ALBANIA: The General of the Dead Army by Ismail Kadare

There’s a lot of good literature from Albania, so I figure I’d start big with Ismail Kadare – probably Albania’s most famous author. The General of the Dead Army was his first novel and his first hit internationally, originally published in 1963. Kadare is still publishing today, and a read-through of his biography is as just as gripping – running afoul of the communist regime, including almost being executed, having his books published in the West without his permission (or knowledge) due to Albania not being part of international copyright treaties, slipping anti-regime works past the censors, and later being asked (and declining) to become President of Albania.

As for The General of the Dead Army, it is a darkly wry book – it follows an Italian general, sent to Albania 20 years after WWII, to recover the bodies of Italian soldiers killed in the invasion and occupation of the country. The general’s mental state slowly degrades, both with facing the dead, his own past, and a country and a people that is not pleased to have him turning over what was buried. There’s black humour, and harrowing scene of an interrupted wedding celebration, and a general so wrapped up in his own mind that he cannot help but repeat the past.

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