The Three-Arched Bridge
Arcade Publishing, 2005
|Original title||Ura Me Tri Harqe|
The Three Arched Bridge (Ura Me Tri Harqe) is a 1978 novel by Ismail Kadare. The story concerns a very old Albanian legend written in verses, the "Legjenda e Rozafes". The book differs heavily from the original legend as the legend calls for a castle that is being built, not a bridge.
The book describes the construction of an important bridge on the Via Egnatia in Albanian territory from 1377–1378, shortly before the occupation by the Ottoman Empire began.  Told by a Catholic monk, Gjon (a name used by Northern Albanians who were mostly catholic prior to Turkish invasions), the story of the bridge, as seen by Gjon is filled with prissy, unhappy bureaucrats, who take the events at face value without ever trying to understand the larger forces at work. Both the river Ujana e Keqe and the bridge itself are major characters in the book, and they undergo significant transformations.
One of the startling events of the book is when a "volunteer" is immured inside the bridge in order to make a "sacrifice" to the river. The man's face is captured in the plaster that surrounds him, as unforgettable as it is horrifying. Though clearly a punishment for the crime of sabotage against the bridge, as Gjon recounts this event, it is less an act of vengeance than it is a true sacrifice. But more than that, it becomes a symbol for the ignorance of and squabbling among tiny Albanian principalities and their fight amongst one another, in front of a major threat.
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