Chapter One – Imagery & Symbolism

January 13, 2009

The setting at the beginning of the novel provides a sympathetic background to the action and the feelings of Gjorg. The “desolate” grating of the pebbles is transferred to “the sense of desolation” inside him (p7). The snow and wild pomegranates are personified as silent watchers and “motionless witnesses”, waiting to see what he might do. (p8).

Some of The Kanun’s characteristics are brought alive by visual symbols such as the change in colour of the bloodstains on the victim’s shirt. (p22)

April, for Gjorg has been metaphorically “broken”.

There is some animal imagery. Gjorg’s life is transformed to that of a “bat” now that he starts to live out the bessa (p19). The braid on the seams of the trousers of the mourners are “like poisonous snakes ready to strike.” (p15)


Chapter One – Themes

January 13, 2009

Revenge helps to drive the early narrative and is what causes Gjorg to kill Zef. However, we usually think of revenge as internally motivated, but here the motivation seems to be externally driven.

The power of custom and the law – see comments on The Kanun.

There is also a sense of the heavy weight of tradition having been carried through the generations, when the narrator reflects on the “age-old customs” which have controlled the protagonist’s “grandfather, his great-grandfather, his great-great grandfather, and all his ancestors five hundred, a thousand years before him…”(p16)

The concept of honor and honorable behaviour (p14)

Chapter One – Sense of place

January 13, 2009

The sense of place is created not so much through physical description of landscape or buildings but through the culture of the High Plateau and in particular the power of The Kanun which dictates the rituals surrounding the killing and its aftermath. This controls behaviour and clothing at the funeral . There are constant reminders of its power through expressions such as ‘in keeping with the custom” (p9), “in keeping with the rule” (p10), “following the custom’ (p12), “according to the custom” (p14), “scrupulous obedience to the ancient Code.” (p18). Is it a rule, law, code or custom ? Is there a difference ?

Chapter One – Characterisation

January 13, 2009

Gjorg, the protagonist is 26 years old and presented to us in third person narrative. The omniscient narrator provides insights into his thoughts and feelings. For example at the very beginning of the novel we are told of “the sense of desolation” that is “really inside him”(p.8). He is either “fearful” or “simply troubled” (p8)at having to kill Zef in the “accursed ambush”(p9). After the killing, Gjorg is filled with doubt and asks himself, “What am I doing?” (p9), but he continues to “follow the custom” of the Kanun. He feels like vomiting because he is  literally sick at what he has done.

Gjorg  was engaged, but he never met his fiancée and she died after a long illness (p20).

Gjorg’s father is introduced to us a character who upholds the traditions of The Kanun and expects his son to do the same.

Chapter One – Plot

January 13, 2009

The novel begins with Gjorg, the protagonist, waiting in ambush to take revenge on Zef Kryeqyqe. His killing of the victim is surrounded by ritual dictated by the Kanun – the code of customary law in the High Plateau of Albania. The narrative is then driven by the rituals accompanying the aftermath of the killing, including the call for a bessa or truce in the feud between the family of Gjorg and the family of Zef.

The funeral takes place next day and Gjorg has to take part in the procession. Later that day it is announced that the thirty day bessa has been granted and Gjorg will be able to live in safety until the seventeenth of April. Gjorg reflects on April as “a month with something incomplete about it”(p19). It is “his own unfinished April.”(p19) This helps to clarify the significance of the novel’s title. The next day he has to set out for the Kulla of Orosh to pay “the blood tax”.