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The Concert (1998)

The Concert (1998)
3.78 of 5 Votes: 5
1559704152 (ISBN13: 9781559704151)
arcade publishing
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The Concert (1998)
The Concert (1998)

About book: In 1978, China broke off its trade and other relations with Enver Hoxha's Albania. The 2 countries had been begun to be closely allied in the early 1960s, as was first reported in the West by the West German journalist Harry Hamm in his book Albania first published in English in 1962. The Concert by Ismail Kadaré is a long novel set both in his native land Albania and also in the People's Republic of China during the final months of the friendship between the 2 distantly separated nations. Not only were they distantly separated geographically, but also culturally as his novel illustrates very clearly. The reader is plunged into the world and family life of the upper echelons of Albanian bureaucracy. Their attempts to lead 'normal', almost bourgeois lives, are constantly overshadowed by the secretive machinations of Enver Hoxha's repressive regime. Plots are hatched (by whom we can never be sure), people are arrested and then released, consciences are searched (both by their owners and also by the state), people are sent from Tirana to the provinces and also to China, & self-interests compete with state interests. Kadaré's novel reveals both how normal and at the same time how abnormal life was in Albania. Friends visit each other, share meals and drink coffee together, but it only takes a telephone call or a rumour to cause turbulence in cosiness of the social setting.I will not attempt to summarise the complex plot consisting of a number of sub-plots that gradually mesh together. However, as the story unfolds, so does the knot that had tied together the Chinese and Albanians. The effects that this unravelling has both on the Albanians and their soon-to-be former Chinese allies is beautifully conveyed in this book.My only criticism of this long story, is that I found that the author's writing was less tight, less economical, and less concise, than in many of the other of his books that I have read. Apart from this, the book is a fascinating account of a peculiar episode in Balkan history written in Tirana (between 1977 & 1988, but first published in France) by someone who experienced it first hand.Reviewed by the author of ALBANIA ON MY MIND and other books about the Balkans

See more reviews at Book LustKadaré is an Albanian writer who splits his time between Tirana, Albania and Paris. The Concert was first published in 1989 in French and this new English edition was released by Arcade Publishing on October 8th.The book involves the relations between China and Albania during the 1970s, near the end of Mao Zedong's life. It follows several protagonists with intertwined lives and who all have some investment in the politics between the two countries. The author grew up under Communism in Albania, and it's obvious in his writing. His depiction of Mao as a villain is almost cartoonish: the evil Chinaman plotting to use marijuana to soften the brains of mankind in order to take over the world. I almost gave up on the book after the first 70 or so pages, but kept going because of the good reviews it got and the fact that it won the Man Booker Prize in 2005. I found it slow-moving and dull, to be perfectly honest. The bias I saw in the beginning of the book made me skeptical of the rest, and probably ruined it for me. It took me some time to finish it, and won't linger on this review as I don't want to spend any more time on the book.
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Sean Hoskin
Replete with the intricacies of the lives of ordinary Albanians and contrasting them with the dynamics of the political relations with China at a time when a breaking off of alliance is imminent, The Concert weaves the intimate aspects of personal relationships with those on a grander scale, signifying and invoking a metaphoric refrain in which the personal and the political necessarily incline upon each other for understanding and meaning. The wayward ineptness of political officials-both in China and Albania-is drawn against the backdrop of the personal fortunes of "ordinary people"; and the gaming and calculatingly maneuvers play directly into the mores (and lack thereof) of the protagonists and antagonists who inhabit the pages.
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