The destiny of a city, and of a man who seems is most important inhabitant from the 1943 to 1963. Kadare talks about the madness of war but in a city which is just occupied, so he could point the weakness of the nation, of people, the selfishness of all individuals which became the selfishness of all.
Everybody is obsessed by the dinner the big doctor Gurameto gave to the Nazi officer: at first he’s a hero, than a traitor, from the point of view. Kadare has lived under the communism order, so he could point the suspicion which changes a diner to save live in a plot to kill Staline… He ridicules the investigators, the order, he show how people let things go to prevent themselves.
Governments pass, but people remain the same. This situation could have taken place in any city of an occupied country, and the oppressors could be any oppressors of any dictatorship. I think it’s why Kadare is not really specific about characters (they are few, and it’s only in the last part of the book that they are more humans – feelings which command acts…). It worth reading because there is a testimony of a time, and a universal testimony (as I fell people will always remain the same, and adapt instead of fight).
I really like this in the light of the “Antic Tragedy” of the big doctor story: I think Kadare has the antic model in mind while writing because there are a lot of elements which remind me of Sophocles & Co:
- The story from the childhood which is like a malediction (if you hear it, you leave it) or an omen.
- The doctor who is a hero (despite himself, he did nothing in fact) and his friend who is the dead man from the omen
- The events which are written in marble, you can’t escape your destiny
- The blind man & his song who are like the oracle
- The city itself, which is passive but testify, like the antique choir.
Interesting things :
Kadare succeeds in make me doubt about the genre of the book, it could be a lot of different thing, testimony, pastiche, historical but also supernatural, as I keep doubts at the end about the dinner: reality or dream of people. Even one of the doctors disappears, legend & reality mix (maybe people prefer not to remember their bad actions and cowardice)
more about the writer : Here.
more in French : Mes lectures de Mai (1ere partie)