This superb short novel by Ismail Kadare was written in 1979 in Tirana, Albania. At that time, the country was ruled by its oppressive dictator Enver Hoxha. Like most of his ilk, he had no tolerance for dissent. Kadare and his fellow writers had to mind what they said and wrote to keep out of trouble. By setting his novel "Doruntine", which is to some extent about heresy, in the era before the Ottoman invasion of Albania, he was able to disguise his observations of modern Albania to such an extent that the state censors were at little risk of being disturbed by its content.
Stres, the regional captain, learns that Doruntine has returned to the district where her mother lives. Several years before, she married a man from far off Bohemia and lived in that distant country. He is perturbed to learn that Doruntine, who is in a disturbed psychological state, says that she has been brought home by her brother Constantine. Stres and everyone else in the district knows that Constantine and all of his 8 brothers have been dead for 3 years. Unless Constantine had undergone a resurrection like Jesus Christ, it seemed impossible that he could have escorted Doruntine from Bohemia to Albania.
The local archbishop, learning of this strange story, summons Stres to a meeting. During this, he makes it clear to Stres that the person who actually brought Doruntine home must be found. This is because it is important to prove to the people that Constantine did not rise up from the grave. It is important to prove that this was not the case because it was heresy to believe that anyone apart from Jesus Christ was capable of coming back to life after death. Stres is faced with having to execute a thorough investigation.
To describe what happens next would spoil the story. Needless to say the resolution of this tale is indeed extraordinary and exciting.
This novel, like many of his others, demonstrates Kadare's ability to write succinctly, to express a great deal in a few words. "Doruntine" is along with "Broken April" and "Chronicle in Stone" one of his best pieces of writing. Even in translation, his voice comes through clearly and beautifully.
"Doruntine" demonstrates well the importance of making sure that the truth of a matter is in accord with what the authorities want. And, the ability to ensure this was one of the keys to surviving in Enver Hoxha's Albania. Kadare was taking a great risk when he wrote this book, but got away with it.
Review by author of "Albania on my Mind"
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