“The name of the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare regularly comes up at Nobel Prize time, and he is still a good bet to win it one of these days. . . . He is seemingly incapable of writing a book that fails to be interesting.” The New York Times
, 1943. The ancient stone city of Gjirokastër
is the first town in the warpath of Nazi troops invading Albania
from occupied Greece
. Spearheading these troops is Colonel Fritz von Schwabe, a man who happened to study with one of Gjirokastër’s most esteemed inhabitants, Dr. Gurameto. Von Schwabe is delighted to be reacquainted with his former classmate, who invites him to dine that evening at his apartment. But Albanian Resistance fighters have opened fire on the advance guard of the German tanks and, in retaliation, the Nazis have taken some of the townsfolk prisoner. Hearing the clinking of champagne glasses and the strains of Schubert from the doctor’s gramophone, the townsfolk presume that Dr. Gurameto has betrayed them but, in fact, as he hosts the colonel for dinner, Dr. Gurameto does his best to convince him to set free the prisoners the Nazis have taken, including a certain Jewish chemist. He succeeds. Years later, once the war is long over and the Communist regime has been established, the dinner and the strange events of the night of the Nazi invasion once again come to the fore. Dr. Gurameto is forced to answer to none less than Stalin himself for what happened on the evening of the Nazi invasion and reveal the secret behind the extraordinary dinner.
Masterfully intermingling Balkan legend with recent Albanian history, probing the theme of resistance in a dictatorship, The Fall of the Stone City
shows Kadare at the height of his powers. .