Albania's Kadare is probably the premier writer of fiction to have emerged from the Balkan countries since Bosnian Nobel-winning novelist Ivo Andric. His latest (1998) locates the sources of Slobodan Milosevc's campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in a 14th-century battle fought on the Blackbird Plains of Kosovo, in which armies of Serbs and those allied with them were defeated by Ottoman Turks, and the seeds of sectarian resentment and hatred were thus firmly planted in the blood-soaked soil. The figures of an idealistic Prince, two naive "minstrels of war," and a "great lady" who reveres and mourns the vanished culture of classical Greece, among others, provide representative involved figures, in a "novel" that's really as much an essay in historiography as it is fiction: an effort to explain how a people to whom unity would seem so natural have become instead so fiercely divided. As such, it's a revealing addition to such acclaimed novels as Chronicle in Stone
and The Three-Arched Bridge
, and one of Kadare's most eloquent books.
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