Research article
Issue: № 4 (20), 2019


The novel “Chronicle in stone” is oftentimes interrupted by brief, abbreviated sections sometimes titled and sometimes untitled that stand independent from the main text, which is structured in chapters. The aim of this paper it is not to analyze the novel as a whole; it will address only to these specific parts of the novel in order to discover their role and importance that carries their existence. The article focuses on a narrative analysis of the novel “Chronicle in stone” and attempts to clarify the positioning and the status of the narrators that are part of some distinguish texts in the novel.


Ismail Kadare is one of the Albanian authors who, with his literary activity, has made a great contribution in terms of development and enrichment of the Albanian literature fund. “Kadare’s contributions were essential for the revitalization of Albanian culture and identity as a concept after the cultural erosion inherited from the Ottoman invasion and communism is undeniable [8, P. 144].” The echoes of his literary art have transcended the boundaries of Albanian literature by creating bridges and successfully integrating into European and world literature.

Translating his works into different languages ​​around the world has made this author and his work be commented on in various, sometimes even bizarre, ways. Some of those who have read his works have dealt with the raw material, if we may say, of his work, whereas others have crossed the real boundaries of the study of literature and have overlooked the Kadare phenomenon. However, it should not be forgotten that for Albanian studies, or for the Albanian reader, but also for the foreign one, which as we know is not scarce, Ismail Kadare is the most famous Albanian writer and his contribution to literature is quite large and already affirmed and undeniable. The value of his artistic and literary activity in Albanian literature and its development has played an irreplaceable role, where, these values have proved their dimensions even beyond the Albanian borders, presenting the extraordinary talent of the author with works that assume universal values.

The universal value of Ismail Kadare's works is undoubtedly very much related to some of his pieces which are already many times published and reprinted in many languages of the world. Along with the novel "Dead Army General", "Castle", "Palace of Dreams", "Broken April", "File H", "Concert at the end of winter" and other works of Kadare, it is worth mentioning that an integral part of this list of values is the novel "Chronicle in stone", published in Tirana in the early 1970s. "Chronicle in Stone”, among others, has been termed a work that stands out for its particular storytelling mastery. The novel intertwines quite nicely the dominant storytelling style with other storytelling styles that are cleverly incorporated into the structure of the work without affecting it.

Narrative Styles

Some critics say: "To tell a story requires the preoccupation of telling what happens, not just how it ends [11, p. 223].” Through his narrating styles in the novel “Chronicle in stone” Kadare achieves of directing the interest of the reader more on what happens and less on how it ends.

The work "Chronicle in stone" consists of several types of texts: untitled texts, which appear almost before each chapter and which we will name as italic texts, texts which are titled by the author himself as Fragment of a chronicle and Old Sose’s news (in lieu of a chronicle), the text entitled Words of unknown persons, the text entitled Draft of a memorial plaque and the basic text of narration, in which the story it is told  “from a child’s perspective [7, P. 6]”, which consists of 18 chapters. Although the texts are interrelated, it can be said that texts that do not fall into the structure of chapters can also stand as digressions, because even if completely eliminated, they would still not endanger the status of the underlying text, which as such constitutes the novel as a whole.

It seems like the text of the italic type that introduces the novel is narrated from the perspective of a third person. This is supported by the structure of the text which is constructed from the perspective of the impersonal narrator and his knowledge of not only the story but also the presentation of thoughts, views, impressions and so on. Then, in the penultimate paragraph, this structure is confronted with an entirely new structure, which points to a narration given by the second person singular, where from a cold, external position of the narrator one sees the return of a conversational mood which is inclusive to the reader "the second person’ seems to annihilate all those protective mechanisms of the individual. It creates both the frantic illusion of approach and the illusion of distancing oneself. Thus the liberation of 'protected' sensibility is likely to be achieved more quickly and thoroughly [1, P. 173-174]” and finally by analyzing the context, the last sentence is presented, which, the way is structured points out a third person narrator, even thought the discourse alludes to a first person narrator, participant and event character, but whom cannot be identified with the narrator of the work as a whole, namely the child narrator. This identification cannot be made due to a set of elements as for example, compared to other parts of either the novel as a whole or some of the texts in italics in particular, this text in italics will notice a radical change in the narrator's approach not only in the form of discourse, but also in the conception of the world, the facts and judgments in general. “The main character, placed in the role of the narrator, (Chronicle ...), creates a pleasant closeness to the reader, drawing him into all the scenes where he enters or directs his gaze; he does it for himself with the naivety, curiosity and purity of  his spirit world, and the reader follows the hero with a sympathetic smile. It is also in this novel that for a moment the storyteller-character seems to abandon the role entrusted from the author and suddenly the reasoning or information of another storyteller emerges, who is actually the author himself [4, P. 229].” Such a transition from one narrator to another is clearly evident, especially in italic texts. While many of these texts in italic are characterized by a narrative voice that usually narrates from a first person and identifies with the child-narrator, the events are characterized by an infantile innocence that is felt loudly, for example:

“... Mama found it one cold morning. She had gone down to the ground floor to get a bucket of water to the cistern. We were warming our selves at the fire when we heard footsteps terin up the stairs.

‘She must have dropped the bucket down the well’, said Grandmother.

Mama came in looking worried. She was holding a little bundle, of letters or rags, we couldn’t  see exactly.

‘Magic? They’re at it again...’

‘Throw it away, girl’, urged Grandmother.

My mother dropped it. My father got up, took it, and unwrapped it with nervous fingers. I opened my eyes wide, waiting for the terrifying bundle to spill its contents out at any moment: nails, hair, ashes, perhaps an old Turkish coin.

But nothing fell out. Unwrapped, it was nothing but a wrinkled piece of paper [6, P. 211].”

Some of these texts, such as the one set before the seventh chapter or the one set forth in the eleventh chapter together with the italic prologue, develop the narrative from an omniscient perspective, dominated by the third person of the narration and one also immediately feels the overriding of the infantile and the emergence of a mature, secure and autonomous discourse.

But there are times when through different parallels and figures such as irony or sarcasm, the situation created from a wholly childish narrative perspective, presents itself as something completely different. One such example is quite clear in the italic text prior to the second chapter, where the contention of children in the game they play best reflects the appetites for conquest and annexation of states and territories around the world by the various participating powers of World War Second.

But, on the other hand, it is clear that these texts have a fundamental characteristic of great resemblance to each other, namely the texts narrated in the first person same as those in the third person and even the text of the work as a whole, have the grotesque as the dominant element for the way of confession. “Kadare chooses the grotesque as his main stylistic tool… the narrative relies on the grotesque. In the novel, this figure develops with a technique that is characteristic for Russian formalism. Shklovsky's Ostranenje, 'make things look weird', a technique Kadare has a natural inclination to do, partially because of his illogical mind. The novel begins with 'this was a strange city ...', continues with 'nothing alike', 'unreal' and culminates in the grotesque: 'if you wanted you could extend your arm and put your hat on top of a minaret '... The grotesque is the one that brings together the incompatible elements in an abnormal, atypical, and often absurd way [9, P. 265-266].” The only difference between these texts in italics is seen at a certain point when the narrator is to be identified, because otherwise the way an event is described, how a situation is presented, or actions justified, is constructed through the same logic. Despite what we have just mentioned, the narrator's identification divides these texts by different statuses. Where the narrator is identified in the first person, the text assumes subjective-personal status, whereas the narrator is identified in the third singular, it receives objective-impersonal status.

The last text in italic, like the first one, differs from the others and is more distinct regarding the involvement of the narrator. The final text in italic opens with a dialogue, where the genuine narrative melts away and takes the form of a self-confession that is constructed from the perspective of a collective narrator. This form of storytelling is rare and requires mastery, but Kadare succeeds.

As mentioned above, parts of this novel are some textual pieces entitled Fragment of a chronicle. "The textual intermediaries we read from time to time, found between chapters, are short texts that present different events and their construction is deliberately disorganized, having no beginning, no end, and giving the impression of being detached from a whole being prepared to be edited [2, P. 396].”

According to the theorists of literature "narrative text quite often contains parts that cannot be called narrative. They aim to provide some additional element to what the genuine narrative contains. Such text is regularly presented in alternation with the narrative text made by the narrator. Generally, non-narrative text is a commentary text that expresses a viewpoint, is ideological and unrelated to the development of the event in the narrative text situation, is giving an image of the idea that develops there [10, P. 75].” It seems that these chronicles as texts fit exactly to this profile or status, but on the other hand, derive from this status when questioning the narrator's authorship. The information we receive from these texts, informs us that we are dealing with fragments from the daily newspapers and the relevant information in these texts is mostly summarized in historical events that occur in Europe and Albania and events that mainly occur in the city where the events take place. Through the presentation of these events it is given the period from the beginning of the war to its end, thus defining the time when the events take place, but by the way the events are presented and summarized in the chronicles, the author who summarizes these events is marked and as a result the narrator too. In fact through these texts it is done also “the regulation of the narration speed [3, P. 117].”

It seems clear that the newspaper is controlled by allies of the invaders, or, if not allies then, lunatics and cowards who do not dare to see the world in a different way but through the prism of the conqueror, of course, in the texts of the chronicles this is understood indirectly, through the presented rhetoric of Hitler's justification for the war, the Germans' victories, the defeats of the Russians, the pursuit of the "terrorists", or the persecution of those who help them called  the "collaborators", also the way it is described the occupation of the city repeatedly by Greeks and than by Italians , all of which are thoughtlessly summarized and said so simply and with indescribable naivety, but also other information related to births, marriages, deaths, travel announcements of people outside the city (Bido Sheriff returned from Tirana, The daughter of leather factory owner Mark Karllashi left for Italy yesterday, etc.), indicate to a person whose character is unstable, with a shallow thinking logic, which deserves neither the confidence nor the respect of his readers. This it is best proved by the derogatory and at the same time irritating effect that the chronicler's reasoning for the newspaper's poor and flawed outlet brings: I inform readers that the reason the past issue of the newspaper came out poorly and in error was that I was sick of my stomach. This perfect finding of the author enables the reader to derive from these chronicles ideas quite opposite to those which appear.

Despite the distortion or irrelevance of facts, there is something real to these chronicles. And from this truth, as we said above, the timing of the events in the novel is identified. This time is given by events: Japan prepares to attack India and Australia, Adolf Hitler's campaign to Poland and then Norway, Belgium and France, Germany's bombing from England, air battles waged between the warring parties in Albania, the organization of Albanians in the liberation war, the battles between the Russian and German-Italian armies, etc., by which Kadare also determines the timing of the events in the novel. But this way of informing also requires the engagement of the reader himself, who in order to understand correctly when events take place must have at least a basic knowledge of history, because he must identify, through the given event, the year when it occurs.

The frivolity and low importance that permeates the chronicles is clearly demonstrated when the chronicles are replaced by texts titled Old Sose’s news and the justification in brackets following this title (in lieu of a chronicle). The reconciliation of a journalistic text as a chronicle with a text based on rumours like that of old Sose is precisely to declass the first text, but on the other hand, in one way to raise the second one. In fact, from this perspective, it can be seen that the old Sose's texts are more organized, have logic of construction, and represent autonomous thoughts, where servility and fear place the wisdom of age and indifference to death. The determination, anger, and confidence in itself that appears when she says it is written in old books: the yellow haired people will try to burn to ashes this city by alluding here to the Germans and their theory of purity of race, shows the great difference between her and the chronicler. Probably, the latter's non-identification as a narrator or the chronicles, despite its characterization, is made to characterize within this type of character, in general, all those who at such times saw nothing but their own interest. Meanwhile, the identification of the old Sose as the narrator of her texts gives precisely the required effect, the kindness to the old woman, and the disgust to the chronicler, despite both texts being ultimately information-based.

Words of unknown persons is the other type of text that we encounter outside the chapters structure. Set before the last chapter, this text is built under the ideological influence of the 1970s in Albania. It is organized as a collection of thoughts and conversations expressed here and there by different people with ideological proclamation at the center.

Kadare chooses to finish the novel with his beloved character, the child. But this time he is no longer a child. Under the heading of Draft of a memorial plaque articulates another type of text that stands on its own. With an immediate identification of the already grown child, the reminiscences of the past mark the future that has become present. The narrator becomes the reference point of the past, the future and the present. Most importantly, he witnesses the endurance and continuity of a nation’s people.


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