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Chronicle in Stone

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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 inundate his city. Through the boy's eyes, we see the terrors of World War II as he witnesses fascist invasions, allied bombings, partisan infighting, and the many faces of human cruelty as well as the simple pleasures of life.

Evacuating to the countryside, he expects to find an ideal world full of extraordinary things but discovers instead an archaic backwater where a severed arm becomes a talisman and deflowered girls mysteriously vanish. Woven between the chapters of the boy's story are tantalizing fragments of the city's history. As the devastation mounts, the fragments lose coherence, and we perceive firsthand how the violence of war destroys more than just buildings and bridges.

301 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1971

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About the author

Ismail Kadare

258 books1,374 followers
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 won the inaugural Man Booker International Prize, in 2009 the Prince of Asturias Award of Arts, and in 2015 the Jerusalem Prize. He has divided his time between Albania and France since 1990. Kadare has been mentioned as a possible recipient for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times. His works have been published in about 30 languages.

Ismail Kadare was born in 1936 in Gjirokastër, in the south of Albania. His education included studies at the University of Tirana and then the Gorky Institute for World Literature in Moscow, a training school for writers and critics.

In 1960 Kadare returned to Albania after the country broke ties with the Soviet Union, and he became a journalist and published his first poems.

His first novel, The General of the Dead Army, sprang from a short story, and its success established his name in Albania and enabled Kadare to become a full-time writer.

Kadare's novels draw on Balkan history and legends. They are obliquely ironic as a result of trying to withstand political scrutiny. Among his best known books are Chronicle in Stone (1977), Broken April (1978), and The Concert (1988), considered the best novel of the year 1991 by the French literary magazine Lire.

In 1990, Kadare claimed political asylum in France, issuing statements in favour of democratisation. During the ordeal, he stated that "dictatorship and authentic literature are incompatible. The writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 359 reviews
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,079 reviews6,887 followers
June 25, 2017
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 of age story is set around WW II and the events leading up to it. Gjirokaster changed hands from Italians to Greeks many times in just a few years. While in Italian hands it was bombed numerous times by the Allies. Eventually the Germans invaded and that started a civil war among monarchists, nationalistic rebels and communists. Folks caught in the middle of this strife learned the meaning of hell. For comparable war-time horrors I'm reminded of the Indonesian story All That Is Gone

Albania at this time was a pre-modern culture. Christians and Moslem Albanians had negotiated a truce and lived side by side in the city surrounded by Greek peasants and Gypsies. There were epidemics of witchcraft that terrified the residents. There were two categories of widowed "old crones:" younger ones who dressed in black who walked the streets gossiping and causing trouble, and those old, blind and deaf who were seers and never left their homes, even during the bombings. Grandmothers practiced divination from chicken bones when chickens were available - a rare event, so that tells us how often they had meat.

The foreword tells us that the author's numerous references to homosexuality and bisexuality are veiled allusions to the supposed sexual orientation of the former Communist dictator of Albania, Hoxha, who was a native of Gjirokaster. So, in the local idiom, we hear a lot about "women who grew a beard overnight."


Starving war refugees and defeated soldiers wander though the city at various times. In this coming-of-age story, a young boy runs through the town with friends, experiences puppy love, is taught how to smoke by his grandfather, and interprets life around him though snippets of adult conversation. Since it is wartime, these youthful experiences are surreal. You might see a body lying on your front steps, stabbed to death, or turn a corner and see a woman hanging from a lamp post.

It's a fascinating book, well-written and a rare opportunity to look into Albanian culture.

Top photo from SarandAlbania.com. Bottom photo from tripadvisor.com
(revised 6/24/2017)
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,694 reviews1,478 followers
February 24, 2020
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 1939 Mussolini occupied Albania, but thereafter control switched several times between the Italians and the Greeks. Finally near the end of the war and until the summer of 1944, the Germans occupied Albania. The book does not continue through to the war’s end. Gjirokastër was extensively bombed. There were also fighting going on between the three dominant resistance movements: Isa Toska”s men (representing the Legaliteti, backing the exiled King Zog), the Ballists and finally the Partisans, who were Communists. This civil war led finally to the Communist takeover by Envor Hoxha. He too was from Gjirokastër. The city is made of stone houses, topped with slate rooves. When you leave your front door you are at the edge of your neighbor's roof - the slope is steep! This gray city has a strong presence in the novel. Trees and foliage, lawns and bushes are not what you find here. Such a world is far away only imagined at the markets where the peasants bring in their produce. The city has arisen from the earlier Turkish landowning people. It is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the book, the city itself, has an identity! This is the setting for the young boy’s experiences. Violent times, to say the least.

Culturally the city has a Muslim Turkish heritage. This contrasts against the Greek/Christian/peasant culture. All of this is woven into the story. Different cultures, strange beliefs, bizarre people and shocking events – they are all part of this novel. At the center is a young boy trying to understand it all.

One might think that such a time and place would not be the setting for a book filled with humor. This book IS filled with humor and irony. The boy is so imaginative, the words and thoughts will delight you. Sometimes you laugh at the kids’ lack of understanding, their attempts to understand an adult world that logically cannot be understood. Words and events are misunderstood, and we who read can chuckle at the search for knowledge and the irony of the crazy world that engulfs the city Diverse themes, from magic to girls to war to Shakespeare to sexual deviants, are all present. The author plays with words.

And yet this is about war and when the tone suddenly switches you are struck by the huge contrast. Only by first laughing do you come to feel totally devastated when things go wrong. All of a sudden I realized how invested I had become in these people.

There is a pronunciation guide and an exemplary introduction written by David Bellos. I read the introduction after finishing the book. I advise doing this. Often I dislike introductions. I hate it when they tell you how to interpret lines or tell us what we should be thinking/feeling! This introduction does not do that. It adds historical fact so you better understand the story itself. It tells of how Kadare rewrote this story repetitively. It explains what version we have in our hands. It speaks of the translator Arshi Pipa. Don't skip the introduction! It is very interesting, but first read the novel and let yourself be carried away by the play on words and imagination.

I absolutely adored the literary style! I was emotionally captivated by these characters. Perhaps, as the introduction points out, there is even more said between the lines, but first just sit back and enjoy the story. Remember it is fiction. Don’t demand that it fulfills the criteria of logical sense, just enjoy it. Well that is what I think. I would not consider giving this book anything but five stars. I loved it. Every bit of it. It drew a picture of a difficult time and place. First it was very amusing and then it socked me in the stomach. .

Here follows just one example of the humor found in this book:

The last Italians left during the first week of November, four days after the evacuation of the aerodrome. For forty hours there was no government in the city. The Greeks arrived at two in the morning. They stayed for about seventy hours and hardly anyone even saw them. The shutters stayed closed. No one went out in the street. The Greeks themselves seemed to move only at night. At ten in the morning on Thursday the Italians came back, marching in under freezing rain. They stayed only thirty hours. Six hours later the Greeks were back. The same thing happened all over again in the second week of November. The Italians came back. This time they stayed about sixty hours. The Greeks rushed back in as soon as the Italians had gone. They spent all day Friday and Friday night in the city, but when dawn broke on Saturday, the city awoke to find itself completely deserted. Everyone had gone. Who knows why the Italians didn't come back? Or the Greeks? Saturday and Sunday went by. On Monday morning footsteps echoed in the street where none had been heard for several days. On either side of the street women opened their shutters gingerly and looked out. It was Llukan the jailbird, with his old brown blanket slung over his right shoulder. In his kerchief je was carrying bread and cheese, and was apparently on his way home.

"Llukan!" Bido Sherofi's wife called from a window.

"I was up there," said Llukan , pointing to the prison. "I went there to report, but guess what? The prison is closed."

There was almost a touch of sadness in his voice. The frequent changes of rulers had made mincemeat of his sentence, and this put him out of SORTS.

"No more Greeks or Italians, you mean?"

"Greeks, Italians, it makes no difference to me," Llukan answered in exasperation. "All I know is the prison isn't working. The doors are wide open.Not a soul around. It's enough to break your heart."
(beginning of chapter 9)

This is just one example of the humor. Please read the book so you can experience yourself the imagination of the main protagonist.


I have read a bit more than half of this book. I absolutely adore it!!!!!

I keep thinking I should stop and tell my GR friends. I think I simply must copy a bit so you get to see what I am reading. But then I simply can't. I have to keep reading, and I cannot copy the whole book as examples of why I am loving how this author expresses himself. What I love about this book are the lines. They are funny! How can war be funny? Well, what happens is so absurd you do laugh!

Some lines are funny, others conjure a picture of gloom, others the delight of women in the eyes of an adolescent boy and then there is magic too. I don't really care what this author is talking about; it is how he says whatever he wants to say that is so wonderful.

This book is much, much, much better than the author's The Three-Arched Bridge. Don't read that! Read this!
Profile Image for Araz Goran.
815 reviews3,486 followers
August 19, 2017

أعمق وأصدق وأغرب قصص الحرب هي عندما يرويها لك الأطفال..

سيخبرك أياها بطريقته البريئة العفوية المنشودة دوماً بقصص رمادية مغرية جداً ..
إنهم يفهون الحرب كلعبة من ألعاب الكبار لا أكثر
يتهامسون في الطرقات عن أخبار الحرب وعن أصوات الجنون ..
يصنعون كلمات جديدة , يعبثون بإحلامهم
يروون عطش طفولتهم في الحديث عن الأشياء التي لم يألفوها في حياتهم قبل الحرب
إنها حكايا مربكة صادمة تتغلل في الذاكرة لتنجب ألماً كبيراً في المستقبل لا يمكن أن يزول أثره للأبد...

Profile Image for Stephen Hayes.
Author 6 books115 followers
December 1, 2011
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 that, even if one does not have the temerity to join in. In the course of our tour we also passed Albania's most famous film star, riding a bicycle.

I'd never heard of Ismail Kadare before, but having set eyes on him, if not actually having spoken to him, I was curious about his books, and when I found one in a bookshop, The file on H, I read it and enjoyed it. Not many bookshops stock his books, so when I saw Chronicle in stone, I bought it, and enjoyed it even more than The file on H.

It is set in the town of Gjirokaster in southern Albania, which is the town where Kadare grew up, so it is probably semi-autobiographical, and I have no doubt that Kadare must have witnessed scenes similar to those he describes in the book. It is set during the Second World War, when Gjirokaster was successively occupied by Italians, Greeks and Germans, with several changes as the tide of war ebbed and flowed.

It is seen through the eyes of a child, possibly a somewhat older child than Kadare would have been at the time. Though the age of the narrator is never stated, it seems to be about 6-10, whereas Kadare would have been about 2-3 years younger than that at the time. It is a child's-eye view, yet an adult recollection of a child's-eye view, with adult powers of description. But it looks at the the adult world through a child's eyes, remembering people for particular characteristics or foibles that would impress a child. Apart from the other children, most of the adults belong to the grandparents' generation, and so much of the information about the world comes to the narrator through his grandparents and their friends and relatives, aunts and great aunts who pop in to visit and gossip. There is the grandfather who lies on his divan each day, reading books in Turkish. There is the old woman who comments on each piece of news that it is the end of the world.

The nearest comparison I can think of is the "William" books by Richmal Crompton, which is also a fictional representation of a child's experience of war, but the viewpoint is different and the culture is different. Crompton's books reflect adult amusement at children's interpretations of the adult world, and so they are more detached from the characters. Kadare gets more into the skin of the child, and articulates it from the child's point of view. Another difference is that though Richman Crompton's books reflect fear of invasion, the invasion never took place, and the country was not occupied. The war was closer in Albania, the bombing more devastating, and, towards the end, with three different resistance movements, it also became a civil war. There is humour, but there is also tragedy and sadness.

I enjoyed the book partly because it it portrays Albanian culture, and having been to the country, it helped me to understand more of the people and the way they lived and thought.

There is also a sense in which the city itself is the main character in the novel. Occupying armies come and go, the inhabitants flee as refugees and return, but the city remains almost as a sentient being. Even in translation, Kadare's descriptions are lyrical.

I'd never have read his books if we had not, by chance, being sitting at a table next to him at a cafe. I'd probably still not have heard of him but for that chance. But, having discovered his books, I'll be reading more in future.
Profile Image for Lyn Elliott.
680 reviews174 followers
January 24, 2020
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. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ismail_...)

Chronicle in Stone was first published in Albanian in 1971, though Kadare had been working on elements of it since 1962, so it contains some of his earliest work. He revised it himself a number of times until a finalized definitive text appeared simultaneously in Albanian and French in 1997. The 2007 edition I read is translated directly from the Albanian by Arshi Pipa, with an introduction by David Bellos who has translated many Kadare works from French into English and edited this one.

In his introduction, Bellos says that many plot lines and story fragments introduced in Chronicle in Stone grow into a whole range of works set in varied times and locations.

Chronicle in Stone is set in Kadare’s Southern Albanian home city Gjirokaster, and it’s clear from page 1 that the city itself is as central to the story as are its people. Everything ‘was old and made of stone, from the streets and fountains to the roofs of the sprawling age-old houses covered with grey slates like gigantic scales. It was hard to believe that under this powerful carapace the tender flesh of life survived and reproduced.

‘…It was a slanted city, set at a sharper angle than perhaps any other city on earth, and it defied the laws of architecture and city planning. The top of one house might graze the foundation of another, and it was surely the only place in the world where if you slipped and fell in the street, you might well land on the roof of a house- a peculiarity known most intimately to drunks.’

The life of the stone city is seen through the eyes of a boy, slightly younger than Kadare himself would have been in the late 1930s and early 1940s when the book is set. It’s only as I’m writing this review now that I realize that the first person narrator is unnamed – perhaps it is Ismael, that’s how I think of him.

The boy is fascinated by the life of the town, especially the women who ran his household and visited it, and the two classes of older women – the fearsome mothers-in-law (katenxhikas), who watched, flew open their shutters to exchange news and gossip across the street, and the centenarians, the ‘old crones’ who never went out. The voices of the village women form part of the background texture of the novel, and every now and then a piece of news eagerly told advances the narrative.

Kadare has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and an eye for the ridiculous. In this pre-modern society, traditional beliefs and practices dominate and there is always a great deal going on, - an aunt’s chronic catastrophism, managing water cisterns, the English pilot’s arm, Uncle Avdo’s failure to shoot a pig in the sky, attempts to talk to girls and learn about sex and, only partly glimpsed, the consequences for people who don't fit into conventional modes of behaviour (a missing daughter).

And always the young men debated politics. Albania’s recent history had been turbulent and there were already deep divisions in the population before the Italian occupation in 1939.

In the short time frame of this novel, the Greeks and Italians invaded, retreated, invaded again; the Italians build an aerodrome in the field outside the town. And at the end, in 1943, the Germans invade and outbreaks of violence that lead to the civil war are beginning. As the book progresses, the political disturbances become fiercer, acts of violence and retribution become more frequent within the local population, a precursor to the full blown civil war that tore Albania apart and led to a repressive communist nationalist government following the defeat of Italy and Germany after WWII. ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Albania

David Bellos’ introduction notes that we see ‘these traumatic events in the life of the city through the eyes of a dreamy, short-sighted and highly imaginative child, whose thoughts and interests [are] in girls, hermaphrodites and homosexuals.

Inserted Fragments of Chronicles, written in most part by Italian Garrison Commanders, mark changes in political environment and the effects of violence on the people of the town. They are identifiably and deliberately separate from the young narrator’s voice.

He seems only glancingly interested in the progress of invasion, war and wider catastrophe. The aerodrome, used as a base for bombers, is a source of fascination rather than fear for him - their bombs were likely to be dropped somewhere else, though the aerodrome presence made Gjirokaster a target for English and Allied bombers. The boy and others are fascinated by the planes, which appear as one of the many story threads.

Family members were proud that their cellar was labeled by the authorities as a shelter for 90 people, while others’ houses could shelter only 20, 30, 40. It was a large house full of many things , including ‘copper cauldrons, plates of all sizes, bread bins, mortars, iron hooks, beams, steel balls (one was supposed to be a cannonball), … a whole clutter of strange old things – but not a single book’.

Visiting the home of a friend who has books, the boy is told to take one. He finds one with the words “ghost”, “witches”, “first murderer” and even ‘second murderer”, seizes it without even looking at title, runs home and begins to read.

It is Macbeth. When his mother makes him stop reading at night because the family has no fuel for a lamp, he marvels at what a book – this book – contains, that it calls the imagination to run free. The book is ‘a thin object. It was so strange… Between two cardboard covers were noises, doors, howls, horses, people. All side by side, pressed tightly against one another. Decomposed into little black marks. Hair, eyes, legs and hands, voices, nails, beards, knocks on doors, walls, blood, the sound of horseshoes, shouts. All docile, blindly obedient to the little black marks. The letters run in mad haste, now here, now there, …’ and so it runs on, a brilliant telling of the excitement of discovery.

Bellos writes that this encounter with Macbeth is one of the most important events in the life of the narrator in Chronicle of Stone. ‘The underlying material of that play – not just ghosts, witches and murder, but the dynamics of the struggle for power, the ineradicable nature of a crime committed , and the inexcusable flouting of the rules of hospitality – run through Kadare’s entire work’.

Kadare’s authorial detachment and choice of narrator allow the reader to relatively detached from the horrors happening around, to engage with the family and community life of Gjirokaster, and to enjoy the often absurdist humour.

I have already found another of his books, The Successorand will continue to search.

I can see why he was on short lists for consideration for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Profile Image for Mohammad.
345 reviews292 followers
August 7, 2022
چگونه شهر سنگی جیروکاستار از فاجعه جان به در برد؟ دلیلش وجود امثال بی‌بی‌پینو و سلفیجه و ججو و پسرک راوی بود. و استحکام سنگ‌ها دخالتی در این نجات نداشت. اشغالگری یونانی‌ها و ایتالیایی‌ها و بمب‌های ریخته شده توسط انگلیسی‌ها شاید اینجا و آنجا موجب کمی تغییر و کدورت در چهره‌ی سنگی شهر شد اما به انعکاس قصه‌های کوچه‌وبازاری در کنج‌ کوچه‌ها و پیچ‌ها و صدای لولای در و پنجره‌ها نتوانست آسیبی برساند. و همین‌ها حیاتی‌ترین عناصر بقای شهر بودند
Profile Image for Adam.
Author 21 books89 followers
September 19, 2013
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 WW2, repeatedly by the Italians and the Greeks, and finally by the Germans.

The author must have been about 7 or 8 years old when Gjirokaster became a 'theatre' of war and was occupied by the Italian forces for the first time. As David Bellos points out in his 'Afterword', the narrator of the tale, a young boy, must have been a little older than Kadaré. The author describes the city's misfortunes through the eyes of an innocent young boy. The result is a magical yet also realistic and credible description of the effects of war and occupation on the inhabitants and fabric of his city. The narrator finds things interesting that the adults disdain. For example, his excitement and delight about the airfield constructed by the Italians and the comings and goings of their 'planes, which were clearly up to no good as far as Albania was concerned, upsets his family, who only see the bad side of its existence. At first, the boy is full of wonder about everything, but gradually the seriousness of the situation that he and his family are experiencing dawns upon him.

This novel is, at the very least, a beautiful and unusual portrayal of modern war through the eyes of a child. It contains deeper meanings and messages, most of which would not have been lost on his Albanian readers who were living under the heel of a repressive dictatorship.

Later on in the book, we are told of the arrival of the Communist partisans, who were under the leadership of Enver Hoxha, and we read things that may well have been risky to express whilst living, as the author was, under a repressive Stalinist regime, where any criticism of it was not allowed. However, Kadaré was criticised by the regime but never, unlike many of his fellow authors, imprisoned. The reasons for this are to some extent revealed in an interview published in the edition of the novel that I read and also in the author's brief book Albanian Spring: The Anatomy of Tyranny . In Albanian Spring: The Anatomy of Tyranny , Kadaré hints that the exiled Albanian writer Arshi Pipa may have tried to incite trouble over Chronicle in Stone for him from his place of exile in North America. Pipa, according to Kadaré, may have tried to persuade Enver Hoxha that this book about Gjirokaster contained coded messages detrimental to the Albanian Communist government and also to Hoxha himself.

And, Pipa must have known the novel well because he was the first to translate it into English. Indeed, the edition that I have just read (Canongate, 2011) is a translation based on Pipa's. It has been edited by David Bellos who has added material that Kadaré added some time after first publishing it. Bellos has also written an interesting 'Afterword' that follows the novel. Following this, there is his translation of an interview between Kadaré and Stéphanie Courtois in which the reader can learn much about the struggles of artists, and writers in particular, living under a repressive regime.

There is much to recommend this unusually constructed fictional history of an ancient city during times of war. It is an interesting, enjoyable, at times humorous, novel or fictionalised memoir, maybe. I have enjoyed reading it, and encourage everyone to experience it. Get the Canongate edition, if you can; the additional material that it contains is well worth reading.
Profile Image for Tsung.
256 reviews67 followers
August 27, 2019
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 nameless child living in a nameless Albanian city. It is a tragic story but told in a darkly comical way that you don’t notice the tragedy of it all till the end. It is a direct, chronological narrative, blending an uneasy mix of horror and humour.


The inhabitants of the city are colourful characters with unpronounceable names. It was hard keeping track of who’s who but it did not interfere with the flow of the story. Generally, they came across as conservative, suspicious, superstitious and resistant to change. The grannies were particularly amusing with their gossiping and hilarious quips, especially the narrator’s cantankerous, acerbic, headstrong grandmother.

All the old women had facial tics. Their wrinkles leapt about so furiously it seemed they would come loose and fall off. I had a feeling I was already entangled in those wrinkles.

Even the background characters were amusing. There was Gjergj Pula who kept changing his name to different languages, depending on who was the current military invader. Argjir Argjiri the hermaphrodite was ostracized for getting married. The recidivistic Llukan freely walked in and out of the defunct prison.

The use of a child narrator gave it an interesting perspective. Objects like rain drops, streets, the city, the citadel were personified. Some descriptions just captured the ethos perfectly. The once revered anti-aircraft gun was now a lame piece of equipment.

The sound of the old anti-aircraft gun was still different from the others. It was like an old blind man teased by kids, who responds by throwing stones that never hit their mark.

The narrator also has his bildungsroman but his development is tainted. He starts off as a naive, wide-eyed urchin, complete with first crush on a married woman (Margarita) and first love with a girl (Suzana). He is innocent in violence and sexual matters. He is mesmerized by the aerodrome and the big plane, not knowing the implications of their presence on the city. However, when the bombings and killings start, it is the end of innocence and he himself becomes a potential accomplice to a murder. Perhaps the biggest influences on the narrator were future revolutionaries Isa and Javer. The fall from innocence was actually hinted at much earlier, when before the bombings started, when the boys again mention the slaughterhouse.

While the violence was obvious, the loss of sexual innocence was more subtle. There was an unplanned pregnancy, a hermaphrodite, a homosexual, a bearded girl, a beardless guy.

One of the gypsies who lived in the shed told me that all girls have the black triangle I’d seen on Margarita. For me, that was an indisputable sign that they would end up in dishonour.

There were many other symbolic things in the story like the cursed cobblestone, the wooden plane, the severed arm and the severed heads. The underground cellar of the narrator’s family was at first deemed to be fit as a bomb shelter, but later found to be unsafe, similar to the fate of the city.

The first thing that struck me when we went home was that the tin sign saying “shelter for 90 persons” was gone. Someone must have taken it down while we were away, and the wall had a light rectangular mark that gave me an empty feeling in my heart every time I looked at it. Bleak and poignant.

There were numerous cultural and factual references, Easter eggs as it were. The narrator reads Macbeth and keeps drawing parallels from it. Enver Hoxha, the future communist head of state, who was also born in Gjirokaster, gets a mention. The narrator’s grandfather keeps reading Turkish books, a reference to their links with the Ottoman Empire.

Near the end of the story, aside from what they suffered from the external attacks, the people start turning on each other, with groups of partisans, factions (including Ballists), even traitors. Their society was degenerating into a “Lord of the Flies” scenario.

Despite that and all the carnage from three different invaders, Italian, Greek and German, the people still survive and life goes on. Again the tender flesh of life was filling the carapace of stone.

Brilliant read.
Profile Image for Sve.
522 reviews176 followers
November 13, 2021
Много ми хареса как пише Кадаре. Ще ми е интересно да прочета и "Palace of Dreams", както и "Генералът на мъртвата армия".
Profile Image for Gabril.
715 reviews157 followers
March 6, 2021
“Era una città strana che, simile a una creatura preistorica, pareva essere apparsa di improvviso nella vallata durante una notte d’inverno per mettersi a scalare faticosamente il fianco della montagna. […] Si stentava a credere che sotto quel possente carapace ci fosse e si riproducesse la carne tenera della vita.”

Nella città di pietra si susseguono gli invasori: italiani, greci, italiani ancora, e infine i biondi tedeschi. È la seconda guerra mondiale e l’Albania è terra di conquista.
A vedere le cose, a scegliere lo sguardo da imprimere al racconto, è un ragazzino per il quale ogni cosa è dotata di anima e di volontà. Ad esempio, le gocce di pioggia destinate a finire nella cisterna della sua casa “per il momento non sospettavano di nulla. Correvano, allegre e rumorose, sulle lastre piatte, e, ascoltando il loro fragore, provavo per esse qualcosa di simile alla compassione” . Ma chi, tra l’uomo e l’acqua è capace di sopportare meglio la prigionia? si chiede poi il ragazzo.

Il narratore osserva la natura, le cose, le relazioni umane, ponendosi anche curiose questioni filosofiche: “perché, in fin dei conti, gli occhi erano soltanto un pezzo di carne del nostro corpo. Come faceva il mondo a infilarcisi?”
Quel mondo astruso e complicato dove le pratiche magiche si intrecciano alle faccende quotidiane si mescola nel ragionamento del bambino alle prime letture che lo avvincono e pongono drammatiche questioni: “Il libro era lì accanto. Silenzioso. Sul divano. Qualcosa di minuto… Strano… Tra due fogli di cartone erano rinchiusi i rumori, porte, grida, cavalli, uomini. Vicinissimi gli uni agli altri. Schiacciati gli uni contro gli altri… Disarticolati in segnetti neri.”

E mentre pensieri e sentimenti si alternano, intensi e inquieti, mentre i paesaggi scorrono e si accavallano, molti personaggi si avvicendano: compagni ragazzini che commentano i tragici eventi affabulando improbabili soluzioni, vicini e parenti adulti che si affannano e si sostengono, vecchie e vecchione che sorvegliano l’ombra, streghe che esercitano le loro arti magiche contro tutti, e poi partigiani e delatori, belle senz’anima e crudeli/ottusi invasori. E insinuato tra gli altri Macbeth, dal sanguinoso destino.
C’è infine e sopra tutto una città che assiste stupefatta all’aggressione e alla giustizia sommaria che sempre viene applicata dai precari vincitori.

“La città era priva di governo. […] Aveva conosciuto il piacere del cielo e dei pericoli internazionali, si era stordita di tutto quello, e adesso si era ritratta fra le sue pietre antiche. I suoi legami col cielo erano definitivamente rotti. Pioggia e vento tentavano di calmare i suoi nervi irritati. Era come sbigottita. Gli aerei sconosciuti che la sorvolavano non la riconoscevano più o fingevano di non vederla. Volavano alti, lasciandosi dietro soltanto un ronzio sprezzante.”

Il giudizio sulla guerra è affidato alla voce delle donne, grandi nonne e sagge zie:

“Che orrore è mai questo, mia buona Selfigé” disse zia Gemò, che era venuta a trovarci uno di quei giorni. “Il mondo è ridotto a un pantano.”
“È così che finiscono i regni.”
“Finiscono” disse zia Gemò, “per cedere il posto ad altri, e si lasciano dietro soltanto fango e sporcizia.”
Profile Image for Desislava Filipova.
264 reviews37 followers
September 8, 2019
"Хроника на камък" от Кадаре беше много сполучлив избор за лятната отпуска, историята е много въздействаща, а биографичните елементи засилват усещането за съпричастност.

В романа никъде не е споменато изрично името на града и въпреки че подобна история може да се случи навсякъде, по описанията и атмосферата няма как да се сбърка мястото. Гирокастро, накл��нен град с тесни калдъръмени улици, с къщи близо една до друга, които очертават улиците и основите на едната опират в покрива на другата. А над всички тях се извисява крепостта, на която твърде често се вее различно знаме. Най-често се сменят италианския и гръцкия флаг, а с тях валутата, езикът и комендантът, но за хората всичко си остава същото.

Камъните са попили много исторически събития и обрати, градът е древен и има своите легенди и суеверия. Сякаш над града тегне прокоба, някаква зла магия, как иначе обикновените хора могат да си обяснят непрестанните промени, войните, които идват една след друга. Трудно е да растеш в окупиран град, но Кадаре майсторки е описал своя свят, детските си представи, реални и фантастични, учудването от нещата, които се случват и не може съвсем да си обясни, като идеята за "неокупиран" град, дали всичко би било същото или съвсем различно или пък представата за Албания, какво всъщност е. Самолетите разпалват въображението му и го изпълват с възхищение, защото все още не си дава ясно сметка, че бомбите носят смърт, не в този град, но в някой друг, подобен. Кадаре звучи някак по детски, но в същото време се усеща една особена зрялост, сякаш връщайки се към миналото е успял да погледне с други очи на събитията, езикът е много красив и мелодичен. Той не съди, не обвинява и не се опитва да зададе правилно разбиране за фактите, просто разказва като в една хроника на града и общността, в която каквото и да се случва, животът продължава и единствено сватбите и смъртта са неизменни.
"Така завършваше свободният, весел живот на дъждовните капки. Там в мрачната, глуха щерна те щяха да си спомнят с тъга за небесните простори. които никога вече нямаше да видят, чудните градове под тях и хоризонтите с проблясващи светкавици."
Profile Image for SH'DYNASTY.
65 reviews24 followers
December 24, 2010
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 what is important: his family, his friends, and his magnificent city.
Profile Image for Tsvetelina Mareva.
248 reviews74 followers
July 18, 2019
"Хроника на камък" е вълнуващ разказ за малък каменен, стръмно наклонен град на албанско-гръцката граница, описан през погледа на малко момче. През цялото време на повествованието името на града и името на момчето не се споменават, защото това би могла да бъде една универсална история, случила се навсякъде по света по време на размириците през Втората световна война.

Всъщност обаче става дума за градчето Аргирокастро, на албански Гирокастър, намиращо се в Южна Албания и част от историческата област Северен Епир. Именно това е и родният град на най-известния албански писател Исмаил Кадаре - носител на първата международна награда Букър и неколкократно номиниран за Нобелова награда.

В "Хрониката" Кадаре описва детските си спомени от вечно окупирания град, в който непрекъснато се вее различно знаме на историческата крепост - ту гръцко, ту италианско. Неслучайно името на града означава "Сребърна крепост", а самият той е включен в списъка на ЮНЕСКО за световно наследство.

"Когато падна мрак, градът, който беше фигурирал временно в картите на Римската империя, норманите, Византия, Турската империя, Гръцкото кралство, Италианското кралство, замлъкна този път в Германската империя. Уморен, съвсем зашеметен от схватката, той не даваше никакви призн��ци на живот."

Самият Кадаре, роден 1936 год., е на около 10 години, когато Албания попада под комунистическия режим на диктатора Енвер Ходжа, а през 1990 г. напуска родината си, за да заживее в Париж. В свое интервю писателят споделя, че е открил свободата именно през литературата, защото като малко момче не е знаел какво означава да си несвободен и не е осъзнавал, че живее в окупиран град. Точно както героят му в романа се учудва на думите, които употребяват възрастните и не разбира значението им. "Окупиран град" - а какво ли ще е, ако градът не е окупиран? Дали всичко наоколо ще се промени - планината, равнината, хълмът, капките дъжд, семейството му?

"Слушах ги внимателно и се опитвах да разбера какво в действителност беше това Албания. Дали Албания беше всичко това, което виждах наоколо: дворовете, хлябът, облаците, думите, гласът на Джеджа, очите, скуката, или само част от тези неща."

Освен литературата (момчето мечтае вечно четящият му дядо да го научи да чете дебелите турски книги), другото спасително въже за него е въображението. Затова и основният герой в романа е именно каменният град. За момчето той е притаило се в полите на планината чудовище, което диша, кърви, движи се, скучае и се цупи също като хората, а камъните, които са навсякъде - по калдъръмените улици, чешмите, основите на къщите, са "груби, нежни, розови, с пори, млади, стари, гладки, сбръчкани, жилести, ръбести, хитри, добродушни, всеотдайни, коварни, присмехулни, предани, готови да стоят с векове зазидани в основите като на пост, глупави, мрачни, горди, мечтаещи да станат паметни плочи, простовати, служещи безкористно, наредени в безкрайни редици по калдъръмите, като народа, без имена, без имена, без имена, во веки веков."

Камъните като олицетворение на различните човешки характери, които срещаме в романа - на бабата на момчето, която гадае за съдбата на града по кост от заклана кокошка, на чудатите съседки - кака Пина, която докрай не изоставя дълга си да "тъкми" булките, мърморейки за всяко случило се или предстоящо нещастие с "потоп" (на английски е преведено като The end of the world, българската хрумка е много по-ударна и сполучлива според мен), вечно изчезващата и появяваща се Джеджа, Дино Чичо, който мечтае да изобрети самолет "перпетуум мобиле", предателя Максут, строителите на новия свят Явер и Исай и много други.

Докато войници с различни цветове на униформите постоянно навлизат и напускат града, малкото момче не спира да се удивлява, да наблюдава света от покрива на къщата и да го разкрасява чрез детското си въображение. Той е единственият, за когото построеното от италианците летище с цел да отвръщат на военновъздушните атаки е събитие. Всеки ден наблюдава през прозореца самолетите и любимата голяма, сребристо-сива "птица", за която не може да повярва, че е с "пари, взети назаем от смъртта".

Животът просто се живее, независимо от обстоятелствата, не чака по-добри времена, и това децата го разбират най-добре. Имаш сетива и за поезията на дъжда, и за любовта и първото

"Тя стоеше до саксиите с цветя съвсем чужда, прекрасно чужда, чужда и неочаквана, като онази красива роза, която разцъфва ненадейно и неусетно една сутрин върху бодливия клон."

Много ми хареса стилът на Кадаре, красивите метафори, чрез които още на първа страница говори за сърдитите капки дъжд, уловени от улуците на къщите, на които не е позволено на падат на земята и да се изпарят обратно в небето при дъгата.

Повествованието се лее някак безгрижно, като в приказка. Така и не ме налегна угнетителното усещане, че чета роман за войната, а по-скоро, че това е хроника на носталгията по едно детство. А в "страната на детството" сме щастливи, защото разполагаме с инструменти да изобретим света такъв, какъвто искаме да го видим.

Хумор, въображение, спасителните суеверия и шушукания на съседките, магиите, които постоянно преследват жителите на града, скуката на повтарящите се следобеди - така протича животът в един окупиран град. И всъщност всичко останало сякаш се случва между другото, като на игра - бомбардировките, крачещите по улиците войници, бомбоубежищата в избите на къщите, откъснатата ръка на английски пилот на свален самолет, укриването на жителите в затворите на крепостта.

В това виждам голямото писателско майсторство на Кадаре - да пише толкова леко, с хумор и светлина за един от най-кървавите периоди на миналия век.
Докато четях, в доста моменти се сещах за "Животът е прекрасен" с Роберто Бенини.
Защото винаги има светлина и ако не можем да я видим, нека поне си представяме, че я има. Понякога разликата не е чак толкова голяма. :)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Missy J.
561 reviews81 followers
March 4, 2021
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 point of view is humorous and he tries to explain everything for himself, no matter how absurd. At the beginning, I sometimes forgot that the narrator was a child, so I was thinking to myself, there's a lot of magical realism in this book. And I was somewhat reminded of The Tiger's Wife, which I didn't enjoy. However, "Chronicle in Stone" turned out to be better.

I had no knowledge of Albania and its history prior to reading this novel. Now I got a taste of how the villagers of a tiny country perceive foreign invasion and occupation and war. They are in the midst of it and basically helpless. But they don't behave like helpless people. Instead, they try to move on, fill their bleak realities with a lot of humor and continue to gossip and live life. There are so many characters in this story and I admit, that even at the end, I wasn't 100% who everybody was. I didn't love this book, but I think it got me out of the reading rut.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,591 reviews1 follower
June 12, 2016
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, prostitution are all covered). The old people have lived through the Ottoman Empire and have seen a lot of violence.
Kadare brings life to stones of the town, raindrops, roads, rivers, days of the weeks. He takes no sides and relates the senseless, brutal murders and deaths as a matter of fact - these things are expected and need to be endured.
He also introduces Enver Hoxha, who was born in the town, and his book provides a forecast of the chaos that will come under his rule.
Profile Image for Lilith89.
17 reviews3 followers
February 23, 2020
Από ιδέες και καλά αρχινήματα άλλο τίποτα ο Ισμαήλ Κανταρέ. Μόνο που ο μυθιστορηματικός ιστός που υφαίνει (όχι μονάχα εδώ αλλά και στον Ρημαγμένο Απρίλη, και στο Τέρας) λίγο λίγο σακουλιάζει και καταρρέει από το ίδιο του το βάρος. Όσον αφορά τα διαλογικά μέρη και το μπόι των χαρακτήρων του, ας το αφήσουμε καλύτερα.
Profile Image for Tad Richards.
Author 30 books10 followers
December 11, 2017
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 something of an intellectual. The young narrator is drawn to the book because it's cast of characters includes ghosts and witches and murderers. The older boy tells him MacBeth is way too advanced for him, but he takes it anyway and falls under its spell. Somehow his world is real in the same way that MacBeth is real--mythic and senseless and yet with a profound meaning one can only sense dimly.

The prose, in translation, is beautiful. The boy's imagery is poetic and touching. I loved this book.
Profile Image for محمد نجابتی.
Author 8 books83 followers
February 10, 2019
اصلاً فکر نمیکردم کاداره اینقدر مبهوتم کنه!!!
وسط خوندن یه کتاب حجیم تصمیم گرفتم چند روزی به خودم استراحت بدم و در این فرصت این کتاب رو - اون هم به خاطر ترجمه استاد کزازی - بخونم. بر خلاف چیزی که تصور میکردم، چیره دستی نویسنده از همون صفحات اول مسحورم کرد؛ شخصیت پردازی، توصیفات، جزء به جزء داستان فوق العاده بی نقص و افسونگر بود. در کل هرچی از خوبی های این کتاب بگم کم گفتم. تصمیم گرفتم بقیه آثار کاداره رو هم اورژانسی بخونم.
1,062 reviews91 followers
November 19, 2017
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 vast green valley, snow-capped peaks towering into the clear blue sky. Grape arbors and trees poked over walls, quiet passersby disappeared into crooked alleys. A small boy guided me to Kadare's house. I wished to see the cistern underneath, the one that trapped all the raindrops that "recalled with dreary sorrow the great spaces of sky they would never see again". But the house was closed. The descriptions of the house--fictional or actual--made me recall how I imagine the house of my own childhood. Higher up the hill, after twisting through more lanes of stone, I came to former supremo Enver Hoxha's house, recently turned into an "ethnographic museum". A scorpion skittered across the floor and I killed it. I visited the great vaults under the citadel where the citizens escaped the bombings. The whole town was alive for me because I had read CHRONICLE IN STONE. Other great writers bring Paris, London, Moscow, New York, or Tokyo to life. Kadare has put Gjirokaster on the list of immortal towns with this volume. It is a wonderful book of a town and its bad times-from 1939 to after the end of World War II-through the eyes of a boy. In his usual style, the author weaves many thoughts, dreams, scenes, tragedies, and historical events into a seamless whole. It's a tour de force. Read it.
Profile Image for Antonia.
247 reviews65 followers
August 8, 2021
Приятен е езикът на Кадаре. Много добър роман!
Profile Image for Bryan--The Bee’s Knees.
407 reviews55 followers
July 28, 2019
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 emerges a portrait of the city, the time and the people.

This is the first book of Kadare's I've read; although I liked it, I can't say I thought it was compelling, or enchanting--buzz words used in the blurbs on the back. I know so little about Albania that I had hoped to get a sense of the culture--and while there was definitely some of that, there was also a disingenuousness to it that sounded stale to me. Kadare is writing as if through the eyes of a young boy, perhaps ten or twelve, and there were times where it just didn't seem convincing to me. That may also be why it was hard to fully invest in the story--I read about a third of it at one sitting, then life intervened for several days before I was able to get back to it. But later, when I had the opportunity to pick it up again, I didn't feel any urgency about doing so.

So, now that I've made it sound like I didn't care for the book at all, I'll contradict myself and say that, yes, I did like it overall. I think the later chapters inject a lot more tension than the beginning--at first, the war barely touches the citizens--but by the books end, there's been many changes. And while I had hoped to get a better picture of Albania, this is still an interesting look at a country I know little about. I have a few other books by Kadare waiting for me on my shelves; I'm not put off of him yet, even though I'm not sure Chronicle in Stone is exactly a 'keeper'.
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1,471 reviews9,370 followers
March 9, 2021
Kadare's writing is absolutely lyrical. Chronicle of Stone is the story of a city through one imaginative boy's musings.

Physical place is such a large part of history that often goes unobserved. This is a magical book capturing the beauty and opposing rawness of life.
1 review27 followers
September 29, 2017
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 Shano spent thirty-one years inside until one day she went out into the street a few yards in front of her house to assault an Italian officer who was making eyes at her great-granddaughter. These crones were very robust, all nerve and bone, even though they ate very little and smoked and drank coffee all day long. When Granny Shano grabbed the Italian officer by the ear, he let out a great yelp, drew his pistol, and rapped the old woman’s hand with the butt. Not only did she refuse to let go, she punched him with her bony hands. The crones had very little flesh on their bones, and few vulnerable spots. Their bodies were like corpses ready for embalming, from which all innards likely to rot had already been removed. Superfluous emotions like curiosity, fear and lust for gossip or excitement had been shed along with the useless flesh and excess fat (35-36).

Tough doesn’t even begin to describe these crones. The narrator explains how they must go through tests to that proves themselves as crones. These tests usually involve withstanding cruel foreign invaders or extreme hardship. The narrator’s grandmother chooses to stay at home during air raids whilst all others hide in cellars or later at the citadel. However, Grandmother’s definitive test that proved her a crone was when she stays home during the German invasion as the people from Gjirokaster flee to the neighboring villages:

Clues has been perceptible for some time. Now the signs were unmistakable: Grandmother and Xhemo were getting ready to turn into crones. The German invasion seemed to be the definitive test for them, as the great incursions of the Turks, the massacres on the ruins of the republic and the monarchy, and the forty years of constant hunger had been for other crones (275).

So, old crones distinguish themselves by their strength and toughness. It seemed to me that the crones are so anchored to their homes that they take no notice of foreign invaders. They operate from within themselves and don’t change or make adjustment to outside influence. They’re lives have been so long (the narrator claims that some of them are over 130 years old) that they have seen it all and know how to deal with everything by using the powers within themselves.

If an old woman is not tough enough to be an old crone, she is inevitably a katenxhika. The introduction explains that a katenxhikas translates to mothers-in-law in the Albanian Gjirokaster dialect. I interpreted that the fact that these women are named by their role as a mother-in-law makes their lives seem small and frivolous. In the story the narrator characterizes katenxhikas as gossipy old ladies who get together and leave their houses often for social gatherings. As an Albanian myself, it seemed to me that a katenxhika would be the type of older woman who loves to terrorize her daughter in law and get upset over silly, inconsequential things. I associate the mothers-in law as people concerned with social status and reputation. Whereas, the old crones are wise and efficient, concerned with only the bare and vital necessities of emotional life.

The descriptions of Gjirokaster were riveting. The city of stone had intimate relationships with the sky and the sun, the water and the bridge. The city groaned and cried. It was murdered and brought back to life. At the end of the novel, Kadare beautifully likens the stones of the city as a people:

We come from that city over there. What we know about is stone. They’re like people, stones are: they’re young or old, hard or soft, polished or rough, sharp, pink and pock-marked, pitted and pock-marked pitted or veined, sly or dependable enough to hold your foot when you slip, faithless glad at your misfortunes, faithful, remaining on duty in foundations for centuries, dull-witted, morose, proud, dreaming of bearing epitaphs, modest, devoted without hope of reward, lined up on the ground in endless cobblestone rows like nameless people, nameless to the end of time. (289)

The city of Gjirokaster is personified as a complex organism with many parts and stones with different characters and personalities. This novel was published during communist Albania where literary portrayals of village life were not only valued but expected and demanded by communist authorities. The introduction by David Bellos explains how Kadare’s focus on a city was daring because of this. Although Kadare chooses to illustrate the city of Gjirokaster, the narrator’s beliefs about the villagers who produce the fruits and vegetable in the city market is insightful. The young boy narrator believes that the villagers’ purpose in life is to provide food to the city people. He can’t imagine where they live and believes that after they’re done selling produce, they hide in the cracks of the city. When he flees to the village during the German invasion, he is so disappointed with the pathetic village shacks, he cries bitterly. This is another risky sentiment that Ismail Kadare puts in his book, as village life was supposed to be praised and romanticized as rugged and beautiful not exposed as pathetically poor.

Kadare also does a wonderful job describing the ecstasy of falling in love with reading for the first time. This is autobiographical as Kadare says in interviews how he fell in love with reading Macbeth as a young boy in his hometown in Gjirokaster, the same as the narrator. He writes passionately as the narrator in Chronicle in the Stone,

I couldn’t get to sleep. The book lay nearby. Silent. A thin object on the divan. It was so strange… Between two cardboard covers were noises, doors, howls, horses, people. All side by side, pressed tightly against one another. Decomposed into little black marks. Hairs, eyes, legs and hands, voices, nails, beards, knocks on doors, walls, blood, the sound of horseshoes, shouts. All docile, blindly obedient to the little black marks. The letter ran in mad haste, now here, not there. The h’s, r’s, o’s, t’s gallop over the page. They gather together to create a horse or a hailstorm. Then gallop away again. Now they create a dagger, a night, a ghost. Then streets, slamming doors, silence. Running and running. Never stopping. Without end (65).

This beautiful description along with others throughout the novel blurs the line between narrator and author. We understand that the narrator is a young boy in the present as the story plays out because of his naivety (for example, he has a loving fondness of a fighter plane that bombs and kills people in the war). His description retain a naivety but also use a poetic vocabulary that is beautiful but too complicated for a little boy. This contradiction did not bother me, however. I felt the book’s voice to be very natural and that, in fact, this incongruity enhanced the tone of the book.

The narrator is enamored with reading and the story of Macbeth and starts to imagine people in Gjirokaster as tragically Shakespearean characters. This culminates on the night of an air raid when Aqif Kashahu’s daughter is caught embracing a mysterious young man. It turns Shakespearean with perhaps a characteristically Albanian twist, as her father calls her a whore and drags her by the hair in front of all the neighbors. The daughter is never seen of again. Kadare exemplifies the universality of literature as a story placed in Medieval Scotland with themes of magic, murder, guilt, and love are entirely appropriate in World War Two era, communist Albania.
Profile Image for Ghanem Abdullah.
123 reviews79 followers
March 21, 2015

في روايته “قصة مدينة الحجر”، يحاول اسماعيل كاداريه أن يروي لنا شهادة تاريخية على لسان طفلٍ، عاش في مدينة “جيروكاسترا” الألبانية، وشهد فيها أصعب فتراتها التي تزامنت واندلاع الحرب العالمية الثانية، وتناوب الغزاة على احتلال ألبانيا، ثم طردهم أخيرًا على يد الثوار الألبان، ومن أعلامهم في هذه المرحلة الدكتاتور أنور خوجا.

يريد كاداريه لهذه الشهادة “الطفولية” أن تكون بريئة ومحايدة، ويمكن القول أنه استخدم هذه المدينة – وهي بالذات مسقط رأسه- ليعبر عن هوية الشعب الألباني، ومزاجه العام، واختار مدينته مسرحًا للأحداث، ليُضفي عليها مسحة من التوثيقية والمصداقية، والتجربة الذاتية.
لكن التفاصيل الواردة في الرواية، وما حفلت به من صور رمزية، ومضامين آيديولوجية، لا تترك لنا فرصة في أن نصف هذا العمل كونه مجرد “سرد ما اختُزن في ذاكرة طفل بريء” دون مؤثرات خارجية، ودون انحيازات مسبقة، سيكون من السذاجة وصفنا لهذا العمل بهذا الشكل، فالمؤلف كان يبلغ من العمر فقط 3 سنوات حينما شبَّت نيرانُ الحرب العالمية الثانية، فكيف له أن يختزن كل هذه التفاصيل عن الغزاة، وعن الحياة اليومية في مدينته الحجرية؟!


عمومًا، إن تغاضينا عن نقطة العمر، فلا يمكن لنا أن نتغاضى عن عدة وقائع ضمن الرواية، تحمل دلالات ومضامين آيديولوجية، تبتعد بالشهادة عن مجال الحياد والموضوعية ولو في حدها الأدنى.
هناك مثلاً، قصة “اسم عمر”، الذي تساءل عنه الطفل الراوية في الصفحة 52، فكانت إجابة أحد مثقفي مدينته بأنه “هوميروس” الشاعر اليوناني القديم، وقد نوافق على مضض بأن طريقة نُطق اسم “عمر” بالألبانية تجعله “أومير”، وهو بذلك قريب جدًا من الاسم الإغريقي “هوميروس”، إلا أننا بذات الوقت، نرى ذلك مجرد تجاهل للخلفية الثقافية الإسلامية، والتصاقًا بالغربية، إذ من الطبيعي أن تكون إجابة مثقف مسلم في مجتمع مسلم عن اسم عربي كعمر، تدور حول أعلام قدماء أو معاصرين يحملون الاسم ذاته، ولكن المؤلف أراد أن تكون الإجابة بعيدة في التاريخ والمضمون عن ألبانيا المجتمع المسلم.

قصة أخرى تتعلق بالمدفع القديم الرابض في القلعة، والذي احتاجه أهل المدينة ليساعدهم في مواجهة الغارات الجوية للأعداء، لكن هذا المدفع حينما استخدموه عجز أن يصد غارات المهاجمين، بل وعجز أن يشكل حتى مجرد خطر على طائراتهم، ثم -وهنا موضع القصيد- يشير المؤلف عبر حوار بين أهل المدينة والمدفعي، أن المدفع القديم إنما هو من مخلفات الوجود التركي، وقد يُكتفى من ذلك في الفهم بأن لا جدوى منه في مواجهة تكنولوجيا الأعداء، والمعنى لا يتوقف عند م��رد مدفع قديم وطائرة حديثة، بل يتعداه إلى ما هو أعقد من ذلك، مما يتصل بحياة الناس وثقافتهم ورؤيتهم للعالم، وقد وردت هذه الحادثة في الصفحات 157 – 165.

قصة أخرى ذات مغزى، وفي الاتجاه ذاته، تتعلق بتوصيات المهندس “الخبير الأجنبي” بعدم استخدام أقبية دور المدينة كملاجئ أثناء الغارات، لضعفها عن صد الهجوم وتحمل الضربات الجوية وقذائف الطائرات، ها هنا مرة أخرى ينبه صاحب الرواية وبطريقة غير مباشرة، إلى ضعف مدينته/هويته/تاريخه/تراثه في مواجهة المدنية والعسكرية الغربية الحديثة، فالخبير الأجنبي كان بحركة بسيطة يغرز فيها أداته بمساعدة مطرقته الصغيرة في سقف أو جدران القبو الحجري فينكشف له عن ضعفه وتحلله.


مواقف كهذه قد يكون من المبالغ تكثيفها وتقديمها كما قدمتُ في الأعلى، وتحميلها فوق ما تحتمل، لكن القارئ سيلاحظ تجاهل المؤلف لأي مؤثرات وخلفيات إسلامية ثقافية في هذا البلد المسلم (يشكل المسلمون نحو 70% من السكان)، سواء في الحياة اليومية، أو في سياق تحرير البلاد ومواجهة الأعداء، وحينما أراد المؤلف أن يذكر شيئًا ما، تناول “الكتب التركية” التي كان جده لأمه يقرأها بكثرة، وكان يعكفُ على قراءتها وقتًا طويلاً إلى حد العزلة عن العالم المحيط به، وتضجره من المماحكات والمجادلات، موقف آخر نجده في إمام المسجد الذي حاول أن يسمل عينيه وهو على المئذنة حينما شاهد الثوار الشيوعيين في شوارع المدينة، هؤلاء الثوار الذين يرد اسمهم في سياقَين عبر صفحات الرواية، السياقُ الأول: حرب التحرير التي دشنوها وأنجزوها، والسياق الآخر: الفهم المغلوط لدى الناس عن الشيوعيين، والشائعات المتداولة عن انحلالهم الأخلاقي، إن سياق ورود “الكتب التركية” و”محاولة الإمام سمل عينيه”، تتآزران في تعضيد الموقف السلبي من الخلفية الثقافية الإسلامية لدى المؤلف.

ومما لا يمكن تجاهله في استهلال الرواية، تلك الصورة التي قدمها كاداريه عن مجتمعه، مجتمعٌ وسواسي، أعمال السحر والشعوذة هي هاجس أفراده الرئيس، وانتشار الأوهام والحسد والقيل والقال سمة أساسية من سماته، والتفرقة الطبقية والنظرة التعصبية بين سكان المدينة وسكان القرى، هي إضافة لا بد منها لمسايرة التيار الايديولوجي الحاكم في ألبانيا، فأضيفت ولا شك بذلك.
ثم لا بأس من ترديد اسم “أنور خوجه”، في سياق الثوار ومعركة التحرير، هذا الرجل الذي ارتبط به اسماعيل كاداريه حينما كان الأول يقبض على زمام الأمور في ألبانيا، وقد عيَّنه عضوًا في البرلمان على مدى 12 عامًا، وقد كان رئيسًا للوزراء حينما نشر كاداريه عمله هذا، تزلفٌ أدبي-سياسي لا يتردد اسماعيل كاداريه في تقديمه عبر روايته التاريخية هذي، ومما يذكر عن كاداريه، تنصله من حقبة خوجه بعد وفاته عبر بعض رواياته الحديثة.


اسماعيل كاداريه، الذي جسد مأساة الاحتلال، وتعاقب الغزاة على وطنه عبر روايته هذه، وكذلك في عدد من أعماله الأخرى كما يذكر النقّاد، هذا الأديب لم يستنكف في فبراير من هذا العام أن يقبل جائزة أدبية، ينظمها المحتل الصهيوني في القدس الشريف، ليكرس ويؤكد بالضبط، أنه ما هو إلا مجرد “حكواتي” انتهازي وبراغماتي تلهث نفسه وراء التكريم والاحتفاء والجوائز، مهما كانت متناقضة مع ما يكتبه ويؤلفه، ويزعجنا بتكراره، أنه المثقف الحداثي في صورته الحقيقية.


أخيرًا، الرواية تحمل فكرة جميلة، ورغم البطء الشديد الذي كانت تتحرك فيه الأحداث إلى ما يقرب ثلاثة أرباع الرواية، إلا أن الربع الأخير كان أكثر إثارة وتسارعًا في التغيرات والمواقف، عدة شخصيات ظهرت على مسرح الأحداث كشخصيات رئيسية، وأخرى ظهرت على الهامش، الرواية غنية بالصور الرمزية ذات الدلالات الموجهة، كما أن الأسلوب تباين ما بين سرد وحوار.
الترجمة كانت جيدة جدًا، لم أشعر بأن الرواية مترجمة إلا ما تعلق بالأسماء، وإذا ما عرفت أن المترجم هو د. عفيف دمشقية رحمه الله، فلا حاجة لي إلى قول المزيد.
Profile Image for Stela.
917 reviews347 followers
December 10, 2019
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 classic of the Albanian literature (in the true sense of the word “classic” – that is, studied in the classroom) I could not identify with it.

But this is only me, and since reading is such an intimate and subjective process, I leave you with some quotes of that stunning prose Ismail Kadare has accustomed us with, to help you form your own opinion and maybe incite you to begin your own journey into his oeuvre:

Briefly seduced by adventure, and having had a taste of the sky and of international dangers, the city had been stunned by it all and now withdrew into its ancient stones.
In our city spring came from the sky, not from the soil, which was ruled by stone that knows no seasons.
“The world is changing blood,” she said to no one in particular. “A person changes blood every four or five years, and the world every four or five hundred years. These are the winters of blood.”
The city was tossing and turning as if it were having a nightmare. It gave off a lugubrious rumble that was redolent with death.

Profile Image for Ila.
112 reviews27 followers
July 29, 2019
2.5 stars. The first of Kadare's books I found wanting.
Profile Image for Jose Carlos.
Author 10 books376 followers
January 8, 2018

Crónica de piedra, sexta novela del albanés Ismaíl Kadaré (publicada en 1971) es una obra que ya de por sí merecería toda una tesis doctoral en exclusiva, de tan variada, enriquecedora y brillante como resulta para el lector. Además, aporta algunas novedades estilísticas fundamentales en el universo literario de Kadaré: es uno de los escasos textos biográficos de su autor. Lo que conlleva unas descripciones teñidas de cierta melancolía y un lirismo hasta el momento casi inédito en una forma de escribir dura, tensa y, a veces, hasta desabrida.

En efecto, lo que sucede en la ciudad de piedra, que no es otra que Gjirokastër, el lugar de nacimiento del propio Kadaré y del tirano que ensombreció Albania, Enver Hoxha, lo que establece una relación entre escritor y politicastro que muchas veces coincidirán o colisionaran polémicamente, aunque eso es otro asunto; lo que sucede en la pétrea Gjirokastër pasa por el tamiz de un chico, de un niño de tal vez ocho años –el propio Kadaré nació en el 36 y los sucesos de la novela se mueven sobre el 43 y el 44- y será esa visión repleta de imaginación desbordante la que dote de un sesgo nuevo a la narrativa de Kadaré, que es ya de lo poco que podría faltarle –si es que le faltaba- dentro de su innegable brillantez.
esde la visión peculiar y particular del muchacho anonadado que reinterpreta los sucesos de la Segunda Guerra Mundial a su manera, o a la manera de su pequeño mundo, asistimos a un recital descriptivo (ahora que tantos autores y teóricos se empeñan en que las descripciones se han pasado de moda en la literatura, que aburren al lector), un manual de cómo se debe describir hechizando al lector –algo que yo sólo recuerdo en Clarín, Winkler y Sebald-, dejándolo totalmente perplejo con el despliegue de metáforas y símiles a cual más impactante.

La ciudad, una olla inmersa en los intereses de las potencias bélicas, pasa una y otra vez de las manos italianas a las griegas, hasta que, al fin, cae en la de los nazis que invaden Albania. El auge de los guerrilleros partisanos, la preponderancia del PC, las supercherías locales, la emergente figura de Hoxha, los bombardeos, los refugios, las bodegas, los primeros amores, el deslumbrante descubrimiento de los libros y la lectura… sucesos todos ellos que se van desgranando para conformar un mosaico colorido en una novela narrada en la primera persona del chaval (con algunos insertos de la Crónica y los avisos locales) que sin embargo resulta un texto casi coral y en donde la verdadera protagonista es la ciudad de Gjirokastër en todo su esplendor y rareza arquitectónica.

El estilo de Kadaré, duro y tenso, se desgarra continuamente con pinceladas de un lirismo inocente, y aunque muchos de los acontecimientos descritos son duros, quedan extrañamente, y dolorosamente, dulcificados, a los ojos del niño que los presencia. Además, y es otra de las claves de la importancia del texto, aquí se topa Kadaré con gran parte del que será el imaginario que desplegará a posteriori: los firmanes, la obsesión por la ceguera, las novelas del ciclo de la Guerra Mundial, la guerrilla y los guerrilleros, las cabezas cortadas y puestas en sal, los nichos de la vergüenza, los problemas del poder totalitario, la distopía comunista, los aedos, los poetas ciegos, tantos y tantos otros motivos brotan con fuerza en párrafos que después darán lugar a novelas inolvidables.

De esta manera, Crónica de piedra, junto con El palacio de los sueños y tal vez Abril quebrado, se me antoja una de las mayores obras maestras de Kadaré, crucial a la hora de poder entender su narrativa. Es imprescindible para poder penetrar en el mundo pétreo de tradiciones y miedos, de héroes y villanos, de las múltiples Albanias de Ismaíl.

La lectura de esta obra resulta placentera, con una prosa fina y delicada que describe una ciudad que cobra vida bajo su texto hasta convertirse en el mayor monumento posible a Gjirokastër y a la literatura de grandísima calidad.
Profile Image for Montse Terés.
122 reviews27 followers
April 9, 2020
Es el primer libro que leo de Kadaré, y no será el último. Me ha impresionado su estilo: original, con unas imágenes llenas de fuerza.

La narrativa es una mezcla de varias voces, pero el relato principal, hecho por un niño, va desgranando diversos acontecimientos que tienen lugar en la ciudad natal del autor durante la segunda guerra mundial. Se van sucediendo los distintos ejércitos de ocupación, y los niños van observando y aprendiendo, analizando los hechos que les sorprenden y aquellos que no entienden o que les interpelan. También se van intercalado fragmentos de crónicas, que mencionan los nacimientos, las bodas, las ejecuciones, etc.
También están presentes la brujería, las predicciones y supersticiones y las alusiones a la historia milenaria de la ciudad, que por su situación, ha sido testigo y víctima de numerosas guerras que la han hecho pertenecer a uno u otro imperio o estado.
En un momento de la narración uno de los personajes menciona el hecho de que no sabían cómo era una ciudad no ocupada porque nunca al habían conocido sin ocupar.
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406 reviews96 followers
December 24, 2019
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 to be scratching itself in slow motion

It was a pain of transformation

My mind was on fire

All the normal limits on the shape of things seemed to have been suspended

They could turn into anything now

Sadness was all around

Spreading in great concentric circles through endless space

Soon it would spread out over the whole world

Chaos reigned in my head as words, devoid of logic and reality

I had entered the kingdom of words, where a merciless tyranny reigned
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