب هي عندما يرويها لك الأطفال.. سيخبرك أياها بطريقته البريئة العفوية المنشودة دوماً بقصص رمادية مغرية جداً .. إنهم يفهون الحرب كلعبة من ألعاب الكبار لا أكثر يتهامسون في الطرقات عن أخبار الحرب وعن أصوات الجنون .. يصنعون كلمات جديدة , يعبثون بإحلامهم يروون عطش طفولتهم في الحديث عن الأشياء التي لم يألفوها في حياتهم قبل الحرب إنها حكايا مربكة صادمة تتغلل في الذاكرة لتنجب ألماً كبيراً في المستقبل لا يمكن أن يزول أثره للأبد...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    REVISED REVIEW! I was tired last night...... I loved this book. Why? Well, what I loved most was the writing style. I scarcely realized I was learning about the events occurring in Albania 1941-43! The book description here at GR is practically nonexistent so I will explain a bit. Although fiction,this book is in fact about the author’s own experiences during the Second World War, when he was a child growing up in Gjirokastër, Albania. This is an ancient city near the Albanian Greek border. In 19 REVISED REVIEW! I was tired last night...... I loved this book. Why? Well, what I loved most was the writing style. I scarcely realized I was learning about the events occurring in Albania 1941-43! The book description here at GR is practically nonexistent so I will explain a bit. Although fiction,this book is in fact about the author’s own experiences during the Second World War, when he was a child growing up in Gjirokastër, Albania. This is an ancient city near the Albanian Greek border. In 1939 Mussolini occupied Albania, but thereafter control switched several times between the Italians and the Greeks. Finally near the end of the war and until the summer of 1944, the Germans occupied Albania, The book does not continue through to the war’s end. Gjirokastër was extensively bombed. There were also fighting going on between the three dominant resistance movements: Isa Toska”s men (representing the Legaliteti, backing the exiled King Zog), the Ballists and finally the Partisans, who were Communists. This civil war led finally to the Communist takeover by Envor Hoxha. He too was from Gjirokastër. The city is made of stone houses, topped with slate rooves. When you leave your front door you are at the edge of your neighbor's roof - the slope is steep! This gray city has a strong presence in the novel. Trees and foliage, lawns and bushes are not what you find here. Such a world is far away only imagined at the markets where the peasants bring in their produce. The city has arisen from the earlier Turkish landowning people. It is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the book, the city itself, has an identity! This is the setting for the young boy’s experiences. Violent times, to say the least. Culturally the city has a Muslim Turkish heritage. This contrasts against the Greek/Christian/peasant culture. All of this is woven into the story. Different cultures, strange beliefs, bizarre people and shocking events – they are all part of this novel. At the center is a young boy trying to understand it all. One might think that such a time and place would not be the setting for a book filled with humor. This book IS filled with humor and irony. The boy is so imaginative, the words and thoughts will delight you. Sometimes you laugh at the kids’ lack of understanding, their attempts to understand an adult world that logically cannot be understood. Words and events are misunderstood, and we who read can chuckle at the search for knowledge and the irony of the crazy world that engulfs the city Diverse themes, from magic to girls to war to Shakespeare to sexual deviants, are all present. The author plays with words. And yet this is about war and when the tone suddenly switches you are struck by the huge contrast. Only by first laughing do you come to feel totally devastated when things go wrong. All of a sudden I realized how invested I had become in these people. There is a pronunciation guide and an exemplary introduction written by David Bellos. I read the introduction after finishing the book. I advise doing this. Often I dislike introductions. I hate it when they tell you how to interpret lines or tell us what we should be thinking/feeling! This introduction does not do that. It adds historical fact so you better understand the story itself. It tells of how Kadare rewrote this story repetitively. It explains what version we have in our hands. It speaks of the translator Arshi Pipa. Don't skip the introduction! It is very interesting, but first read the novel and let yourself be carried away by the play on words and imagination. I absolutely adored the literary style! I was emotionally captivated by these characters. Perhaps, as the introduction points out, there is even more said between the lines, but first just sit back and enjoy the story. Remember it is fiction. Don’t demand that it fulfills the criteria of logical sense, just enjoy it. Well that is what I think. I would not consider giving this book anything but five stars. I loved it. Every bit of it. It drew a picture of a difficult time and place. First it was very amusing and then it socked me in the stomach. . Here follows just one example of the humor found in this book: The last Italians left during the first week of November, four days after the evacuation of the aerodrome. For forty hours there was no government in the city. The Greeks arrived at two in the morning. They stayed for about seventy hours and hardly anyone even saw them. The shutters stayed closed. No one went out in the street. The Greeks themselves seemed to move only at night. At ten in the morning on Thursday the Italians came back, marching in under freezing rain. They stayed only thirty hours. Six hours later the Greeks were back. The same thing happened all over again in the second week of November. The Italians came back. This time they stayed about sixty hours. The Greeks rushed back in as soon as the Italians had gone. They spent all day Friday and Friday night in the city, but when dawn broke on Saturday, the city awoke to find itself completely deserted. Everyone had gone. Who knows why the Italians didn't come back? Or the Greeks? Saturday and Sunday went by. On Monday morning footsteps echoed in the street where none had been heard for several days. On either side of the street women opened their shutters gingerly and looked out. It was Llukan the jailbird, with his old brown blanket slung over his right shoulder. In his kerchief je was carrying bread and cheese, and was apparently on his way home. "Llukan!" Bido Sherofi's wife called from a window. "I was up there," said Llukan , pointing to the prison. "I went there to report, but guess what? The prison is closed." There was almost a touch of sadness in his voice. The frequent changes of rulers had made mincemeat of his sentence, and this put him out of SORTS. "No more Greeks or Italians, you mean?" "Greeks, Italians, it makes no difference to me," Llukan answered in exasperation. "All I know is the prison isn't working. The doors are wide open.Not a soul around. It's enough to break your heart." (beginning of chapter 9) This is just one example of the humor. Please read the book so you can experience yourself the imagination of the main protagonist. ************************************** I have read a bit more than half of this book. I absolutely adore it!!!!! I keep thinking I should stop and tell my GR friends. I think I simply must copy a bit so you get to see what I am reading. But then I simply can't. I have to keep reading, and I cannot copy the whole book as examples of why I am loving how this author expresses himself. What I love about this book are the lines. They are funny! How can war be funny? Well, what happens is so absurd you do laugh! Some lines are funny, others conjure a picture of gloom, others the delight of women in the eyes of an adolescent boy and then there is magic too. I don't really care what this author is talking about; it is how he says whatever he wants to say that is so wonderful. This book is much, much, much better than the author's The Three-Arched Bridge. Don't read that! Read this!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Hayes

    Eleven years ago I was in Albania, and after being taken on a tour of the capital, Tirana, by a university student, Theofania, we sat down at a pavement cafe to rest and have something to drink. Theofania said that a man at the next table was Ismail Kadare, one of Albania's most famous writers. One of my recurring daydreams has been how nice it would be to sit at cafe tables having literary discussions, especially with famous authors. Tirana is a small enough town that one can see people doing t Eleven years ago I was in Albania, and after being taken on a tour of the capital, Tirana, by a university student, Theofania, we sat down at a pavement cafe to rest and have something to drink. Theofania said that a man at the next table was Ismail Kadare, one of Albania's most famous writers. One of my recurring daydreams has been how nice it would be to sit at cafe tables having literary discussions, especially with famous authors. Tirana is a small enough town that one can see people doing that, even if one does not have the temerity to join in. In the course of our tour we also passed Albania's most famous film star, riding a bicycle. I'd never heard of Ismail Kadare before, but having set eyes on him, if not actually having spoken to him, I was curious about his books, and when I found one in a bookshop, The file on H, I read it and enjoyed it. Not many bookshops stock his books, so when I saw Chronicle in stone, I bought it, and enjoyed it even more than The file on H. It is set in the town of Gjirokaster in southern Albania, which is the town where Kadare grew up, so it is probably semi-autobiographical, and I have no doubt that Kadare must have witnessed scenes similar to those he describes in the book. It is set during the Second World War, when Gjirokaster was successively occupied by Italians, Greeks and Germans, with several changes as the tide of war ebbed and flowed. It is seen through the eyes of a child, possibly a somewhat older child than Kadare would have been at the time. Though the age of the narrator is never stated, it seems to be about 6-10, whereas Kadare would have been about 2-3 years younger than that at the time. It is a child's-eye view, yet an adult recollection of a child's-eye view, with adult powers of description. But it looks at the the adult world through a child's eyes, remembering people for particular characteristics or foibles that would impress a child. Apart from the other children, most of the adults belong to the grandparents' generation, and so much of the information about the world comes to the narrator through his grandparents and their friends and relatives, aunts and great aunts who pop in to visit and gossip. There is the grandfather who lies on his divan each day, reading books in Turkish. There is the old woman who comments on each piece of news that it is the end of the world. The nearest comparison I can think of is the "William" books by Richmal Crompton, which is also a fictional representation of a child's experience of war, but the viewpoint is different and the culture is different. Crompton's books reflect adult amusement at children's interpretations of the adult world, and so they are more detached from the characters. Kadare gets more into the skin of the child, and articulates it from the child's point of view. Another difference is that though Richman Crompton's books reflect fear of invasion, the invasion never took place, and the country was not occupied. The war was closer in Albania, the bombing more devastating, and, towards the end, with three different resistance movements, it also became a civil war. There is humour, but there is also tragedy and sadness. I enjoyed the book partly because it it portrays Albanian culture, and having been to the country, it helped me to understand more of the people and the way they lived and thought. There is also a sense in which the city itself is the main character in the novel. Occupying armies come and go, the inhabitants flee as refugees and return, but the city remains almost as a sentient being. Even in translation, Kadare's descriptions are lyrical. I'd never have read his books if we had not, by chance, being sitting at a table next to him at a cafe. I'd probably still not have heard of him but for that chance. But, having discovered his books, I'll be reading more in future.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I visited Gjirokaster in Albania in 1984 during the last year of the life of the country's dictator, Enver Hoxha. This town is the setting for "Chronicle in Stone" first published by Ismail Kadaré in Albanian in Tirana in 1971. It was also his birthplace in 1936 and that of Enver Hoxha in 1908. I can attest that the city is indeed, to quote Kadaré's words, " ... a stone carapace" inhabited by human flesh. I did not realise until I read the book how many times the city had been occupied during WW I visited Gjirokaster in Albania in 1984 during the last year of the life of the country's dictator, Enver Hoxha. This town is the setting for "Chronicle in Stone" first published by Ismail Kadaré in Albanian in Tirana in 1971. It was also his birthplace in 1936 and that of Enver Hoxha in 1908. I can attest that the city is indeed, to quote Kadaré's words, " ... a stone carapace" inhabited by human flesh. I did not realise until I read the book how many times the city had been occupied during WW2, repeatedly by the Italians and the Greeks, and finally by the Germans. The author must have been about 7 or 8 years old when Gjirokaster became a 'theatre' of war and was occupied by the Italian forces for the first time. As David Bellos points out in his 'Afterword', the narrator of the tale, a young boy, must have been a little older than Kadaré. The author describes the city's misfortunes through the eyes of an innocent young boy. The result is a magical yet also realistic and credible description of the effects of war and occupation on the inhabitants and fabric of his city. The narrator finds things interesting that the adults disdain. For example, his excitement and delight about the airfield constructed by the Italians and the comings and goings of their 'planes, which were clearly up to no good as far as Albania was concerned, upsets his family, who only see the bad side of its existence. At first, the boy is full of wonder about everything, but gradually the seriousness of the situation that he and his family are experiencing dawns upon him. This novel is, at the very least, a beautiful and unusual portrayal of modern war through the eyes of a child. It contains deeper meanings and messages, most of which would not have been lost on his Albanian readers who were living under the heel of a repressive dictatorship. Later on in the book, we are told of the arrival of the Communist partisans, who were under the leadership of Enver Hoxha, and we read things that may well have been risky to express whilst living, as the author was, under a repressive Stalinist regime, where any criticism of it was not allowed. However, Kadaré was criticised by the regime but never, unlike many of his fellow authors, imprisoned. The reasons for this are to some extent revealed in an interview published in the edition of the novel that I read and also in the author's brief book Albanian Spring: The Anatomy of Tyranny . In Albanian Spring: The Anatomy of Tyranny , Kadaré hints that the exiled Albanian writer Arshi Pipa may have tried to incite trouble over Chronicle in Stone for him from his place of exile in North America. Pipa, according to Kadaré, may have tried to persuade Enver Hoxha that this book about Gjirokaster contained coded messages detrimental to the Albanian Communist government and also to Hoxha himself. And, Pipa must have known the novel well because he was the first to translate it into English. Indeed, the edition that I have just read (Canongate, 2011) is a translation based on Pipa's. It has been edited by David Bellos who has added material that Kadaré added some time after first publishing it. Bellos has also written an interesting 'Afterword' that follows the novel. Following this, there is his translation of an interview between Kadaré and Stéphanie Courtois in which the reader can learn much about the struggles of artists, and writers in particular, living under a repressive regime. There is much to recommend this unusually constructed fictional history of an ancient city during times of war. It is an interesting, enjoyable, at times humorous, novel or fictionalised memoir, maybe. I have enjoyed reading it, and encourage everyone to experience it. Get the Canongate edition, if you can; the additional material that it contains is well worth reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Missy J

    I've been in a reading rut lately. Probably cause I had a visitor at my house for two weeks and had to do some preparations before. It's summertime and I can't wait to get back to my reading. "Chronicle in Stone" seemed like a novel that wasn't too long, so I chose it to get me out of this rut. What can I say? It really is a wartime book written from the perspective of a child. If you forget that the narrator is a child, a lot of the magic gets lost and you won't enjoy this book. The child's poin I've been in a reading rut lately. Probably cause I had a visitor at my house for two weeks and had to do some preparations before. It's summertime and I can't wait to get back to my reading. "Chronicle in Stone" seemed like a novel that wasn't too long, so I chose it to get me out of this rut. What can I say? It really is a wartime book written from the perspective of a child. If you forget that the narrator is a child, a lot of the magic gets lost and you won't enjoy this book. The child's point of view is humorous and he tries to explain everything for himself, no matter how absurd. At the beginning, I sometimes forgot that the narrator was a child, so I was thinking to myself, there's a lot of magical realism in this book. And I was somewhat reminded of "The Tiger's Wife", which I didn't enjoy. However, "Chronicle in Stone" turned out to be better. I had no knowledge of Albania and its history prior to reading this novel. Now I got a taste of how the villagers of a tiny country perceive foreign invasion and occupation and war. They are in the midst of it and basically helpless. But they don't behave like helpless people. Instead, they try to move on, fill their bleak realities with a lot of humor and continue to gossip and live life. There are so many characters in this story and I admit, that even at the end, I wasn't 100% who everybody was. I didn't love this book, but I think it got me out of the reading rut.

  7. 5 out of 5

    sh'dynasty

    Another amazing story from Kadare. The city of his birth is brought to life through a child's eyes during the various occupations and bombings that tormented the place during WWII. The most poetic prose and imaginative imagery highlight the story and make it one of the best I have ever read. The story overflows with beautiful, lovely, interesting characters and thoughts that could only come from a child's mind, so innocent and endearing that despite what is going on around him, he still knows wh Another amazing story from Kadare. The city of his birth is brought to life through a child's eyes during the various occupations and bombings that tormented the place during WWII. The most poetic prose and imaginative imagery highlight the story and make it one of the best I have ever read. The story overflows with beautiful, lovely, interesting characters and thoughts that could only come from a child's mind, so innocent and endearing that despite what is going on around him, he still knows what is important: his family, his friends, and his magnificent city.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ghanem Abdullah

    في روايته “قصة مدينة الحجر”، يحاول اسماعيل كاداريه أن يروي لنا شهادة تاريخية على لسان طفلٍ، عاش في مدينة “جيروكاسترا” الألبانية، وشهد فيها أصعب فتراتها التي تزامنت واندلاع الحرب العالمية الثانية، وتناوب الغزاة على احتلال ألبانيا، ثم طردهم أخيرًا على يد الثوار الألبان، ومن أعلامهم في هذه المرحلة الدكتاتور أنور خوجا. يريد كاداريه لهذه الشهادة “الطفولية” أن تكون بريئة ومحايدة، ويمكن القول أنه استخدم هذه المدينة – وهي بالذات مسقط رأسه- ليعبر عن هوية الشعب الألباني، ومزاجه العام، واختار مدينته مسرحًا في روايته “قصة مدينة الحجر”، يحاول اسماعيل كاداريه أن يروي لنا شهادة تاريخية على لسان طفلٍ، عاش في مدينة “جيروكاسترا” الألبانية، وشهد فيها أصعب فتراتها التي تزامنت واندلاع الحرب العالمية الثانية، وتناوب الغزاة على احتلال ألبانيا، ثم طردهم أخيرًا على يد الثوار الألبان، ومن أعلامهم في هذه المرحلة الدكتاتور أنور خوجا. يريد كاداريه لهذه الشهادة “الطفولية” أن تكون بريئة ومحايدة، ويمكن القول أنه استخدم هذه المدينة – وهي بالذات مسقط رأسه- ليعبر عن هوية الشعب الألباني، ومزاجه العام، واختار مدينته مسرحًا للأحداث، ليُضفي عليها مسحة من التوثيقية والمصداقية، والتجربة الذاتية. لكن التفاصيل الواردة في الرواية، وما حفلت به من صور رمزية، ومضامين آيديولوجية، لا تترك لنا فرصة في أن نصف هذا العمل كونه مجرد “سرد ما اختُزن في ذاكرة طفل بريء” دون مؤثرات خارجية، ودون انحيازات مسبقة، سيكون من السذاجة وصفنا لهذا العمل بهذا الشكل، فالمؤلف كان يبلغ من العمر فقط 3 سنوات حينما شبَّت نيرانُ الحرب العالمية الثانية، فكيف له أن يختزن كل هذه التفاصيل عن الغزاة، وعن الحياة اليومية في مدينته الحجرية؟! *** عمومًا، إن تغاضينا عن نقطة العمر، فلا يمكن لنا أن نتغاضى عن عدة وقائع ضمن الرواية، تحمل دلالات ومضامين آيديولوجية، تبتعد بالشهادة عن مجال الحياد والموضوعية ولو في حدها الأدنى. هناك مثلاً، قصة “اسم عمر”، الذي تساءل عنه الطفل الراوية في الصفحة 52، فكانت إجابة أحد مثقفي مدينته بأنه “هوميروس” الشاعر اليوناني القديم، وقد نوافق على مضض بأن طريقة نُطق اسم “عمر” بالألبانية تجعله “أومير”، وهو بذلك قريب جدًا من الاسم الإغريقي “هوميروس”، إلا أننا بذات الوقت، نرى ذلك مجرد تجاهل للخلفية الثقافية الإسلامية، والتصاقًا بالغربية، إذ من الطبيعي أن تكون إجابة مثقف مسلم في مجتمع مسلم عن اسم عربي كعمر، تدور حول أعلام قدماء أو معاصرين يحملون الاسم ذاته، ولكن المؤلف أراد أن تكون الإجابة بعيدة في التاريخ والمضمون عن ألبانيا المجتمع المسلم. قصة أخرى تتعلق بالمدفع القديم الرابض في القلعة، والذي احتاجه أهل المدينة ليساعدهم في مواجهة الغارات الجوية للأعداء، لكن هذا المدفع حينما استخدموه عجز أن يصد غارات المهاجمين، بل وعجز أن يشكل حتى مجرد خطر على طائراتهم، ثم -وهنا موضع القصيد- يشير المؤلف عبر حوار بين أهل المدينة والمدفعي، أن المدفع القديم إنما هو من مخلفات الوجود التركي، وقد يُكتفى من ذلك في الفهم بأن لا جدوى منه في مواجهة تكنولوجيا الأعداء، والمعنى لا يتوقف عند مجرد مدفع قديم وطائرة حديثة، بل يتعداه إلى ما هو أعقد من ذلك، مما يتصل بحياة الناس وثقافتهم ورؤيتهم للعالم، وقد وردت هذه الحادثة في الصفحات 157 – 165. قصة أخرى ذات مغزى، وفي الاتجاه ذاته، تتعلق بتوصيات المهندس “الخبير الأجنبي” بعدم استخدام أقبية دور المدينة كملاجئ أثناء الغارات، لضعفها عن صد الهجوم وتحمل الضربات الجوية وقذائف الطائرات، ها هنا مرة أخرى ينبه صاحب الرواية وبطريقة غير مباشرة، إلى ضعف مدينته/هويته/تاريخه/تراثه في مواجهة المدنية والعسكرية الغربية الحديثة، فالخبير الأجنبي كان بحركة بسيطة يغرز فيها أداته بمساعدة مطرقته الصغيرة في سقف أو جدران القبو الحجري فينكشف له عن ضعفه وتحلله. *** مواقف كهذه قد يكون من المبالغ تكثيفها وتقديمها كما قدمتُ في الأعلى، وتحميلها فوق ما تحتمل، لكن القارئ سيلاحظ تجاهل المؤلف لأي مؤثرات وخلفيات إسلامية ثقافية في هذا البلد المسلم (يشكل المسلمون نحو 70% من السكان)، سواء في الحياة اليومية، أو في سياق تحرير البلاد ومواجهة الأعداء، وحينما أراد المؤلف أن يذكر شيئًا ما، تناول “الكتب التركية” التي كان جده لأمه يقرأها بكثرة، وكان يعكفُ على قراءتها وقتًا طويلاً إلى حد العزلة عن العالم المحيط به، وتضجره من المماحكات والمجادلات، موقف آخر نجده في إمام المسجد الذي حاول أن يسمل عينيه وهو على المئذنة حينما شاهد الثوار الشيوعيين في شوارع المدينة، هؤلاء الثوار الذين يرد اسمهم في سياقَين عبر صفحات الرواية، السياقُ الأول: حرب التحرير التي دشنوها وأنجزوها، والسياق الآخر: الفهم المغلوط لدى الناس عن الشيوعيين، والشائعات المتداولة عن انحلالهم الأخلاقي، إن سياق ورود “الكتب التركية” و”محاولة الإمام سمل عينيه”، تتآزران في تعضيد الموقف السلبي من الخلفية الثقافية الإسلامية لدى المؤلف. ومما لا يمكن تجاهله في استهلال الرواية، تلك الصورة التي قدمها كاداريه عن مجتمعه، مجتمعٌ وسواسي، أعمال السحر والشعوذة هي هاجس أفراده الرئيس، وانتشار الأوهام والحسد والقيل والقال سمة أساسية من سماته، والتفرقة الطبقية والنظرة التعصبية بين سكان المدينة وسكان القرى، هي إضافة لا بد منها لمسايرة التيار الايديولوجي الحاكم في ألبانيا، فأضيفت ولا شك بذلك. ثم لا بأس من ترديد اسم “أنور خوجه”، في سياق الثوار ومعركة التحرير، هذا الرجل الذي ارتبط به اسماعيل كاداريه حينما كان الأول يقبض على زمام الأمور في ألبانيا، وقد عيَّنه عضوًا في البرلمان على مدى 12 عامًا، وقد كان رئيسًا للوزراء حينما نشر كاداريه عمله هذا، تزلفٌ أدبي-سياسي لا يتردد اسماعيل كاداريه في تقديمه عبر روايته التاريخية هذي، ومما يذكر عن كاداريه، تنصله من حقبة خوجه بعد وفاته عبر بعض رواياته الحديثة. *** اسماعيل كاداريه، الذي جسد مأساة الاحتلال، وتعاقب الغزاة على وطنه عبر روايته هذه، وكذلك في عدد من أعماله الأخرى كما يذكر النقّاد، هذا الأديب لم يستنكف في فبراير من هذا العام أن يقبل جائزة أدبية، ينظمها المحتل الصهيوني في القدس الشريف، ليكرس ويؤكد بالضبط، أنه ما هو إلا مجرد “حكواتي” انتهازي وبراغماتي تلهث نفسه وراء التكريم والاحتفاء والجوائز، مهما كانت متناقضة مع ما يكتبه ويؤلفه، ويزعجنا بتكراره، أنه المثقف الحداثي في صورته الحقيقية. *** أخيرًا، الرواية تحمل فكرة جميلة، ورغم البطء الشديد الذي كانت تتحرك فيه الأحداث إلى ما يقرب ثلاثة أرباع الرواية، إلا أن الربع الأخير كان أكثر إثارة وتسارعًا في التغيرات والمواقف، عدة شخصيات ظهرت على مسرح الأحداث كشخصيات رئيسية، وأخرى ظهرت على الهامش، الرواية غنية بالصور الرمزية ذات الدلالات الموجهة، كما أن الأسلوب تباين ما بين سرد وحوار. الترجمة كانت جيدة جدًا، لم أشعر بأن الرواية مترجمة إلا ما تعلق بالأسماء، وإذا ما عرفت أن المترجم هو د. عفيف دمشقية رحمه الله، فلا حاجة لي إلى قول المزيد.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tad Richards

    Yes, beautiful, yes, sad, yes terrifying and warm and mesmerizing. But more than that, it gives a unique insight into a hitherto unknown world--a small city in Albania during World War II, one that is occupied and lost, occupied and lost. The narrator is a boy who understands what is going on as best he can; that is, with no other context than that of his immediate life. His only awareness of the outside world, in fact, comes from a book loaned to him by an older boy who is a student and somethi Yes, beautiful, yes, sad, yes terrifying and warm and mesmerizing. But more than that, it gives a unique insight into a hitherto unknown world--a small city in Albania during World War II, one that is occupied and lost, occupied and lost. The narrator is a boy who understands what is going on as best he can; that is, with no other context than that of his immediate life. His only awareness of the outside world, in fact, comes from a book loaned to him by an older boy who is a student and something of an intellectual. The young narrator is drawn to the book because it's cast of characters includes ghosts and witches and murderers. The older boy tells him MacBeth is way too advanced for him, but he takes it anyway and falls under its spell. Somehow his world is real in the same way that MacBeth is real--mythic and senseless and yet with a profound meaning one can only sense dimly. The prose, in translation, is beautiful. The boy's imagery is poetic and touching. I loved this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nerdanel

    Me ha gustado mucho esta historia narrada desde la perspectiva del autor cuando era niño. Gracias a su narración he podido saber más de la guerra desde el punto de vista de los ciudadanos de un país pequeño acostumbrado desde sus origenes a invasiones extranjeras. La forma de contarlo está llena de lirismo (a pesar del tema que trata). Me han gustado muchos pasajes del libro, os pongo uno de ellos donde se describe la ciudad: " ...ciudad asombrosa, donde se podía ir caminando y, de desearlo, alar Me ha gustado mucho esta historia narrada desde la perspectiva del autor cuando era niño. Gracias a su narración he podido saber más de la guerra desde el punto de vista de los ciudadanos de un país pequeño acostumbrado desde sus origenes a invasiones extranjeras. La forma de contarlo está llena de lirismo (a pesar del tema que trata). Me han gustado muchos pasajes del libro, os pongo uno de ellos donde se describe la ciudad: " ...ciudad asombrosa, donde se podía ir caminando y, de desearlo, alargar un poco la mano y colgar el sombrero de la aguja de un minarete. Muchas cosas eran allí increíbles y muchas otras como salidas de un sueño...". Una verdadera novela urbana, pues en ella, la ciudad sufre, se encarna y se palpa todo el tiempo a través de la conciencia auténtica de un niño.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Terry Pearce

    I wanted to love this more. The ideas and the character were marbled with genius, particularly some of the anthropomorphism. It made me think in moments of One Hundred Years of Solitude. But the language often bored me. It often lacked lyricism, and often seemed disjointed. Maybe it's a thing with translation -- this specific one or translation from this language. If the prose had sparkled, I could have fallen in love with this. Very interesting, in any case, but harder work than it might have b I wanted to love this more. The ideas and the character were marbled with genius, particularly some of the anthropomorphism. It made me think in moments of One Hundred Years of Solitude. But the language often bored me. It often lacked lyricism, and often seemed disjointed. Maybe it's a thing with translation -- this specific one or translation from this language. If the prose had sparkled, I could have fallen in love with this. Very interesting, in any case, but harder work than it might have been.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Read

    Immediately, one of the most captivating things for me about Ismail Kadare’s Chronicle in Stone was how the narrator, a nameless boy, distinguishes old women as old crones: The “old crones” were consulted. These were aged women who could never be surprised or frightened by anything any more. They had long since stopped going out of their houses, for they found the world boring. To them even major events like epidemics, floods and wars were only repetitions of what they had seen before. Granny Shan Immediately, one of the most captivating things for me about Ismail Kadare’s Chronicle in Stone was how the narrator, a nameless boy, distinguishes old women as old crones: The “old crones” were consulted. These were aged women who could never be surprised or frightened by anything any more. They had long since stopped going out of their houses, for they found the world boring. To them even major events like epidemics, floods and wars were only repetitions of what they had seen before. Granny Shano spent thirty-one years inside until one day she went out into the street a few yards in front of her house to assault an Italian officer who was making eyes at her great-granddaughter. These crones were very robust, all nerve and bone, even though they ate very little and smoked and drank coffee all day long. When Granny Shano grabbed the Italian officer by the ear, he let out a great yelp, drew his pistol, and rapped the old woman’s hand with the butt. Not only did she refuse to let go, she punched him with her bony hands. The crones had very little flesh on their bones, and few vulnerable spots. Their bodies were like corpses ready for embalming, from which all innards likely to rot had already been removed. Superfluous emotions like curiosity, fear and lust for gossip or excitement had been shed along with the useless flesh and excess fat (35-36). Tough doesn’t even begin to describe these crones. The narrator explains how they must go through tests to that proves themselves as crones. These tests usually involve withstanding cruel foreign invaders or extreme hardship. The narrator’s grandmother chooses to stay at home during air raids whilst all others hide in cellars or later at the citadel. However, Grandmother’s definitive test that proved her a crone was when she stays home during the German invasion as the people from Gjirokaster flee to the neighboring villages: Clues has been perceptible for some time. Now the signs were unmistakable: Grandmother and Xhemo were getting ready to turn into crones. The German invasion seemed to be the definitive test for them, as the great incursions of the Turks, the massacres on the ruins of the republic and the monarchy, and the forty years of constant hunger had been for other crones (275). So, old crones distinguish themselves by their strength and toughness. It seemed to me that the crones are so anchored to their homes that they take no notice of foreign invaders. They operate from within themselves and don’t change or make adjustment to outside influence. They’re lives have been so long (the narrator claims that some of them are over 130 years old) that they have seen it all and know how to deal with everything by using the powers within themselves. If an old woman is not tough enough to be an old crone, she is inevitably a katenxhika. The introduction explains that a katenxhikas translates to mothers-in-law in the Albanian Gjirokaster dialect. I interpreted that the fact that these women are named by their role as a mother-in-law makes their lives seem small and frivolous. In the story the narrator characterizes katenxhikas as gossipy old ladies who get together and leave their houses often for social gatherings. As an Albanian myself, it seemed to me that a katenxhika would be the type of older woman who loves to terrorize her daughter in law and get upset over silly, inconsequential things. I associate the mothers-in law as people concerned with social status and reputation. Whereas, the old crones are wise and efficient, concerned with only the bare and vital necessities of emotional life. The descriptions of Gjirokaster were riveting. The city of stone had intimate relationships with the sky and the sun, the water and the bridge. The city groaned and cried. It was murdered and brought back to life. At the end of the novel, Kadare beautifully likens the stones of the city as a people: We come from that city over there. What we know about is stone. They’re like people, stones are: they’re young or old, hard or soft, polished or rough, sharp, pink and pock-marked, pitted and pock-marked pitted or veined, sly or dependable enough to hold your foot when you slip, faithless glad at your misfortunes, faithful, remaining on duty in foundations for centuries, dull-witted, morose, proud, dreaming of bearing epitaphs, modest, devoted without hope of reward, lined up on the ground in endless cobblestone rows like nameless people, nameless to the end of time. (289) The city of Gjirokaster is personified as a complex organism with many parts and stones with different characters and personalities. This novel was published during communist Albania where literary portrayals of village life were not only valued but expected and demanded by communist authorities. The introduction by David Bellos explains how Kadare’s focus on a city was daring because of this. Although Kadare chooses to illustrate the city of Gjirokaster, the narrator’s beliefs about the villagers who produce the fruits and vegetable in the city market is insightful. The young boy narrator believes that the villagers’ purpose in life is to provide food to the city people. He can’t imagine where they live and believes that after they’re done selling produce, they hide in the cracks of the city. When he flees to the village during the German invasion, he is so disappointed with the pathetic village shacks, he cries bitterly. This is another risky sentiment that Ismail Kadare puts in his book, as village life was supposed to be praised and romanticized as rugged and beautiful not exposed as pathetically poor. Kadare also does a wonderful job describing the ecstasy of falling in love with reading for the first time. This is autobiographical as Kadare says in interviews how he fell in love with reading Macbeth as a young boy in his hometown in Gjirokaster, the same as the narrator. He writes passionately as the narrator in Chronicle in the Stone, I couldn’t get to sleep. The book lay nearby. Silent. A thin object on the divan. It was so strange… Between two cardboard covers were noises, doors, howls, horses, people. All side by side, pressed tightly against one another. Decomposed into little black marks. Hairs, eyes, legs and hands, voices, nails, beards, knocks on doors, walls, blood, the sound of horseshoes, shouts. All docile, blindly obedient to the little black marks. The letter ran in mad haste, now here, not there. The h’s, r’s, o’s, t’s gallop over the page. They gather together to create a horse or a hailstorm. Then gallop away again. Now they create a dagger, a night, a ghost. Then streets, slamming doors, silence. Running and running. Never stopping. Without end (65). This beautiful description along with others throughout the novel blurs the line between narrator and author. We understand that the narrator is a young boy in the present as the story plays out because of his naivety (for example, he has a loving fondness of a fighter plane that bombs and kills people in the war). His description retain a naivety but also use a poetic vocabulary that is beautiful but too complicated for a little boy. This contradiction did not bother me, however. I felt the book’s voice to be very natural and that, in fact, this incongruity enhanced the tone of the book. The narrator is enamored with reading and the story of Macbeth and starts to imagine people in Gjirokaster as tragically Shakespearean characters. This culminates on the night of an air raid when Aqif Kashahu’s daughter is caught embracing a mysterious young man. It turns Shakespearean with perhaps a characteristically Albanian twist, as her father calls her a whore and drags her by the hair in front of all the neighbors. The daughter is never seen of again. Kadare exemplifies the universality of literature as a story placed in Medieval Scotland with themes of magic, murder, guilt, and love are entirely appropriate in World War Two era, communist Albania.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    Kadare's book follows a young boy--not named--in the city of Gjirokastër, Albania, during the Second World War. Albania had been invaded and annexed by the Italians, where they fought against the Greeks, and the city traded hands several times up until the collapse of the Italian war effort, and the Germans took over in the Balkan region. Chronicle in Stone records these events as the war slowly demands more and more sacrifice from the families and residents of the town; through these hardships Kadare's book follows a young boy--not named--in the city of Gjirokastër, Albania, during the Second World War. Albania had been invaded and annexed by the Italians, where they fought against the Greeks, and the city traded hands several times up until the collapse of the Italian war effort, and the Germans took over in the Balkan region. Chronicle in Stone records these events as the war slowly demands more and more sacrifice from the families and residents of the town; through these hardships emerges a portrait of the city, the time and the people. This is the first book of Kadare's I've read; although I liked it, I can't say I thought it was compelling, or enchanting--buzz words used in the blurbs on the back. I know so little about Albania that I had hoped to get a sense of the culture--and while there was definitely some of that, there was also a disingenuousness to it that sounded stale to me. Kadare is writing as if through the eyes of a young boy, perhaps ten or twelve, and there were times where it just didn't seem convincing to me. That may also be why it was hard to fully invest in the story--I read about a third of it at one sitting, then life intervened for several days before I was able to get back to it. But later, when I had the opportunity to pick it up again, I didn't feel any urgency about doing so. So, now that I've made it sound like I didn't care for the book at all, I'll contradict myself and say that, yes, I did like it overall. I think the later chapters inject a lot more tension than the beginning--at first, the war barely touches the citizens--but by the books end, there's been many changes. And while I had hoped to get a better picture of Albania, this is still an interesting look at a country I know little about. I have a few other books by Kadare waiting for me on my shelves; I'm not put off of him yet, even though I'm not sure Chronicle in Stone is exactly a 'keeper'.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Fatema Hassan , bahrain

    قصة مدينة الحجر للكاتب الألباني إسماعيل كاداريه ترجمة د عفيف دمشقية من ربوع الأدب البلقاني تطالعنا هذه المدينة الحجرية الرمادية محبوسة ( بإنسانها الشفاف بطموحاته البسيطة و عجالته و تمائمه و خوفه من إي تغيير قد يطيح بمنطقته ) سنجدها بين صفحات هذه الرواية مرصودة بكل ما أوتي قلم كاداريه من واقعية سحرية تخلق لك عالم مذهل ، كاداريه يعولم برصده هذا قضية بلاده في تلك الحقبة مؤمنًا إن بمقدور من خلال بوابة الأدب خلق الظاهرة الأدبية التي تمحور بلاده في صدر الذاكرة لكل قارئ ، هو يخرجها من قلب القارة الأورو قصة مدينة الحجر للكاتب الألباني إسماعيل كاداريه ترجمة د عفيف دمشقية من ربوع الأدب البلقاني تطالعنا هذه المدينة الحجرية الرمادية محبوسة ( بإنسانها الشفاف بطموحاته البسيطة و عجالته و تمائمه و خوفه من إي تغيير قد يطيح بمنطقته ) سنجدها بين صفحات هذه الرواية مرصودة بكل ما أوتي قلم كاداريه من واقعية سحرية تخلق لك عالم مذهل ، كاداريه يعولم برصده هذا قضية بلاده في تلك الحقبة مؤمنًا إن بمقدور من خلال بوابة الأدب خلق الظاهرة الأدبية التي تمحور بلاده في صدر الذاكرة لكل قارئ ، هو يخرجها من قلب القارة الأوروبية مضاءة من جديد دون شوائب ، فمهمة الأقلام المحنكة شاقة كما نستشعره من خلال طرح كاداريه للتموجات السياسية في هذه الرواية . تحكي هذه الرواية كيف يواجه سكان القرية الحجرية في إلبانيا في فترة العشرينيات من القرن الماضي الإختلافات السياسية التي تسطو على محيطها تباعًا ، حيث كانت نهبة للمد الإيطالي و الألماني وكيف انتهى بها الحال فريسة للتوجهات الشيوعية ، حين يصف كاداريه مدينته الحجرية على لسان ولد صغير يستشعر جمالية ما حوله و يتدفق بسلاسة كتدفق الحياة و يستغرب مما يدور حوله من أحداث تفوق فهمه فتخلق ثغرات مظلمة و مشفرة في ذاكرته لا يقوى على استدراك مغزاها ولكنه رغم كل ذلك يحاول الاستمتاع قدر الإمكان في حياته ، كان وصفه يقارب وصف مدينة تركية حيث كانت ألبانيا تقع تحت السيطرة العثمانية لفترة طويلة . أحببت هذا العمل رغم غرقه الزائد في الترميز و الإبهام و كيف لا تحب عملًا يبعث في جوفك حنين لطفولتك يشاغبك بألوان الطفولة الساكنة في داخلك و يقفز بقلبك فوق حبل النسيان مرة تلو مرة و تغيضه محاولاتك الرافضة للتمايل و الرقص على نغمات ماضيك فيصرخ بك حين تخذله الحلول : أنْ عُدّ ما دام بمقدورك العودة !

  15. 5 out of 5

    Farhan Khalid

    It was hard to believe that under this powerful carapace the tender flesh of life survived and reproduced Our neighborhood was, so to speak, allergic to change A disturbing surprise was waiting for me in that old house The money they earn is a loan from death The book I lay nearby Silent A thin object on the devan It was so strange… Between two cardboard covers were noises, doors, howls, horses, people All sided by side, presses tightly against one another Decomposed into little black marks The city seemed It was hard to believe that under this powerful carapace the tender flesh of life survived and reproduced Our neighborhood was, so to speak, allergic to change A disturbing surprise was waiting for me in that old house The money they earn is a loan from death The book I lay nearby Silent A thin object on the devan It was so strange… Between two cardboard covers were noises, doors, howls, horses, people All sided by side, presses tightly against one another Decomposed into little black marks The city seemed to be scratching itself in slow motion It was a pain of transformation My mind was on fire All the normal limits on the shape of things seemed to have been suspended They could turn into anything now Sadness was all around Spreading in great concentric circles through endless space Soon it would spread out over the whole world Chaos reigned in my head as words, devoid of logic and reality I had entered the kingdom of words, where a merciless tyranny reigned

  16. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    Gjirokaster, Albania in WWII is seen through the eyes of a young boy. The town is invaded by the Italians, Greeks, Italians, Greeks, partisans and Germans. It undergoes prolong air raids by the British. The last third of the book introduces more fully the partisans - those for the King, those for a republic and the Communists. A town where the people seem to live happily with the only conflicts coming from family feuds, fear of magic and sex (homosexuality, hermaphrodites, pre-marriage sex, pros Gjirokaster, Albania in WWII is seen through the eyes of a young boy. The town is invaded by the Italians, Greeks, Italians, Greeks, partisans and Germans. It undergoes prolong air raids by the British. The last third of the book introduces more fully the partisans - those for the King, those for a republic and the Communists. A town where the people seem to live happily with the only conflicts coming from family feuds, fear of magic and sex (homosexuality, hermaphrodites, pre-marriage sex, prostitution are all covered). The old people have lived through the Ottoman Empire and have seen a lot of violence. Kadare brings life to stones of the town, raindrops, roads, rivers, days of the weeks. He takes no sides and relates the senseless, brutal murders and deaths as a matter of fact - these things are expected and need to be endured. He also introduces Enver Hoxha, who was born in the town, and his book provides a forecast of the chaos that will come under his rule.

  17. 5 out of 5

    فهد الفهد

    قصة مدينة الحجر انتهيت منها قبل قليل، والمفترض أن أؤجل الكتابة عنها، حتى اكتب عن ثلاثة كتب سبقتها وتنتظر على مكتبي، ولكن سأكتب عنها، لأن هذه المراجعة ستكون قصيرة، أظن أن مدى حبي للكتاب وتأثري به ينعكس على حجم الأسطر التي سيتحول إليها عند المراجعة، وهذا الكتاب الذي حصل على نجمتين، لن يحصل على أسطر وفيرة لأنه ليس كادارياً، وكأن من كتب (الوحش) و(الحصار) رجل آخر !!! فالكتاب يبدو من خلال النبذة على غلافه الخلفي واعداً، مدينة ألبانية مائلة جداً بشكل عجائبي، ثم ماذا؟ لا شيء !! أحداث عادية يمكن أن تجدها قصة مدينة الحجر انتهيت منها قبل قليل، والمفترض أن أؤجل الكتابة عنها، حتى اكتب عن ثلاثة كتب سبقتها وتنتظر على مكتبي، ولكن سأكتب عنها، لأن هذه المراجعة ستكون قصيرة، أظن أن مدى حبي للكتاب وتأثري به ينعكس على حجم الأسطر التي سيتحول إليها عند المراجعة، وهذا الكتاب الذي حصل على نجمتين، لن يحصل على أسطر وفيرة لأنه ليس كادارياً، وكأن من كتب (الوحش) و(الحصار) رجل آخر !!! فالكتاب يبدو من خلال النبذة على غلافه الخلفي واعداً، مدينة ألبانية مائلة جداً بشكل عجائبي، ثم ماذا؟ لا شيء !! أحداث عادية يمكن أن تجدها في الكثير من الروايات التي تهتم بتسجيل حياة الأرياف، ربما الفارق هو الصراع الذي يعصف بالقرية، حيث تتصارع على أرضها جيوش إيطاليا واليونان وألمانيا وبريطانيا، وهذا يجري بالطبع في الحرب العالمية الثانية، الرواية ربما ليست بهذا السوء، ولكن هذه ضريبة قراءتها بعد (الحصار).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rafa Sánchez

    Muy buena novela. Me ha emocionado la descripción del mundo a través de los ojos de un niño, en la ciudad natal del escritor durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. El autor describe magistralmente la fascinación ante los acontecimientos que viven su familia y amigos, el descubrimiento del mundo de los mayores con reglas que no puede entender y qué él reconstruye a su manera. Hacia el final de la novela, el pulso narrativo decae un poco y esa es la razón de que no la califique con 5 *.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    Chronicle in Stone came to my attention as a novel that's required reading for students in Albania (in an article entitled Required Reading: The books That Students Read in 28 Countries Around the World). The author, Ismail Kadare, won the first Man Booker International award in 2005 for lifetime literary achievement. This novel, narrated in the first person by a young boy, shows how different conquering forces — Italian fascist, Greek, and German Nazi — ravage a small Albanian city during World Chronicle in Stone came to my attention as a novel that's required reading for students in Albania (in an article entitled Required Reading: The books That Students Read in 28 Countries Around the World). The author, Ismail Kadare, won the first Man Booker International award in 2005 for lifetime literary achievement. This novel, narrated in the first person by a young boy, shows how different conquering forces — Italian fascist, Greek, and German Nazi — ravage a small Albanian city during World War II. The city itself becomes a central character in the novel, in beautifully rendered prose that shows both its strength and its suffering. The young narrator remains largely unaware of the politics and philosophies that underlie the conflict, experiencing the war as a time of confusion, chaos, and dislocation. His description of the brutality of warfare contrasts with his observations about his friends and neighbors going about their daily lives, doing their best to adapt to the turmoil that surrounds them.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alta

    Chronicle in Stone, first published in Albanian in 1971 and sixteen years later in English in a translation whose author remains unidentified, describes life in a small Albanian town during World War II. The mystery of the novel’s translation was elucidated for me through an Internet search, and its story is worth telling: translated by an Albanian émigré who lived in the States and who is now dead, Arshi Pipa, the book was published without the translator’s name because he had entered into a co Chronicle in Stone, first published in Albanian in 1971 and sixteen years later in English in a translation whose author remains unidentified, describes life in a small Albanian town during World War II. The mystery of the novel’s translation was elucidated for me through an Internet search, and its story is worth telling: translated by an Albanian émigré who lived in the States and who is now dead, Arshi Pipa, the book was published without the translator’s name because he had entered into a conflict with the publisher and/or with the author, and as a consequence, he demanded to have his name taken off the translation. According to David Bellos, Kadare’s current translator into English (who was chosen by Kadare as the recipient of the translation prize awarded together with the Booker prize), the dispute is known as the “Pipi-Kaka quarrel.” Chronicle in Stone has an original structure in that each chapter is followed by an alternate chapter, a short “Fragment of a Chronicle” written by the town’s official chronicler. The regular chapters are written in the first person, in the voice of a child who seems very much an alter ego of the young Kadare, a child fascinated with words, who reads Macbeth, as Kadare himself did when he was eleven, and consequently applies its human drama to his neighbors, imagining blood and crime everywhere. Not that it was hard to imagine. In this little town ravaged by history, we see characters walking down the street with severed heads under their arms; the Italian fascists hang several young Albanian rebels, the Greek occupants kill “enemies” chosen according to the whims of their spies, and the Germans indulge in the killing of hundred-year-old women. Toward the end of the novel, the absurdity of the political situation culminates in a whirlwind-like scenario, in which within two weeks or so, the town changes hands several times: from the Italians to the Greeks, back to the Italians, back to the Greeks, the Italians, the Greeks, until finally no one is in control. Each time the Italians come, they bring along two groups of women, one of nuns and one of prostitutes. Each time the town changes hands, another proclamation by another Garrison Commander is posted and another flag is raised. Each time another flag is raised, the Albanian Gjergj Pula changes his name: to Giorgio (when the Italians come), to Yiorgos (for the Greeks) and to Jurgen Pulen before the arrival of the Germans, a name he never gets a chance to use because the Germans kill him as soon as they enter the town. Nor does he get to use “Yogura,” which he prepared in case of a Japanese invasion. Chronicle in Stone was published in Albania during the years of Enver Hoxha, who came to power with the Communist Party after World War II, and stayed there until his death in the mid-eighties. In this context, we can speculate on the reasons for the episodic appearance toward the end of the novel of a character described by the Italian Garrison Commander as “the dangerous Communist Enver Hoxha.” Although it is known that the dictator came from the same small town as Kadare, one wonders whether his presence is indeed historically justified or whether this was the price Kadare had to pay in order to publish his novel.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    World War II is about to start but life for a young boy in a small town in Albania is still a game. Yet, as the town falls to the Italians, the Greeks, then the Nazis, the boy grows up. Falling in love with unattainable women, seduced by magic and literature and finally forced to flee, his existence changes from marvellous, terrifying and extraordinary into a primitive world where the severed arm of a British airman becomes a talisman and girls vanish--possibly killed by their own fathers. Forgi World War II is about to start but life for a young boy in a small town in Albania is still a game. Yet, as the town falls to the Italians, the Greeks, then the Nazis, the boy grows up. Falling in love with unattainable women, seduced by magic and literature and finally forced to flee, his existence changes from marvellous, terrifying and extraordinary into a primitive world where the severed arm of a British airman becomes a talisman and girls vanish--possibly killed by their own fathers. Forging the unexpected and terrible link between childish playfulness and a horrifying political future, Kadare has created a story with a depth and brilliance characteristic of the master story-teller. I have to say I enjoyed this book. I’m not someone who gets especially nostalgic about his own childhood but I do find the subject of loss of innocence a captivating one. Innocence is like this odd little creature that scrabbles around trying to make sense of its environment before it becomes aware and disillusioned. Kadare never takes it that far here. Even when the narrator as an adult is introduced you still feel that they boy who scampered around that magical city and called, “A-oo,” into the cistern waiting on it calling back, however reluctantly, is still there inside him. There are things that happen to the people around the boy that upset him – he sees dead bodies but I don’t think he actually witnesses anyone being killed – and these affect him but he still clings onto who he sees himself to be, even though he cannot not change. I think had he been even three years older when the occupation started, the book might have had a very different tone. You can read the full review of this book on my blog here.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Indeneri

    City in Stone is narrated by a child living in an Albanian town, under occupation. In an strange dreamy way we read about the he town as if it were a living being that moves and feels. This book is unlike any other I have read in how it describes the environment. The protagonist has a very over active imagination. He imagines all things around him to be alive and with movement, houses, streets, the stone bridge, even the city is described as a large animal, and rain drops being caught and diverte City in Stone is narrated by a child living in an Albanian town, under occupation. In an strange dreamy way we read about the he town as if it were a living being that moves and feels. This book is unlike any other I have read in how it describes the environment. The protagonist has a very over active imagination. He imagines all things around him to be alive and with movement, houses, streets, the stone bridge, even the city is described as a large animal, and rain drops being caught and diverted to the underground cistern are imagined to feel sad about their confinement. I wanted to quote from the book, but only have and electronic copy and overdrive doesn't allow copy and paste anymore. The story is a slice of life of a boy in a city that is constantly occupied city, that keeps changing hands amongst different armies. It starts during occupation and ends during a time of political uncertainty. After the first few few pages, I could understand how a child could dream up such random and colorful descriptions, or have so much time to sit there and daydream. I wanted to give him a slap upside the head. But then I realized that with no tv or internet and no school, a child would have nothing to occupy him but his own thoughts. The story moves along nicely until it gets to the part about the air field close to the city, and there it just lost me. I didn't care for pages and pages of aeroplane data. But after that it picks up again. I thought this book was fascinating for its unique point of view about WW2, and as the author has written about his home town I got an insiders view on a culture and lifestyle I had no idea about. I will be looking for other books by Kadare, just because I want to see how his style of writing works for less autobiographical works.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    CHRONICLE OF STONE was unlike the two prior books by Kadare that I had read--THE THREE ARCHED BRIDGE and THE PALACE OF DREAMS--and that was unfortunate. Though the first couple chapters of this World War II novel hinted at an Escher-like cityscape and a talking cistern, suggesting that this too would be a story of fantastical imagination, those magical elements quickly disappear along with the boy narrator, who never develops any real identity in the book. What we get instead is a cast of severa CHRONICLE OF STONE was unlike the two prior books by Kadare that I had read--THE THREE ARCHED BRIDGE and THE PALACE OF DREAMS--and that was unfortunate. Though the first couple chapters of this World War II novel hinted at an Escher-like cityscape and a talking cistern, suggesting that this too would be a story of fantastical imagination, those magical elements quickly disappear along with the boy narrator, who never develops any real identity in the book. What we get instead is a cast of several dozen Albanian names (because they're not really much more than difficult names) and a handful of violent incidents. With no plot, no language of any real merit (at least not in the English translation), and very little conflict besides the general upheaval of war, this is a book that is largely forgettable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    An outstanding novel by an utterly brilliant writer. In fact Kadare is probably the best writer I have discovered in the past decade. This is the fifth book of his I have read and it concerns the remarkable city of Gjirokastër during WWII with the conflict seen through the eyes of a child. Kadare perfectly captures the bewildering aspects of that period of history, further distorted by the perspective of the young narrator, to whom all things are mysterious and worthy of deeper investigation. Th An outstanding novel by an utterly brilliant writer. In fact Kadare is probably the best writer I have discovered in the past decade. This is the fifth book of his I have read and it concerns the remarkable city of Gjirokastër during WWII with the conflict seen through the eyes of a child. Kadare perfectly captures the bewildering aspects of that period of history, further distorted by the perspective of the young narrator, to whom all things are mysterious and worthy of deeper investigation. The age-old rituals of Albanian life with all their comic, tragic and savage aspects take place within a city with streets so steep the buildings seem almost piled vertically on top of each other. The atmosphere of this novel is thick enough to be cut with one of the Turkish daggers that the narrator's maternal grandfather keeps in his house full of books and oddments. A masterpiece.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A really wonderful and surprising book. I randomly happened to have gone to Albania and Gjirokaster for work and my colleague had read Broken April and was telling us about it. It turned out that we were in the town where Ismail Kadare was from so we toured his house and saw the famous room of the cistern (all renovated and not a trace of ancient memories left). In a gift shop I picked up this book and started reading and loved it immediately. It is both funny and sad and hints at the terrors of A really wonderful and surprising book. I randomly happened to have gone to Albania and Gjirokaster for work and my colleague had read Broken April and was telling us about it. It turned out that we were in the town where Ismail Kadare was from so we toured his house and saw the famous room of the cistern (all renovated and not a trace of ancient memories left). In a gift shop I picked up this book and started reading and loved it immediately. It is both funny and sad and hints at the terrors of wars. I can't recommend it highly enough.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    2.5 stars. A charming though often disturbing childhood account of an Albanian town's occupation in WWII. I couldn't wait to finish this book but for all the wrong reasons. For all the author's accolades and the rave reviews on Goodreads, aside from the shocking events in the closing chapters and the often lyrical characterisation of buildings, I just wasn't bowled over and had to really persevere with it. Normally I would set a book aside if I wasn't enjoying it but I did want to know the outco 2.5 stars. A charming though often disturbing childhood account of an Albanian town's occupation in WWII. I couldn't wait to finish this book but for all the wrong reasons. For all the author's accolades and the rave reviews on Goodreads, aside from the shocking events in the closing chapters and the often lyrical characterisation of buildings, I just wasn't bowled over and had to really persevere with it. Normally I would set a book aside if I wasn't enjoying it but I did want to know the outcome which is why I stayed with it til the end. I won't be recommending it to anyone though.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mai Muhammad

    ربّما كانت ملحميّة، أدبيّة، ربّما هي رائعة.. لكنّها عن الحرب من منظور طفل ما لم يتحفنا أحد بـ كم يبلغ من العمر. عن الحرب، أسوأ الأشياء في هذا العالم تتحدّث الرواية، عن النزوح عن البشر دون تعاطف يذكر بسرد خالٍ من أي تعبير نفسيّ ما أو أيّة إلماحة. وربّما كرهتها لأننا نعيش في داخلها الآن..

  28. 4 out of 5

    Claudia Blanco

    Great pleasure to discover this fantastic Albanian writer. His metaphors are supreme, fresh and original.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lemon

    A friend recently convinced me to read “Chronicle in Stone” by Ismail Kadare. It is a semi-biographical novel about Kadare’s childhood in Gjirokastër, Albania during the Second World War. The book was interesting in general, but my mind keeps drifting back to one passage, about a gender non-conforming person named Argjir Argjiri. The narrator spends too pages discussing Argjiri and his upcoming marriage as one of many troubles plaguing the town: As if all this were not enough, something else ha A friend recently convinced me to read “Chronicle in Stone” by Ismail Kadare. It is a semi-biographical novel about Kadare’s childhood in Gjirokastër, Albania during the Second World War. The book was interesting in general, but my mind keeps drifting back to one passage, about a gender non-conforming person named Argjir Argjiri. The narrator spends too pages discussing Argjiri and his upcoming marriage as one of many troubles plaguing the town: As if all this were not enough, something else happened that shook even those who had kept calm until then. Argjir Argjiri was getting married. I had noticed that announcements of engagements or weddings sometimes surprised people, making some happy and bringing smiles to others. But I never thought the news of a wedding could be seen by everyone, without exception, as a major catastrophe. Have you heard? Argjir Argjiri is getting married. You’re kidding! No, really, it’s true. Don’t talk nonsense. Argjir Argjiri getting married? How? Well, he is. Come on! It’s impossible. No it isn’t. Kako Pino has even been summoned to paint the bride. No, it’s unbelievable. It can’t be. But I heard the same thing. It’s true then? Yes, it’s true. God, what an abomination. How shameful! Argjir Argjiri was a short, dark man with a voice so high-pitched he sounded like a woman. Everyone knew him, he roamed around in all the neighborhoods. People said he was half-woman and half-man, and he was the only male, or supposed male, who came and went freely in every house even when the men weren’t home. Argjir helped the women with various household chores, looked after the children when the women were at the wash-house, went to fetch water with them and retailed gossip. He had a house of his own, and people said that he helped women not because he had to but because he liked their company and women’s work. This was all not so strange, given that Argjir Argjiri was half-man and half-woman. Although for years he had been the butt of jokes and the object of jeers, by way of compensation he had won a right enjoyed by no other man: he could mingle freely with our city’s women and girls. And now suddenly Argjir Argjiri announced that he was getting married. It was a terrible act of defiance. The creature with the effeminate voice suddenly declared his manhood. For years he had borne the most biting taunts, awaiting his hour of revenge. The city scowled at such an intolerable outrage. There wasn’t a single home Argjir Argjiri had not entered, not a single woman he didn’t know. Dark suspicion stalked the town. Hopes that the reports were false soon evaporated. Kako Pino was summoned. An orchestra was hired, the wedding date was set. Hopes that Argjir Argjiri would change his mind likewise dwindled. Even repeated threats, so rumors said, had no effect. He remained adamant. More pressure was put on him, but he stood his ground. It was all done very discreetly, through clenched teeth and in anonymous letters. No one wanted to lead the campaign against Argjir Argjiri openly, for fear of seeming to have a personal axe to grind. No one ever found out why the man with the treble voice suddenly rebelled. What had happened to him? Why was he doing it? That’s right, why? At last the wedding night arrived. The city was under curfew. The wind that had been blowing for two weeks suddenly stopped. The silence seemed deeper after its incessant whistling. The eye of the searchlight blinked, then went out. The wedding drums rolled as if tolling the death of the city’s honor. “The cup runneth over,” Xhexho commented bitterly. Now, she said, we could expect the springs to gush black water. That’s all we needed, Isa said to Javer as he smoked in the dark. "The marriage of that hermaphrodite.“ "All things are adrift,” Javer answered. "This town is going to wind up like Sodom and Gomorrah. Later, in one of the inter-chapter fragments from a town newspaper, we are told that Our fellow townsman Argjir Argjiri was found dead in the bridal chamber the morning after his ill-fated marriage. The city could not forgive the man who had so disgraced it. The passage is incredibly depressing, of course, but that’s not the only reason it stuck out to me. I can’t help speculating about Argjiri and wishing that the narrator was interested enough in him to tell us more about his life and death than simply using it as evidence of the moral collapse of the city during wartime. I guess that my thoughts and questions about Argjiri come down to three issues: (1) What is his backstory? (2) What does he think of his role—his gender, his position in society, his relationship with the women he spends all his time with? and (3) Why, exactly, is his marriage seen as such an affront to the city’s honor, and as a sign of the end times? The fact that the narrator and various characters refer to Argjiri as a a “hermaphrodite” and use male pronouns suggests that they believe he is a male-assigned intersex person. If this is true, he may have been raised as a boy until puberty failed to happen. Did he know he was intersex? Did he think of himself as male, and think he fit in with boys? The fact that he seems to prefer the company of women now may indicate that he’s never felt at home with men, or it may just be a consequence of the fact that it seems all of the town’s men abuse him verbally and the women apparently do not. On the other hand, two other possibilities occurred to me. One is that he might have been castrated as a boy, which is plausible given that the story is set about twenty-five years after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps he was a being prepared to be a court eunuch—or was serving as one—when the Sultan’s household fell apart, and is living in exile here. I am not certain when the practice of castrating boys for the Ottoman court stopped: one source online suggests that when slavery was banned (between 1861 and 1876), the creation of new “black eunuchs” (slaves from sub-Saharan Africa who had their genitals fully removed and traditionally served in the harem) ceased, but I’m not sure if this is true, or if it also meant that no new “white eunuchs” (European slaves who only had their testicles removed, and who mostly served as court officials.) were created. Furthermore, other sources suggest that boys were still castrated to be “black eunuchs” as late as the early Twentieth Century, making it seem plausible that Argjiri might be one of these, given his dark complexion and involvement in female society. A third answer is that he might be a “sworn virgin,” a female-assigned person who gained the right to live as a man after taking an oath of celibacy. This seems less likely, though, given that one might expect the people of Gjirokastër to be more familiar with what was a practice common in Albania—though I think mostly in rural areas—and given that my impression is sworn virgins were respected in a way that would make it less likely that one would be the butt of constant jokes, as Argjiri was even before his decision to get married. Whatever Argjiri thinks of his role, he isn’t given enough of a voice—or a voice at all, really—for us to tell. It certainly seems that he enjoys his freedom to interact with the town’s women, though whether that is simply a consequence of them not abusing him as the men do, or whether it is something he would prefer to the company of men in any case, we can’t know. I’d certainly like to believe that, whatever he thinks of himself as, he is happy with his role as a person with some of the freedoms of a man—he owns his own house, and doesn’t have a husband he is expected to obey—but who is part of female society. In any case, though, I feel like I see something of myself in this. I’m not sure why, exactly, and it seems perhaps unfair to compare myself to a character whose background and experiences are so different from mine. But I am reminded of my father’s constant confusion that the large majority of my friends are female-assigned, and yet I’ve never asked any of them out or dated any of them. Somehow—and of course this is horribly heteronormative—I’ve had somewhat of a subconscious sense that there is an exchange I experience as a neuter male-assigned person. Getting to be “one of the girls” is conditional on not wanting to date them. Friends ask me for opinions of their boyfriends, and tell me intimate things about their relationships in part because I am not a potential boyfriend myself. This mental sense is inaccurate, of course. I rarely get to feel like I’m accepted as “one of the girls” (and to be fair I don’t identify as female), and I have come to conclude that I’m bi, rather than asexual as I once thought, and not being gynophilic is hardly a requirement for being female, as my various lesbian friends will surely point out. But it’s a feeling that society pushes at me, and one that must be even stronger in a society with much more rigid and enforced and patriarchal gender roles, like Kadare’s early-Twentieth Century Albania. Whatever Argjiri thinks of his role in society, it becomes clear that the townspeople think that it fundamentally requires that he not contemplate marriage, especially to a woman. (Since they seem to use male pronouns for him, I doubt they would conceive of him marrying a man as even a meaningful concept rather than a joke.) I’m still not sure to make of this. One reading seems to be that it’s unnatural or an affront to the nature of marriage, or something, for such a person to get married. What I think the narrator is indicating—and what generally seems more likely—is that Argjiri’s marriage is seen as an offense to the town’s male honor because it indicates that he is attracted to women sexually and may be assumed by the townspeople to indicate that he can and wants to have penetrative sex with them. I gather that the townspeople are so offended because if he is a “man” in this sense, then they cannot believe that he could spend time alone with women without having sex with them, and so his marriage announcement is taken as an announcement that he has had sex with all of the women of the town. Whether he actually has had sex with any of them is not really relevant: the society’s conception of gender roles simply has no space for someone who socializes with women while being sexually interested in other women. A view which is sadly not entirely absent in modern America: there are still plenty of men who would frown on their wives having male friends, because they cannot imagine that this could happen without involving sex.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    A really fascinating story of true events surrounding the occupation of this stone city in Albania before, during, and after the war. I found myself really embracing the sorry bring told from the perspective of a young boy as it really illustrated the confusion of growing up in a place filled with so much turmoil and uncertainty. I can't even imagine how people dealt with the changes so frequently occurring in those years, losing their home on and off. I feel like I learned a lot about a place I A really fascinating story of true events surrounding the occupation of this stone city in Albania before, during, and after the war. I found myself really embracing the sorry bring told from the perspective of a young boy as it really illustrated the confusion of growing up in a place filled with so much turmoil and uncertainty. I can't even imagine how people dealt with the changes so frequently occurring in those years, losing their home on and off. I feel like I learned a lot about a place I've read and heard very little of. I could picture it so well by the end. I also enjoyed many quotes from the book, especially where the boy describes books, marveling at all the people, places and experiences that unfold before your very eyes.

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