Review: Ismail Kadare’s “Broken April”

by writereaderly

ismail kadare broken aprilCP’s favourite author, Albania’s most-loved writer in many genres, apparently. This novel made his fame in the Anglosaxon world, an exploration of life in the High Plateau where the rules are dictated by the Kanun, or local Code ruling daily existence and all blood feuds. Centuries old, the Code dictates that each death must be paid for by another (for men only), leaving entire villages empty of menfolk or financially stricken for paying blood-fines. The novel particularly follows Gjorg, who opens the book by killing his man then living out his thirty-day truce to 17 April, and newlywed cityslickers Diana and Bessian on their honeymoon in the charming archaic bleakness of the plateau.

By turns fascinating and tedious, Kadare explores the intricacies of the Kanun thoroughly, but lacks subtlety in doing so – I never forgot I was being systematically educated about this traditional social code. Also, there are only three women characters of any substance (only if you count the inveterate romantic Diana, and I wouldn’t really), and one can only assume that every woman who faces the murder of some or all of her menfolk might well have an opinion on the matter. Just an idea…

So, I wasn’t enamoured of this book, but for the first fifty pages I was terribly impressed by his writing. I reckon I’d try one more book to see if he could set his pedagogical hat aside.

Where it came from: CP’s bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Various bleak bed, armchair and couch reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: The rarity of the gift of minimalism
Who I’d recommend it to:
Cultural explorers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley