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Broken April

Ismail Kadare

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage

Published : 2003

Copyright : Ismail Kadare 1978

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-944987-0
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-944987-4

Publisher's Write-Up

From the moment that Gjorg's brother is killed by a neighbour, his own life is forfeit: for the code of Kanun requires Gjorg to kill his brother's murderer and then in turn be hunted down. After shooting his brother's killer, young Gjorg is entitled to thirty days' grace - not enough to see out the month of April. Then a visiting honeymoon couple cross the path of the fugitive. The bride's heart goes out to Gjorg, and even these 'civilised' strangers from the city risk becoming embroiled in the fatal mechanism of vendetta.

While the story is set in the early twentieth century, life on the high plateaus of Albania takes life back to the Dark Ages. The bloody shirt of the latest victim is hung up by the bereaved for all to see - until the avenger in turn kills his man with a rifle shot. For the young bride, the shock of this unending cycle of obligatory murder is devastating. The horror becomes personified when she catches a glimpse of Gjorg as he wanders about the countryside, waiting for the truce of thirty days to end, and life with it. That momentary vision of the hapless murderer provokes in her a violent act of revulsion and contrition. Her life will be marked by it always.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Robin Llewellyn (181009) Rating (9/10)

Review by Robin Llewellyn
Rating 9/10
A man walks through barren countryside. His killer lies in the snow as he aims his gun; he shouts a warning and pulls the trigger. He approaches the body to ensure his victim has fallen on his back. Had he fallen any other way, and had the warning not been shouted, the killer would have broken the Kanun, the ancient system of honour that served as law in the highlands of northern Albania for centuries.

This is the world of Broken April, a world in which people are forced into killing those whom they don't hate, following the rules of feuds that in some cases began centuries before, the cause of which may have been forgotten. The novel describes the killer attending the funeral of his victim, where he is honoured by his victim's family as having upheld the name of his community, and later follows him as he travels to pay a blood tax in the four weeks of freedom he has from the feud which will surely claim his life when it ends in mid-April.

On the road he encounters a Tirane ethnologist and his bride on their honeymoon, and is transfixed by the woman's eyes, "eyes that seem to look straight through you". This silent interaction, if it can be called that, is the only moment of release for the central character, in what is generally a narrative of constriction, of epic containment, of the powerlessness of individuals to escape from, or to reform, the Kanun.

Since the discovery of Ismail Kadare in the West, much debate has focused on his alleged conformity during his years as a leading cultural figure in Hoxha's Albania. This novel was written during Hoxha's dictatorship and stands as an indictment of societies in which the public order bears no relation to individual moral judgement. Kadare invites incredulity in describing such a strangling environment, and, like the eyes of the bride on the main character which threatened to derail the circle of events, challenges his contemporary readership to imagine an alternative.
Robin Llewellyn (18th October 2009)

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