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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Broken April (1978) by Ismail Kadare

This Albanian fortified tower was used as an off limits refuge by those marked for murder under the laws of the Albanian kanun.
Book Review
Broken April (1978)
by Ismail Kadare

  Ismail Kadare is number one Albanian novelist, winner of the first International Booker Prize, international best seller in French translation, perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature and emissary of Albanian culture in the West.  He had two books on the first edition of the 1001 Books list and then added and lost an additional title since then.   Broken April is a refreshing change of pace from other "European" novels from this time period, most of which fall in the category of Existentialist inspired philosophical novel.  Broken April, on the other hand, is about the Albanian highlands, set in the early 20th century, but it could be set in the middle ages for all the modern world intrudes on the setting.

  The main facet of this Albanian highlands culture is the vibrant tradition of honor killings, which are known to span a dozen generations and result in dozens of deaths on each side, each death prescribed by rules from the kanun, a quasi legal code that governs this region in place of any kind of central government authority.  This kanun lays down the laws for the ritualized honor killings that are a central institution of this place (Albanian highlands) and Kadare tells his story in a way that blends objective reportage with the characters and motives of a traditional novel.   The interlocking narratives switch between a young man who has just committed an honor killing and a young couple from the capital, Tirana,  travelling through the highlands in the style of young people from the city travelling through the sticks anywhere.


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