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Chronicle in Stone

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  3,003 ratings  ·  293 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 301 pages
Published July 11th 2007 by Arcade Publishing (first published 1971)
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Chronicle in Stone by Ismail KadareLibri i bardhë by Enkelejd LamajBroken April by Ismail KadareThe General of the Dead Army by Ismail KadareThe Palace of Dreams by Ismail Kadare
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159 books — 102 voters
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  3,003 ratings  ·  293 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: albanian-authors
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
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
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 ...more
Lyn Elliott
I don't usually start reviews with background information on the author, but I didn't know anything about Albanian writer Ismael Kadare before I picked up, purely by chance, this wonderful book .

In 2005 Kadare won the first Man Booker International Prize, for a body of work written in or translated into English. He writes in Albanian and most of his work is available in English translation via French, his works published in France. (

Chronicle in Stone was
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I think of a city in stone, I imagine an impregnable fortress. This fortress, however, proved to be vulnerable. When I think of a chronicle in stone, I imagine a city which writes its own immutable history. This city, however, had all kinds of foreign invaders making indelible marks in its history books.

Ismail Kadare writes a rich, engaging, fictionalized memoir of his childhood years in Gjirokaster, Albania. The events around the time of World War Two are told through the eyes of a nameles
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Tad Richards
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Bob Newman
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Everybody's got a cistern in their heart somewhere

Gjirokaster, Albania. Not a spot that rings a lot of bells for most people. But if you read this brilliant novel, you will never forget the place, even if you never actually get there. Once, back in 1996, I did go there. Square gray houses rise from the steepest, most outlandish spots, houses made in the Ottoman merchant style of the mid-19th century, half-fort, half-mansion. The narrow streets wound around the hillsides that looked out over a va
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur
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 ...more
When I was in school and had to read a long list of mandatory books, I discovered that, even though I could immediately recognize why they were considered all masterpieces, I liked some of them more than others, that is – I perceived some of them mainly rationally and the others mainly emotionally.

All this to explain why Chronicle in Stone has not had the same appeal to me as The Ghost Rider (God, I loved that book!), although I rated both four stars. I can understand why it is considered a
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
2.5 stars. The first of Kadare's books I found wanting. ...more
Farhan Khalid
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, albania
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


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
Terry Pearce
Oct 06, 2016 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
In the distance the contours of the city could just be seen in the murky mix of night and day. It was the first time I had seen it from afar. I almost shouted for joy, for all night I had had the feeling that it was sinking lower and lower into the mud of the plain, like an old ship foundering on the shore.

Ismail Kadare does a remarkable thing with this book by capturing the life of a town through the eyes of a child with honesty, warmth, humor, wit and heartbreak. Kadare based the story on his
Stephen Kelly
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: albania, 20th-century
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 ...more
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translated
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 ...more
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Chronicle in Stone’ by Ismail Kadare is set in Albania during the Second World War. ⁣⁣
What stood out to me most from this novel is the way the main character, a young boy going up in a town in the mountains of Albania, shows the reader the way he sees the world. We do not know the boy’s name or his age, but I felt connected to him from the start. The wonder and curiosity he has for everything around him makes that you get to know him very quickly and I immediately felt emerged in his world. Whi
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 ...more
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Miriam Cihodariu
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: albania
Most of the writing in this novel is playful and almost joyful, even as it recounts a tale of a city amidst war and flames. This was to be expected, since the narrative is shaped through a child's eyes.
The dialogues and everything help you not take the threat seriously.

Myths and superstitions mingle with the actual threats, and the old ladies keep repeating 'This is the end of the world!' regardless of the topic, whether actual war encroaches the land or a girl is talking to boys.

But towards
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balkans
Largely anecdotal and written in blistering prose, this book is a brilliant tale of a young boy growing up in occupied Gjirokaster, Albania. We learn about bomb shelters beneath the town citadel, heavily perfumed Italian soldiers, the fleeting appearances of the Greeks, and a boy's love for an aerodrome. This book was beautifully written and I loved it.

Oh, one other thing. I think it reminded me a little bit of the movie Empire of the Sun--a young boy's unflagging optimism held against the larg
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 ...more
Certainly a powerful, despondent novel set during the occupation of Albanian during the WWII years. The dialogue is fast, and the novel is presented in such a way that time isn't wasted on development of characters or setting. The tension between modernization and traditionalism, especially as portrayed by the older generation. The first third of the book sets up the social situation of Albania, the last half of the book grapples with the absurdity and desolateness of war. ...more
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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 wo ...more

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“I couldn't get to sleep. The book lay nearby. A thin object on the divan. So strange. Between two cardboard covers were noises, doors, howls, horses, people. All side by side, pressed tightly against one another. Boiled down to little black marks. Hair, eyes, voices, nails, legs, knocks on doors, walls, blood, beards, the sound of horseshoes, shouts. All docile, blindly obedient to the little black marks. The letters run in mad haste, now here, now there. The a's, f's, y's, k's all run. They gather together to create a horse or a hailstorm. They run again. Now they create a dagger, a night, a murder. Then streets, slamming doors, silence. Running and running. Never stopping.” 35 likes
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