The first Kadare that I read was the political thriller The Successor, which I liked but did not fall in love with. mainly because I felt that an important element of the story was missing. In these cases I tend to blame the translation.
In contrast Spring Flower, Spring Frost is much more satisfying and bizarre in places as well. If The Successor was a dour adult then this novel is the teenager that has has one trip too many. Yet both feature politics and quite heavily.
Albania is now a democratic state (so I guess we’re in 1991) and Mark, a painter hears, about a bank robbery and sees two kids unearth a hibernating snake. This takes him by surprise as such events would never happen under Communist Albania. While he obsesses about the robbery and the snake he starts going on other mental tangents. Within the very brief 180 pages we get musings on Albanian Folklore (which figures snakes) , The theft of immortality via ancient Greek mythology, The Kanun – the Albanian code of laws regarding blood feuds and the iceberg that sunk The Titanic. On top of this he has to finish painting a nude portrait of his girlfriend ( The Kanun and her are entwined). Cleverly enough Kadare manages to mesh all these disparate musings altogether and tie them to the fall of communism. As one can expect the final chapter is the big enlightening one and is the ‘grand finale’
As I finished Spring Flowers I instantly started to make mental comparisons and this is indeed the better book. I already repeated the reasons above so I won’t go into them before but this felt like a fresher read. If there is another Kadare on this list (and I hope so) then it should be completely bonkers. We’ll see.