The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare (Translated by John Hodgson) - review by James Purdon

James Purdon

Albanian Nights

The Fall of the Stone City

By

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The southern Albanian city of Gjirokastër has the distinction of being the birthplace of Ismail Kadare, who, having published forty-odd novels in Albanian and French, came to much wider notice in Britain when he was announced as the first winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2005. But Gjirokastër also has the rather more dubious distinction of being the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, the Stalinist ruler of Albania who began his political life as an anti-Fascist partisan fighting against a puppet government in hock to Mussolini and ended up as the paranoid dictator of an economically stagnant and isolated outpost of communism.

Gjirokastër is the titular stone city of this most recent translation from Kadare’s immense body of work, though the title’s vaguely epic ring is a little misleading for a novel that twines itself around local lore and wartime rumour to produce a disturbing hybrid of Balkan myth and Iron Curtain

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