Spring Flowers, Spring Frost

Ismail Kadare

translated from the Albanian
Harvill Press 2002
A book review by Danny Yee © 2002 http://dannyreviews.com/
Some children have dug up a hibernating snake and a crowd is debating what should be done with it... In the Albanian mountain town of B-- the relaxation of communist rigidity has brought both new freedom and a revival of old terrors.

Mark Gurabardhi, a minor painter and employee of the Arts Centre, worries about his relationship with his girlfriend and model, wonders where his friend Zef has disappeared to, has the locks changed on his studio, dreams about what might have happened if he had followed his father and grandfather and become a policeman, and helps escort a delegation from the Council of Europe. Meanwhile strange events occur and rumours swirl. Who has held up the National Bank? Could people really be planning to revive the Kanun, the ancient system of blood feud and vendetta? And is there a copy of The Book of the Blood somewhere in the national Secret Archives, supposedly nearby? Mark's fantasies and dreams centre on myths and legends: the woman who married a snake, the theft of immortality, the sinking of the Titanic (from the iceberg's point of view), Oedipus Rex, and so forth. In the end his personal life, public events, and the stories he imagines all come together.

The serious themes of Spring Flowers, Spring Frost are lightly handled, and the result is lively, sometimes deeply funny, and highly appealing. As with other Kadare works, Spring Flowers, Spring Frost has reached English via French, with David Bellos translating Jusuf Vrioni's French translation of the Albanian original. That seems rather awkward, but if that's the only way we can read Kadare, so be it — the undertaking deserves as notable a translator as Bellos and the result a broad readership.

November 2002

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Related reviews:
- David Bellos - Georges Perec: A Life in Words
- books by Ismail Kadare
- books about Eastern Europe + Eastern European history
- more world literature
- books published by Harvill Press
%T Spring Flowers, Spring Frost
%A Kadare, Ismail
%M Albanian
%F Vrioni, Jusuf
%F Bellos, David
%I Harvill Press
%D 2002
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1860469892
%P 182pp