Chronicle in Stone

(Fiction; Arcade Publishing, 2007)


Rainwater splashes in a cistern underneath a stone house in the middle of an ancient city, and below the city walls an angry river threatens to jump over a stone bridge connecting this stronghold of southern Albania with the rest of the world. In the large living room on the second floor, centenarian women rest leisurely on intricately carved wooden benches, sip coffee, and discuss new signs of the approaching end of the world: Italians have built a cardboard house for their nuns, a girl from a good family grew a beard, a quiet and studious young man started wearing glasses. The end of the world is near, indeed. It’s 1939, the beginning of World War II, the fascist Italian army has already occupied Gjirokastër, and the soldiers are hard at work, transforming the pasture outside the city into an airport. Soon the first bombs force the neighbors to huddle together, against all social mores, in the damp and stuffy cellar by the water cistern.

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