cover image Elegy for Kosovo: Stories

Elegy for Kosovo: Stories

Ismail Kadare. Arcade Publishing, $17.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-1-55970-528-8

In 1389, a battle was fought against the Ottoman Turks at Kosovo, ending in a momentous standoff that amounted to a defeat for the Balkan defenders. According to Serb tradition, in a nationalist legend inflamed and exploited by Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbs stood virtually alone against the Turks in a battle that defined Serbian identity. Kadare, an Albanian national, here takes up the Battle of Kosovo in three brief elegiac narratives from a critical perspective. He is sympathetic to the suffering on all sides, but also eager to correct the Serb view: it was a coalition of Albanians, Rumanians, Serbs and other Balkan peoples that clashed with the forces of Sultan Murad I on the Field of Blackbirds. Kadare's point is important and well taken, but this small book is a disappointment. These epic events demand a much fuller and deeper exploration than he offers. Moreover, one hopes that the often lame English--awkwardly pitched in a sort of faux-epic idiom--does not fairly reflect the Albanian original. For Kadare is certainly a novelist of importance. Now in his mid-60s, he remains Albania's foremost intellectual. Though originally trained in Moscow at the Gorky Institute to be a purveyor of the party line, Kadare became a dissident in his homeland and eventually found it necessary to flee. He has lived in Paris since 1990, and is a powerful presence on the French intellectual scene, but his Elegy for Kosovo, however right-minded, is not likely to attract new readers to the fine novels (The Three-Arched Bridge, The Palace of Dreams, etc.) he currently has in print here. (May)