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Broken April

Date: 2023-05-20
Tags:  book-club

I joined a discord book club and the book of the month for May 2023 was Broken April. It is a book by Ismail Kadare, an Albanian writer, and it's about the culture in the north east. The book was published in 1978 and is set in the 1930s. We have 3 specific characters, Gjorge, Diana and Bessian. The backdrop is the Kanun, a book of culture and rules that dictates the way of life of those that live in the mountains.

I started reading the book May 8th and finished up May 20th. I received the epub from someone in the discord group and read it on my kindle.

Below are my thoughts as I had them while reading the book. I'll write up something more concrete afterwards.

Chapter 1

Gjorge kills a man that had killed his brother. Great start, didn't think it would happen so quickly.

Also frikken crazy how much rules and culture have forced this issue. Gjorge is basically depressed the entire time, he is not happy.

Man had a girlfriend but she died without ever being seen.

His dad sends him to pay the blood tax.

The shirt being unwashed and the yellowing of the bloody shirt meaning the person is not at rest is amazingly depressing. Fuck. Gjorge dreamed of this shit and I imagine the guilt must have been insane. What led to this code of life.

Why did Mehill die? What did Zef, the other guy feel.

Also these 2 families might actually just be neighbors which would be even crazier.

Gjorge has a dad who seems pretty good, he is calm and is doing everything his culture demands.

Gjorge has a sister and a mother as well, not much besides the mother is the one that hung up the shirt.

Quite ridiculous that Gjorge had to eat with the dead man's family. Also crazy how involved the village is.

The bessa is dope a 24 hour bessa is a 24 hour respite, the family also granted the 30 day bessa so Gjorge gets 30 days after which he is fair game to die.

Fucking Hell.

Kulla is a tower house in Albania. Looks pretty dope

Kanan is the Code of law for blood feuds.

I feel for Gjorge, Only 26. Such a young kid. The fact that he thinks he will never see may now. Even if he does he will not because he will only be outside at night like a bat. I wonder how a bat is viewed in Albanian culture.

Chapter 2

Gjorge begins the trek to the Kunan of Orsho and its a day away and damn does the author get the time across. It feels long and dreary especially as gjore keeps asking people and it always feels like its nearby but not.

We also get the story that this entire thing was about to end, they were gearing up to pay the blood tax after an aunt came home and said that if gjore dies then its just the father left and if he dies then the family is dead. They need to live. This feud has gone on long enough. So they scrimp and save and begin the process of paying the blood tax.

In the last moment just before it was done an old man said no, we haven't spilled enough blood. Holy fuck. 44 dead people and this guy says naw.

The reason for this entire thing is that a random dude by chance entered the familys house 70 years ago and he pissed off somebody from the other family. Gjorges great something or rather dropped him off at the edge of town and he turned away leaving him. The man was killed and because he was still facing the town it meant that gjorges family still had to protect him and now they had to avenge him and so the story goes. Amazing, absolutely crazy. What kind of culture formed that guest right is so important so as to risk your entire bloodline for it. They say that you can atone for the blood of children, sons, daughters, family but not for the guest. The guest is all important in Albania maybe.

Chapter 3

Jesus the bessian plot is interesting but the new wife falling in love with gjorge was out of nowhere. Also bessian being an ass man was hilarious.

Chapter 4

We got the the story from the Steward of the Blood and its very clear the blood feud is ending. i love the hype that Diana is getting, she is beautiful and it seems like the Kanun is falling for her. He talks about the machinery that is the blood feud slowing down. i love the idea that the farms show how the feuds are going. There are farms that are good that probably now need to kill someone. Whereas a farm that is not in good shape is likely hiding.

Mark is an interesting guy, he is going to go on a journey to visit and talk to everyone to figure out what is going on with the blood. He wants to know why its so slow. he has thought about adding women to the mix as currently they are outside the code. he doesn't want to even think about it. There are writers that are against him and one specific writer writes that the blood feud is really a capitalistic system to take money. That really pissed him off.

Gjorge's killing on March 17th was the only one. Mark was so grateful as that would have been the first day in centuries where a killing didn't happen. That's crazy.

Chapter 5

We get back to Gjorge and he has returned home. He gets some money from his dad and he wanders the area. He realizes that he wants to see Diana. Damn not only did she fall in love immediately but he did as well. Interesting. Very. What is this story trying to say, I have no real idea. It is cute, he has a couple weeks left in april now and he is looking for a girl, a newly married girl.

Chapter 6

We get bessians continuing story. Diana is completely in love with Gjorge and is cold towards Bessian. Bessian is hard simping and its hilarious how real it is. The more quiet she is the more painful it is for him. It really is quite relatable. Also so sad for him. She gets into a Tower of Refuge which is crazy and we have no idea what went on in there. Bessian can't even get her as only a priest can enter. Frikken insane Diana.

I also like the doctor who seems to be the one that sees the blood feuds as economical. He sees it all as purely creditors and debtors. He is very much disillusioned with the world. The monarachy had sent out students to learn but for some reason they were all disappointments. I'm curious why. Dude is definitely interesting.

We also get a complex case of the Kanun that Ali Binak presides over. A pregnant girl is shot by the boyfriend's family. This would mean the girl's family has the right to vengence. However she had a male child in her womb and so that would mean that one of the boy's family died. This would mean that they would get to kill again. The case was brought to the elders and they called for Ali Binak. Binak said that this was a case where everywhere even out so a blood feud wasn't necessary. Quite interesting as the rule was that if a male child was had he immediately joined the father's family. I'm not sure how this all fit in together and I imagine the girl's family is still angry.

Chapter 7

We get both Gjorge and Bessian's stories interspersed. Bessian is leaving and Gjorge is looking for Diana. Ultimately Gjorge gets very close, he is on a road covered under the Bessa but he gets off it when he heres Diana might be near by. This spells his doom as he was being chased by the family and he gets killed. The books ends with him dying.

Fuckkk I had so much dread about Gjorge meeting Diana and maybe Bessian getting sucked into the blood feud that I didn't see this coming. I thought it was building towards an explosion but it was just another day. Maybe there is something to be said about culture and that life isn't always exciting. Gjorge died mundanely regardless of anything.

Bessian's relationship with Diana is all sorts of crazy now and I imagine Bessian is both angry and sad. Probably blaming himself. We have no idea what is in store for them. Its interesting that we were in Diana's head for a time but never again after she fell in love with Gjorge.