The General of the Dead Army (novel)

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The General of the Dead Army
The general of the dead army.jpg
Albanian cover
AuthorIsmail Kadare
Original titleGjenerali i Ushtrisë së vdekur
PublisherSh.B. Naim Frashëri
Publication date
Published in English

The General of the Dead Army (Albanian: Gjenerali i ushtrisë së vdekur) is a 1963 novel by the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. It is the author's most critically acclaimed novel.[1] It is noted that Kadare was encouraged to write the book by Drago Siliqi, literary critic and director of the state-owned publishing house Naim Frashëri.[2]


In the early 1960s, nearly 20 years since the Second World War ended, an Italian general, accompanied by a priest who is also an Italian army colonel, is sent to Albania to locate and collect the bones of his countrymen who had died during the war and return them for burial in Italy. As they organise digs and disinterment, they wonder at the scale of their task. The general talks to the priest about the futility of war and the meaninglessness of the enterprise. As they go deeper into the Albanian countryside they find they are being followed by another general who is looking for the bodies of German soldiers killed in World War II. Like his Italian counterpart, the German struggles with a thankless job looking for remains to take back home for burial, and questions the value of such gestures of national pride.


The General of the Dead Army (Italian: Il generale dell'armata morta) is a 1983 Italian drama film, based on the novel, directed by Luciano Tovoli.

The Return of the Dead Army (Albanian: Kthimi i Ushtrise se Vdekur) is a 1989 Albanian film based on the novel directed by Dhimitër Anagnosti.

The book is also adapted as a play for theaters and is a common play in Albanian theaters and in some neighboring countries.[3]


The novel has received many positive reviews. Richard Eder of The New York Times stated that "Kadare advances wryly and dryly into the darkness…[he] doesn't do messages; he brings them to lethal life".[4] The Boston Globe called it "a powerful and poignant Albanian novel". Alan Brownjohn of The Times Literary Supplement praised the novel by calling it "a profoundly moving in poignant details".[5]

It also made its way into Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century.


See also[edit]