Spring Flowers, Spring Frost: A Novel Review

Spring Flowers, Spring Frost: A Novel
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Spring Flowers, Spring Frost: A Novel Review
I have been a devotee of Kadare's previous books (and this one, like those, has been beautifully translated, this time by David Bellos); but I am afraid I found this one less satisfying. Unlike his other books, the treatment in this one can only be described as surrealistic. He moves between a number of themes - the story of Tantalus, the story of Oedipus, the sinking of the Titanic, an Albanian fable by which a young girl is married to a snake - whose relationship to the main story can perhaps be worked out by readers more sensitive than I am. And one never knows quite where one is, whether in a dream world or a real world, whether the central character is an artist or a deputy chief or police or both. The book also ends inconclusively: one's expectation that the fate of the characters will be resolved is not fulfilled.
I take the main theme of the book to be the disappointment with what happened in Albania when the Communist dictatorship collapsed. The vacuum this left was in part filled by a revival of the Kanun, the ancient code, which the communists had suppressed, of unending bloody vendettas between families. Kadare has written about the Kanun before, in Broken April, where one of his characters showed a romantic fascination for its "noble savagery" (see my review of that book). Now there is no longer any half-acknowledged admiration: only despair that such barbarity wells up again from the remote past, even while the shadows of the communist past still hover over the society and the Council of Europe is an ineffectual occasional presence. The tyranny of communism has been ended; but this is a melancholic and often poetic image of a society that is uneasily adrift.Spring Flowers, Spring Frost: A Novel Overview

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