As Spring arrives in the Albanian mountain town, some strange things are emerging in the thaw. Bank robbers, unknown under the tyrannical ancient regime, strike up the National Bank. The ghastly Kanun, regulator of medieval Albania's blood vendettas, is dredged up from the shipwreck of history. And the ultraexplosive secrets of the state secrets, rumoured to be buried in the area, are threatening to flood the entire nation. As the dreamy painter Mark Gurabardhi struggles to complete a portrait of the iceberg that struck the Titanic, he finds his quiet life disturbed by ancient love and modern barbarism, by the renaissance of Brezhnev and Oedipus, and by the peculiar brutality of a country surprised and divided by its new found freedom.
Ismail Kadare was born in 1936 in the Albanian mountain town of Girokaster near the Greek border. He is Albania's best-known poet and novelist. He established an uneasy modus vivendi with the Communist authorities until their attempts to turn his reputation to their advantage drove him in October 1990 to seek asylum in France. He is the winner of the first ever Man Booker International Prize.