Broken April by Ismail Kadare

Broken April - Ismail Kadaré

Broken April is an almost meditative look at a blood feud that is strictly adhered to by those in the Albanian mountains. While it’s about a seemingly inhuman way to settle disputes (bloodshed), it is told in an entirely human way.


Successive generations had been accustomed to the feuds from their cradles, and so, not being able to conceive of life without them, it never entered their minds to try to free themselves from their destined end.


There are two stories that intersect. One is about Gjorg, a young man who has just had to commit a killing, as set out by the terms of the Kanun (a guide to adhering to the code). After a 30 day period from the time of the killing, he himself will be murdered.


Whatever words of wisdom might be uttered by the famous interpreters, the last word concerning death-so says the Kanun-belongs to the avenger of blood.


His story runs alongside that of Bastian and Diana, a couple who have recently married and have decided (strangely) to honeymoon in the Albanian mountain region in order to learn more about this tradition, which dates back centuries. Bastian is a writer and very interested in Albanian culture, so he's the one who coordinated the trip. As they're travelling through the mountain region Diana and Gjorg cross paths. Although they don’t speak to one another, an inextricable bond is formed. They both think about each other often and in this way form a connection, if not in the literal sense.


A large focus was the principles that guide life, as set out by the Kanun and the rules surrounding the blood debts passed down through generations. This was all interesting, if not a little strange. It was the complexities of the characters instead, that was my main area of enjoyment. While I didn’t feel particularly invested in any of them, I did feel compassion and understanding for Gjorg’s plight. He was bound by the rules of the blood feud and had to commit a murder, even though his conscience dictated otherwise.


Broken April was very short and would have benefited from more exposition. It’s a very hard book to categorise because while I enjoyed some elements, others I didn’t. I liked the sparse style and glimpse into a very strange way of life. The ending, though, could have been more developed and the characters delved into further. I’m very interested to see what the other at my book group thought.