The Siege by Ismail Kadare (Translated from the French of Jusuf Vriony by David Bellos) - review by Paul Binding

Paul Binding

Balkan Battle

The Siege


Canongate 322pp £16.99

The Pasha commanding this novel’s eponymous siege of an Albanian citadel experiences, at the start of operations, nostalgia for his own Anatolia with its ‘peaceful plains’:

He had thought of it most when his army had entered the land of the Shqipetars (Albanians) and first seen its fearsome peaks … He’d never seen any like them before. They reminded him of ghastly nightmares unrelieved by waking up. The ground and the rocks seemed to be scrambling madly towards the sky in mockery of the laws of nature. Allah must have been very angry when he created this land.

The waking nightmare that follows, with its unsurpassable savagery and countless deaths, is of course the work of the Pasha and his government. But, as elsewhere in Ismail Kadare’s work, The Siege repeatedly puts forward the idea that the very terrain of its author’s native Albania is inimical to the

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