Albania

Broken April, Ismail Kadare

It starts with a question.

If you had only 30 days left to live, what would you spend them on?

I would give myself fully to melancholia. I would walk the streets of London, the streets of Bucharest, the dusty roads of my childhood. I would listen to my favorite soundtracks on repeat and look at people passing by. I would write and read. I would go see everyone I love and tell them what fantastic creatures they are.

What would you do?

Gjorg, the prime character in the story, who slowly and inexorably moves towards the end of the 30 days though the pages, spends them roaming across the northern Albanian plateau in search of a carriage with a beautiful girl inside. It is a place overshadowed by the ancient rules of the Kanun, where the rules of the blood feud prevail.

It left me with a sense of wanting to know more, to find a carriage myself and go find this oppressive landscape, in search of refuge towers where avengers hurdle together in the dark, for roads under the protection of bessa and for men with a black ribbon on their arms advertising in plain sight that they have killed someone.

I met young men (boys really) in homeless centres in London who had left Albania because they were part of a blood feud. I didn’t really understand then, but now I wonder, was it because it was their turn to spill blood, or were they trying to escape the vengeance of an opposing clan?

Happy reading! If you get your hands on Broken April, I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

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