should be read
The Siege by Ismail Kadare This book has all the makings of an engrossing novel. Set in the days of perhaps the fifteenth century, situated somewhere in the mountainous fastness of what was once Yugoslavia, a fortress, a Christian stronghold, is to be enveloped and then destroyed by moslem invaders from the east. What’s novel about this novel is that the focus is on the besiegers --- we see their camp, we walk the lanes of their encampment, we meet their quartermaster, their engineer, their poet. For ever such short snippets, we are given tales of the thoughts of the Christian defenders: not our usual pointy of vue.
There are a few weaknesses to this book. It moves slowly and at times with the intensity of a shopping mall crowd. The language is oddly wrong when Kadare or his translator use terms end expressions that are quite glaringly anachronistic. He stuffs phrases like “out of the loop” and “a real riot” and “up to date”. I don’t think so.
I didn’t get beyond reading about the encampment and the initial siege of the citadel but the book, so far at least, strikes me as entirely too timid, too genteel. Can you imagine “Come, let’s watch the assault for the commandant”, or “Stay by me --- nobody will object”. Sounds more like something out of “Love Story” rather than “The Siege”.
A Christian fortress holds out against the larger and better armed Ottoman army. Modern warfare in the form of ever-larger cannons is deployed alongside soothsayers and astrologers; each failure is followed by a ruthless purge of anyone who might be considered responsible. The Turkish commander rules his troops with an increasingly vicious hand and his troops respond by blaming and attacking each other with increasing ferocity.
mike_wood thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over
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