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Translated by Bellos
It is the early fifteenth century and as winter falls away the people of Albania know their fate is sealed. Their refusal to negotiate with the Ottoman Empire means war is now inevitable. Soon, dust kicked up by Turkish horses is spotted from a citadel. Tens of thousands of men begin to fill the plain below.
The Siege tells the enthralling story of the weeks and months that follow—of the exhilaration and despair of the battlefield, the shifting strategies of war, and those whose lives are held in the balance. For those trapped inside the citadel, and for the Pasha, the artillerymen, astrologer, blind poet and his harem of women outside, the siege is inescapable and increasingly oppressive.
From this dramatic setting Kadare has created one of his masterpieces, a profound novel that is as moving as it is compelling. It is an unforgettable account of the clash of two civilisations and a timeless depiction of individual pain, uncertainty and fear. Kadare is one of our most significant writers.
‘It is Kadare’s great achievement to create individuals who are at the same time archetypes. The background is powerfully atmospheric: the bustle of the camp, seemingly chaotic but as ordered as an ant-heap, is vividly rendered, as are the vivid, brilliantly coloured clothing and tents of the Janissaries. Technical details of undermining and siege engines are fascinating, marvels of hideously misdirected ingenuity. Over everything is the shadow of the great Albanian leader, Scanderbeg, whose dark genius presides over Turk and Christian alike…Kadare’s great fictional achievement: a portrayal of the inner lives of men and women living under intense stress and pain.’
‘Composed with grace and economy throughout, it is as relevant now as it was nearly four decades ago. … Kadare’s attention to detail is remarkable – he describes the tiniest details…as if it is a symbol of timeless beauty.’
‘Extraordinary: an epic with the force of myth and the delicacy of a miniature…You could read The Siege every year for a lifetime and find something new each time. There seems no reason to refrain from calling this ideal collaboration between author and translator a masterpiece.’