Broken April
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"Broken April" Summary

By Ismail Kadare

fiction | 224 pages | Published in 2010

From the moment that Gjorg's brother is killed by a neighbour, his own life is forfeit: for the code of Kanun requires Gjorg to kill his brother's murderer and then in turn be hunted down. After shooting his brother's killer, young Gjorg is entitled to thirty days' grace - not enough to see out the month of April. Then a visiting honeymoon couple cross the path of the fugitive. The bride's heart goes out to Gjorg, and even these 'civilised' strangers from the city risk becoming embroiled in the fatal mechanism of vendetta.


Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young couple's love is overshadowed by the ancient Albanian tradition of blood feuds.


In the hauntingly beautiful novel "Broken April" written by Ismail Kadare, readers are taken on a journey through the rugged and desolate landscape of the Albanian highlands. This timeless story explores the weight of ancient traditions, the struggle for individual freedom, and the power of destiny. Kadare's exquisite storytelling captivates readers, immersing them in a world where honor, blood feuds, and the cycle of life and death reign supreme.

Brief Synopsis

The novel is set in the remote and isolated regions of the Albanian highlands. The protagonist, Gjorg, lives in a society deeply rooted in the Kanun, a traditional code of honor and conduct. According to the Kanun, when a man kills another, he sets in motion a cycle of blood feuds that can only be resolved through further acts of violence.

Gjorg is thrust into this brutal reality when his older brother is killed in a blood feud by the Zef Kryeqyqe's family. As per the Kanun, Gjorg is compelled to avenge his brother's death. He is given thirty days to complete this task, after which he must surrender his own life as punishment for the bloodshed.

Meanwhile, Bessian, a young scholarly outsider, visits the highlands with his wife Diana on their honeymoon. Fascinated by the region's customs and traditions, Bessian becomes increasingly obsessed with the ancient rituals of blood feuds. He becomes involved with Gjorg's story and finds himself torn between his own sense of justice and the weight of cultural expectations.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Gjorg BerishaThe protagonist and a young man caught in the cycle of blood feuds, torn between duty and the desire for freedom.
Bessian VorpsiA young intellectual who visits the highlands and becomes entangled in the blood feud culture.
Diana VorpsiBessian's wife, an outsider to the highlands, who struggles to understand the traditions and customs of this unfamiliar land.
Zef KryeqyqeThe head of the family responsible for killing Gjorg's brother, and the target of Gjorg's revenge.

Plot Overview

Chapter 1: The Wedding

  • Gjorg attends a wedding in his village, where he first hears of the death of his brother in a blood feud.
  • He learns about the Kanun and the obligations it imposes on him.
  • Gjorg visits the village of the Kryeqyqes and receives a thirty-day grace period to avenge his brother's death.

Chapter 2: The Ditch

  • Bessian and Diana arrive in the highlands for their honeymoon.
  • Bessian becomes fascinated by the Kanun and develops a deep interest in the ongoing blood feuds.
  • They witness the murder of an old man, and Bessian realizes the brutal reality of the blood feud system.

Chapter 3: The Gift

  • Gjorg receives a rifle as a gift from his family and prepares himself for the act of revenge.
  • He contemplates the consequences of his actions and the inevitability of his own death.

Chapter 4: The Grave

  • Bessian and Diana visit the gravesite of the old man killed in the blood feud.
  • Bessian questions the morality of the Kanun and the impact it has on the lives of the people in the highlands.

Chapter 5: The Escape

  • Gjorg decides to escape the cycle of blood feuds by seeking refuge in a monastery.
  • He confronts the challenges of leaving his home and the consequences of breaking the Kanun.

Chapter 6: The End

  • Bessian becomes disillusioned with the cycle of violence and chooses to leave the highlands.
  • Gjorg finds temporary sanctuary in the monastery but ultimately realizes that he cannot escape his fate.

Themes and Insights

1. Tradition vs. Modernity: The novel explores the conflict between traditional values and the desire for progress and individual freedom. The Kanun represents the deeply ingrained traditions of the highlanders, while characters like Bessian question the morality of these customs in the modern world.

2. The Cycle of Violence: Kadare delves into the vicious cycle of blood feuds, emphasizing how one act of violence begets another. The characters' lives are shaped by this cycle, which perpetuates the culture of vendettas and revenge.

3. Individual vs. Collective Identity: Gjorg grapples with the expectations placed upon him by society, torn between his duty to avenge his brother's death and his longing for personal freedom. The novel raises questions about the sacrifice of individual desires for the sake of collective honor.

4. Fate and Determinism: Throughout the story, the theme of destiny is ever-present, with characters resigned to their fates and the inevitability of their actions. Kadare explores the idea that individuals are bound by forces beyond their control.

Reader's Takeaway

"Broken April" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that transports readers into a world governed by ancient customs and the weight of tradition. Through compelling characters and vivid descriptions, Kadare crafts a narrative that delves into the complexities of honor, duty, and the struggle for personal agency. This timeless tale leaves readers questioning the impact of cultural norms on individual lives and the eternal conflict between tradition and progress.


Ismail Kadare's "Broken April" is a masterfully written novel that confronts the reader with the stark reality of a society consumed by blood feuds. The story weaves together themes of tradition, the cycle of violence, and the clash between individuality and collective identity. Kadare's evocative prose draws readers into the captivating and treacherous world of the Albanian highlands, leaving them with a profound understanding of the haunting power of the Kanun. "Broken April" stands as a testament to Kadare's skill as a storyteller and his ability to shed light on complex and timeless human dilemmas.

Broken April FAQ

  1. What is the book 'Broken April' about?

    'Broken April' is a novel written by Ismail Kadare. It tells the story of Gjorg, a young man from the highlands of Albania, who is caught up in the Kanun, a centuries-old blood feud tradition. The book explores the themes of honor, violence, and the complexities of Albanian society.

  2. Who is the author of 'Broken April'?

    The author of 'Broken April' is Ismail Kadare. He is a prominent Albanian novelist and poet, known for his works that often reflect the political and social issues of Albania.

  3. When was 'Broken April' first published?

    'Broken April' was first published in 1978.

  4. Can you provide a brief summary of 'Broken April'?

    'Broken April' follows the life of Gjorg, a young man who finds himself trapped in a blood feud after killing a man. The book explores the complex system of honor and revenge in Albanian society, and the impact it has on individuals like Gjorg. It also delves into the themes of solitude, fate, and the cycle of violence.

  5. Is 'Broken April' a historical novel?

    While 'Broken April' is set in a specific historical context, it is not considered a historical novel in the traditional sense. It explores the customs and traditions of Albania, but the story and characters are fictional.

  6. Is 'Broken April' based on a true story?

    No, 'Broken April' is a work of fiction. However, the author drew inspiration from the blood feud traditions that were prevalent in Albania during the 19th and 20th centuries.

  7. What are some key themes in 'Broken April'?

    Some key themes explored in 'Broken April' include honor, violence, tradition, isolation, fate, and the cycle of revenge.

  8. Is 'Broken April' a difficult book to read?

    While 'Broken April' explores complex themes, it is generally considered accessible and engaging. The writing style is lyrical and thought-provoking, making it an enjoyable read for many.

  9. Is 'Broken April' a standalone novel?

    Yes, 'Broken April' is a standalone novel. It is not part of a series.

  10. Has 'Broken April' received any awards or recognition?

    Yes, 'Broken April' has received numerous awards and recognition. It won the Prix des Critiques, one of France's highest literary honors, and it is widely regarded as one of Ismail Kadare's most important works.