Hugh Coverly's Reviews > The Fall of the Stone City

The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare
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it was amazing
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After re-reading this novel I've come away with a totally different experience. Yes, it is a ghost story (they seem inhabit all of Kadare's novels) but it is a novel filled with terror. It begins with the Nazi occupation of Albania following Italy's defeat and early withdrawal from the war, in September 1943. The city of Gjirokastër, an ancient medieval city, is threatened with destruction when German forces are fired on as they arrive to occupy the city. The local surgeon, Big Dr Gurameto using his old friendship with the commander saves the lives of eighty hostages, including a local Jewish citizen. After the German defeat come the communists and their takeover of the country.

In the final third of the novel Kadare presents a terrifyingly horrific description of the terror that many Albanians faced under the government of Enver Hoxha, who, like Ismail Kadare, was born in Gjirokastër. Everyone was under suspicion, and no one could escape the long reach of the special police who exercised extraordinary powers to uncover what they regarded as the truth. Big Dr Gurameto is taken into custody in February 1953, several weeks before Stalin dies. There is a belief that there is a Jewish conspiracy to kill all the communist leaders worldwide by means of a secret league of doctors. The special interrogators, Albanian, German, and Russian, link Gurameto's suspected role in the conspiracy back to the dinner he held for his German college friend, at which he secured the release of the hostages facing certain death.

Kadare's masterful storytelling highlights the brutality of a doctoral government, the fragility of both the prisoners and the interrogators, and truth is little more than a tissue of beliefs, ideas, lies, fears, and, yes, even facts that can be distorted to become whatever is necessary to exert power, whether that be the power of hold on to one's life and sanity or to hold on to state power.


Kadare is at his best when he makes connections between the present and the past, and he does this again in The Fall of the Stone City. The past is not simple the past. Far from being dead, the past haunts the present. As it turns out, there are many ghosts in this superb novel.

Once again Kadare recalls the ancient Albanian code, The Kanun. Instead of focussing on the blood law, as he has done most memorably in Broken April, here he calls up honour through hospitality. This ancient law is put to the test when Big Dr Gurameto welcomes not simply an old friend and and strangers into his home, but hosts the nation's enemy, the Nazi occupiers. This meeting recalls the past, shapes the present and has future consequences.

Canada's Alice Munro, also a past winner of the Man Booker International Prize, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. Can Kadare's Nobel be far behind?
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Reading Progress

June 10, 2013 – Shelved
June 10, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
April 16, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
April 16, 2016 – Shelved as: favorites
October 5, 2016 – Started Reading
October 5, 2016 –
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October 5, 2016 –
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October 6, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily Can Kadare's Nobel be far behind? The Academy will have to get their act together first.

Hugh Coverly I’m amazed at the mess they are in this year. Hopefully, they can get their act together in time for the 2019 awards. Maybe Kadare will get the postponed 2018.

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