Chronicle in Stone

Thomas Jones writes:

And liberal humanism would certainly appear to be the ideology that Kadare subscribes to. ‘Dictatorship and authentic literature are incompatible,’ he has said. ‘We tried to write literature as if that regime did not exist.’ He was born in 1936, less than a decade before ‘that regime’ came into existence, in Gjirokastër in southern Albania, not far from the border with Greece. Chronicle in Stone, a wonderful portrait of the artist as a small boy, first published in 1971 but reworked several times since, is a child’s-eye view of what happened in Gjirokastër during the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1943, the town was occupied by the Italians, bombed by the RAF, invaded by the Greeks, retaken by the Italians – and then the Germans marched in. Meanwhile, the Communist partisans led by Enver Hoxha, who as it happens was also born in Gjirokastër, in 1908, were holed up in the mountains, waiting for their moment to descend.

(LRB 6 September 2007)