“That’s terrible,” Diana said. “But it’s absurd. There is fatality in it.”
“That’s true. It is at once terrible, absurd and fatal, like all the really important things.” (page 77)
Broken April is the Albanian classic that follows two story lines and their intersections: that of Gjorg and his part in a generation-long blood feud and Diana and Bessian, a scholar and his wife who are traveling through the hills to study the blood feuds and the mysterious book and set of rules that govern the people of the mountains, known as the kanun. When you are reading this, it reads like a farce, like a dystopian future where blood feuds return to be an important part of society.
Except it’s not. It really happened and has recently been revived in northern Albania. I couldn’t believe it! The lives of the young men caught in the blood feud are tragic and barbaric, but it’s a common practice that still continues to this day. Bessian is obsessed with the Kanun and the blood feuds on a completely intellectual level – he writes articles about them and analyzes their importance in history. His wife, Diana, however, cannot separate this intellectual understanding of the Kanun and the blood feuds and becomes so emotionally invested in the lives of these young men, especially Gjorg, that in the end, she does something that no one expects.
This novel was so fascinating, but also a little dry at times. I wonder if this was in part due to the translation (no translator was even named) because it read a lot like other translations I’ve read. I am still reading up on the actual history of the Kanun (Wikipedia). I would recommend this novel just to learn about the amazing history of Albania, a country that I literally knew zilch about. I completely understand why this was included on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list.
85% – A fascinating story about Albania and blood feuds. Pick it up!