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Ismail Kadare: Kush e solli Doruntinën (Doruntine; The Ghost Rider)

Doruntine is a young Albanian woman from a noble family – the Vranachs – who is married into a family that lives far away from the family home. Her brother, Constantine, made an oath to his mother that he would fetch her back if needed. Having heard nothing for three years, Doruntine is one day suddenly awoken by Constantine and taken back on horseback to her mother. He leaves her at the door, saying that he has to go to the church beforehand. When her mother opens the door, both women fall into a state of shock, as Constantine has been dead for three years. Both tell their tale but both die soon after. Stres, the local police chief, is given the task of investigating.

The obvious theory is that it was indeed Constantine – risen from the grave – who brought back Doruntine. The mother has been heard speaking at his grave and reminding him of his promise. Doruntine never had a clear view of him though she was sure that it was him but, of course, did not know at that time that he was dead. The church is very concerned about this theory as only one man has ever risen from the grave and they do not want it to be thought that there could be another, so they try to suppress it, with the archbishop putting pressure on Stres.

Another theory is that it was not Constantine but Doruntine’s lover. If this is the case, where is he and why did no-one see the couple? Stres and his men check inns far and wide but no-one saw them, till a travelling icon-seller is found who might have been the one. Under the threat of torture, he admits that he was, indeed, Doruntine’s lover and that it was he who brought her back. But …

As this is Kadare, he keeps us guessing to the end and, of course, the solution to the mystery is certainly not what we expected. Rather it is something that comes out of the Albanian soul for this novel, as with his others, is about the very nature of being Albanian, the national feeling – conscious or unconscious. As Kadare has shown us time and again, there is something unique about the Albanians that sets them apart from other Europeans, something that goes back to their past and which, in Kadare’s view, must continue into their future. That is what brings Doruntine back.

Publishing history

First published 1980 by Naim Frasheri, Tirana
First published in English 1995 by Saqi Books, London, New Amsterdam, New York