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The Siege

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,499 ratings  ·  166 reviews
From Ismail Kadare, winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize – a novelist in the class of Coetzee, Pamuk, Márquez, and Rushdie – the stunning new translation of one of his major works.

In the early fifteenth century, as winter falls away, the people of Albania know that their fate is sealed. They have refused to negotiate with the Ottoman Empire, and war is
Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Canongate Books (first published 1970)
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Sep 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author claims that this is not a historical novel, and yet the story is set in the mid 15th century and is a primer on the methods of warfare used at the time. It is also a metaphor for Albania during its Communist rule in the 20th century, for although the invading Ottoman empire circa 1474 is portrayed as the bad guy, the implication and insinuation is that this totalitarian empire is a reflection of later day Albania itself.

In a nutshell, an Albanian fortress is besieged by an invading
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Siege" is an historical novel by the great Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare involving the defeat of the Ottoman army to capture a rebel city, with many details taken from the attack on Krujë in 1450. Krujë was part of a larger rebellion led by George Castriot, who used the mountainous terrain to harass the besiegers and deprive them of local supplies. That predatory nature of invading armies is part of Kadare's point; the novel was written in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of ...more
Hakushi Hamaoka
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came to feel like visiting Albania :)

According to the Afterword by the translator, Ismail Kadare's one of the main themes in his novels is the intricate relationships between the obvious other (the influences of the Ottoman Empire) for the Albanians and who the Albanians are. Since Albania was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, people there were affected by its culture, politics, and other social institutions. The Albanian are, however, still Albanians, who are supposed to have rather actively
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-tour, temp
Ismail Kadaré often used Albanian history and legends as the setting for his novels. This one is about attempts to withstand a siege by Ottoman forces and shows the inhabitants of the beleaguered town. It may be an allegory of modern times, but it is not clear exactly what it might be an allegory of. Albania was a Maoist communist country caught between the powerful Soviet powers and their allies and the capitalist force of Europe and US global trade. Who did Ismail Kadaré see as the aggressive ...more
Nov 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-translation
This may seem like a straight forward historical novel about a citadel in Albania under seige from the mighty Ottaman Empire, but it is so much more than that.

Written originally in 1970 in Albania just after the Soviets had shattered the Prague uprising in Czechoslovakia, it is one of the best critics of hostile invasion and control you will ever read.

Considering the original was Albanian and it was updated in french in the mid 90s a big congratulations to all the translators involved.
Dr. Cristina Bettencourt
My favorite book by this author. He seems to be able to recreate the mentality and the perspective people may have had in those times. He makes me "feel" with them regardless of the fact that I am submerged in my zeitgeist, and in principle a bad neutral observer. This combined with a compelling writing style.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
A real treat, an Albanian authors account of a Turkish siege has it all. Good history, great writing, dread, historical detail wrapped into a subtle political scream of anger.
Thomas Hübner
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Albania in the middle of the 15th century. Gjergj Kastrioti, called Skanderbeg, is resisting the advance of the Ottoman armies and is fighting a kind of hit-and-run guerrilla war from his fortresses in the Accursed Mountains. This is the historical backdrop of the novel The Siege by the Albanian author Ismail Kadare, a permanent candidate for the Novel Prize and Winner of the Man Booker International Prize.

A huge force of the Ottoman army is advancing to this
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of literary historical fiction
In The Siege, Ismail Kadare succeeds in telling a story that is at once a fictionalized piece of history, a believable what-if about the Ottoman invasion of 15th-century Albania, and a subtle commentary on modern politics and war.

As with other armies throughout history, the Turks led military campaigns from late spring to early fall. The Siege begins as the Catholic Albanians, having sent the Ottomon envoys packing, prepare for the coming of the invading force. The tale is told in two
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Kadare’s The Palace of Dreams in 2005, and thought it was an excellent book, but this is even better. At face value, it’s the rivetting story of a C15th siege – the Christian Albanians in the besieged citadel and the Ottomans camped outside. The chapters alternate between these two POV but the Ottomans tell most of the story in what appears to be a straightforward 3rd person narrative. However, there are deliberate anachronisms such as show trials and biological warfare which jolt the ...more
Gumble's Yard
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Story of the siege by the Ottoman army of the first castle they encounter on invading Albania – the story which describes the horrors of siege warfare in detail is written mainly from an Ottoman viewpoint with a variety of characters mainly non-directly military but seen from the view point of the confused official Chronicler. There are interim shorter chapters written more as a chronicle by the defending Christians and which provide good summaries of what has actually happened.

Main characters
Geoffrey Fox
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the summer of 1429 the greatest army ever seen, under command of Tirsun Pasha, attacks the citadel that is the first line of defense of Christian Albania, expecting to conquer it by rapid assault — but every stratagem (repeated assaults, undermining, infestation with diseased rats, and finally discovering and cutting the city’s aqueduct) fails, and when the rains come (saving the city from surrendering to thirst) the remains of the vast army withdraw in disorder from the now half-ruined town. ...more
This novel by the Albanian author Ismail Kadare is set during the 15th century when Albania was being attacked by the Ottoman Turks, and the heroic Albanian leader Skanderbeg was still actively fighting the attackers. The edition that I have read was originally written between 1969 and 1970 when albania was being ruled by the repressive dictator, and friend of Stalin, Enver Hoxha. The version that I read was modified by the author between 1993 and 1994 when Enver Hoxha's regime was over. The ...more
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kadare has depicted a subtle commentary on politics and war through a fictionalised period in history.
Although definitely not my favourite type of story to read, as it is about a siege, as the title states, and the descriptions of the attack on the citadel were long and repetitive, there were a few sections that were truly a pleasure to read. I particularly liked reading the Quartermaster's "heretical" confidences to the chronicler who pushed such thoughts away and insisted on describing the
Lauren Albert
May 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I imagine it is difficult to write about sieges since they are mostly boredom sometimes alternating with brief periods of horrific violence. Kadare manages to make the story compelling perhaps because of the feeling of anxiety and uncertainty that hangs over each character but all for differing reasons--you want to see how events proceed for them. Kadare shows his unsurprising bias in favor of the Albanians yet manages to show great pity for the Muslim soldiers who die at their leaders' whim. He ...more
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had set this book aside as I'm not a big fan of pre 19th Century historical fiction which iswhat I took it to be. Of course once I started reading it I realised as usual how wrong this particular personal bias can be. This is not just any historical fiction for a start, this is Ismail Kadare who writes to perfection. On one reading this is a historical novel about the siege of a Christian fortress by an expansionist Muslim Ottoman Empire. On another reading it is a novel about those things ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure about this novel as I began it. The writing of this translation was at first off-putting to me, but either it grew on me or it changed. I ended up deeply immersed in the novel--a fictional story of a fifteenth century Ottoman siege of an Albanian fortress, told mostly from the perspectives of Turkish characters ranging from the commander-in-chief to women in the harem. What soon emerges is that this is more than just a compelling story from the past, but a reflection on the ...more
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Siege is a book that frustrated me at first because I knew the author was basing this story into something that happened in real life. I knew he wanted to say something, to state his political and cultural opinion.
Then the story itself began to get more interesting to me as a fictional story. The book began to be interesting to me when I stopped trying to figure out its meaning.
In my defense, at the beginning of the book, most characters seemed to be a bit hollow and boring. It wasn't until
Hugh Coverly
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve yet to meet a Kadare book I didn’t like. In this book Kadare reimagines a siege in which the Albanians defeat the massive army of the Ottomans, forcing them out of Europe. There are brief inter chapter scenes in which we glimpse through the eyes of a cleric how the Albanians fared during the siege. The bulk of the novel allows the reader to see how war is conducted by the aggressors and to what lengths they will go to gain victory.

The Siege starts slowly with the various characters in the
Wendelle So
fictional account of the Ottoman attempt of invasion of Albania, written by a native Albanian from the viewpoint of the Ottoman soldiers duty-bound to expand their realm. It was beautifully and meticulously written, and through this book one can get a sense of life in military camp during that period-- long stretches of boredom and doubt relieved only by a tagging cultural performer of poetry or dance, and short-lived sudden assaults that end with a lot of casualties. However, a huge and ...more
Sadiq sagheer
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ability of Ismail Kadare to narrate a story in a way that you will feel like you are moving between the tents and battalions of the Ottomans soldiers and units, and sharing the same feelings portrayed by the fifteenth century besieged Albanians did.
The novel is mainly narrating the story of an Albania Christian portress when it was being attacked by the Ottoman Turks, and the heroic Albanian leader Skanderbeg was still actively fighting the attackers. This may seem like a straight forward
Not one of his best books, although there are moments when the poker-faced irony shines through and of course the details of the little people as well as the important people. He is such a clever writer too, criticising the society he was living in but in such a way that nobody could ever prove it. In the army which is carrying out the siege, there is a huge cast of officers, soldiers, secret police, engineers, magicians, chroniclers - some of them jostling for power, others at the mercy of the ...more
Carol Chapin
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book on a number of levels (as great books must be). I enjoyed the story, with its carefully crafted, inevitable progression. Although the bulk of the novel concerned the Turkish invaders, the alternating sections with the Albanian defenders were extremely effective. The characters and their interactions were well drawn. Most of the book was from the point of view of the chronicler (who we came to know well), but the Quartermaster and the Pasha were especially intriguing ...more
Dana Kraft
This is the first book I've ready by Kadare and I enjoyed everything about it. I liked that the characters were generally not the ones doing the actual fighting, although in many ways they were still risking their lives in other ways. Interesting to think about how this could represent the situation in Albania in the late 60's. A couple of things I'll remember:

- Towards the end of the siege, the 'architect' is called away to the capital. They then receive instructions from the capital on "the
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: albania
I tried to like this book, I really did - and eventually did enjoy it more. But it sure took a long time. The invaders (Moslem) are attacking a fortress defended by Christians. The history of this period is rather unfamiliar to me as is the terms of warfare. Kadare was a (barely) tolerated author under a totalitarian regime in Albania and this was a daring book to write as the theme (very subtle indeed) is about the evils of totalitarian governments. The prostitutes are the most interesting ...more
Szimonetta Csóka
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read the world: Albania

This book was an unusual choice for me, but I’m so glad I decided to read it. What a great book! It‘s strange that the Albanian writer writes about the siege from the Turkish perspective, but does not portrays them monsters. He portrays them as "average" people, who are in war. And in war everyone becomes cruel. The book contains views from both sides, but I think that the Albanian narrative was totally unnecessary. In spite of this, it was a pleasure to read.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More of a journey story, but one I actually didn't mind reading. I liked how it had chapters from both the besieged and the besiegers' points of view, and that it focused on a handful of characters. It showed different siege strategies that I'd heard about previously, so it was fun to read about them being applied. The writing itself was enjoyable, as well. For a book about war, the most gruesome part was the tunnel collapse. The note at the end of the book put it into a different light as well, ...more
Bob Lopez
So this book is little vague about its setting, but it seems to be part of the point--the afterward suggests a two-fold intention: 1) that the siege fails, this suggest the indomitability of the Albanian spirit; 2) that Albania eventually fell to the Ottoman Empire suggests fallibility and inevitability, and highlights the insignificance of this "victory." Loved the war-games/chess match style of the book, can't wait to dig in to more of his books.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-non-english
Interesting set up for a novel, where the main action is the Ottoman army trying to overrun an Albanian fortress. Each chapter is followed by a two page account of the perspective from the Albanian side. The chronicler was the most interesting character for me, as he was trying to find the heroic story the horribleness and bad decisions of a war, but most of the other characters weren't really fleshed out enough for me to care about. Not much of an emotional connection to anyone in the book.
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Ismail Kadare (also spelled Kadaré) is an Albanian novelist and poet. He has been a leading literary figure in Albania since the 1960s. He focused on short stories until the publication of his first novel, The General of the Dead Army. In 1996 he became a lifetime member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of France. In 1992, he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca; in 2005, he ...more
“I lodhur nga medyshjet e linte nganjehere veten te binte ne enderrime pa kuptim. Mendonte se sa mire do te ishte sikur pas shtatorit, te vinte jo tetori me nentorin, por korriku me gushtin. Enderronte nje ere te marre qe te mund te ngaterronte muajt e stinet e vitit, ashtu si era e vjeshtes gjethet e thara.” 15 likes
“Ata nuk kishin menduar kurre se ajo mund te qeshte ,dhe sic do gje qe permbys nje mendim te pergjithshem, kjo e qeshur zgjoi tek ata nje fare shqetesimi , gati gati frike” 5 likes
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