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As winter slowly ebbs away, strange things begin to stir in the thaw of one Albanian town. Mark, a semi-successful artist, begins to notice violence of a different sort taking root in his neighbourhood. Old vendettas are re-surfacing, blood feuds thought to have been buried with the passage of time have found their way back into memories. However, the most dangerous thing is the return of the Kanun; the ancient and archaic mafia law of settling accounts of honour in the most barbarous way imaginable.
The confusion soon spreads across the whole town, and its’ inhabitants struggle to make sense of the developments as they spiral out of control.

Spring Flowers, Spring Frost (Panther)

Just because a book is part of the 1001 book list, doesn’t guarantee that it will be a good read. Kadare’s ‘Spring Flowers, Spring Frost’ is testament to that. Despite the gushing reviews and the generous comparisons to Gogol, Kafka and Orwell, I found this story to be extremely confusing. The aim of the novel was always a little bit out of my reach. I didn’t quite understand the structure of the ‘chapters’ and ‘counter-chapters’. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough to make sense of it all, but I was expecting the story to have a sound direction at least, a place it was going or taking me. I am afraid to say, Kadare’s characters were uninspiring, I simply wasn’t interested in their wellbeing, which I have found to be absolutely crucial if a story is to at least keep my attention.

There are, however, pockets of brilliance, but these are few and far between. When Kadare is writing about the strange ritualistic laws of the Kanun, it gets exciting. The story about the virgin who married a snake was engrossing, but I was quickly disappointed when Kadare didn’t follow this up. The account itself stood out as a stand-alone piece of information that had no bearing on the reflections of Mark or the inhabitants of the town.

Another thing I have noticed is this edition is translated from the French, which is translated from the original Albanian. This may also be the reason for the negative experience I had. If you are fluent in Albanian, or even French, I guess you my have a better chance of enjoying this short novel. I wouldn’t recommend this book at all, purely because I think a better translation is desperately needed.

I give this book 1/5 stars. I left it half-finshed, which says a lot!

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