In Chronicle in Stone, Ismail Kadare has created a beautiful novel that brings to life the fictitious town of Gjirokaster as well as any writer has brought any European city into the wider global consciousness.
The story traces the trials and travails of a young boy in the depths of the horror of World War II with poignant attention to detail and touching use of bits of unexpected sorrow over small things, such as the boy’s agony as the planes, take off from the aerodrome. His family mocking his sadness highlights the fact that some people cannot realize that when under extreme distress, people - especially children - will cling to the oddest things.
Using a little boy to tell of the deprivations and hardships he sees through his innocent eyes makes an indelible impression on readers, causing them to care even more than they would if it were merely adults whose lives were upended - and oftentimes just plain ended. There is a certain irony in his being made so happy by the fact that his family house is being used to save the lives of him and his neighbors, proving that children are masters of seeing the glass half full even when the glass is cracked and slowly leaking from the bottom. The boy’s reactions to the fear and hate he must confront on a daily basis shame readers into viewing their own ultimately insignificant troubles in a completely different and glaring light. There is nothing like seeing through a child’s eyes to put everything in perspective.
Chronicle in Stone is moves with a quick pacing that makes the urgency of the circumstances even more moving.