Elegy for Kosovo

Elegy for Kosovo by Ismaíl Kadaré Read Free Book Online

Book: Elegy for Kosovo by Ismaíl Kadaré Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ismaíl Kadaré
time now there had been talk of a new crusade being summoned against the Turk. All the Christian states were to rally together. The pope of Rome himself was to head the crusade.
    The fugitives rejoiced at these words. The farther north they went the higher the cathedrals and the towers of the castles became. Black iron crosses dominated the skies. One stifling night, two solitary lightning bolts, instead of sending shivers through the crosses as one would expect, seemed to turn in terror and dash away.
    God be praised — Christianity was still mighty in all its lands. The Balkans had been defeated on the continent’s borders, but here, in its heart, things were quite different. The fugitives were soothed by the city gates and walled towers, the princely titles and emblems and coats of arms, and the Latin inscriptions in the bronze and marble of the churches.
    While the fugitives were awaiting permission to enter one of the somber little cities (at times their very lack of size seemed to make them all the more dismal), guards came and dragged Ibrahim the Turk away and clapped him in irons.
    At first they were not particularly worried. They had often run into trouble on account of the Turk. But this time things looked bad. All the explanations about how he had deserted his own army and how he had two faiths were of no avail. Quite the opposite. Every time his two faiths were mentioned, the guards’ eyes flashed with scorn. In the end, the Balkan fugitives were told that they were wasting their time: the Turk would be submitted to a secret investigation by the Holy Inquisition.
    â€œIf he is innocent,” they told each other, “then he will be set free like all the other innocents, but he might well be a spy, and we in our foolishness may have been gullible.” Others recalled that it was not the Holy Inquisition that dealt with spies but the town court. “If you ask me, I never really liked this business of his two faiths,” one of the Walachians said. “A man cannot have two faiths, just as no creature of God can have two heads. There might be two-headed vipers, but no two-headed men.“
    The trial that began two weeks later confirmed what the Walachian had said. It was his double faith, even his triple faith — brought to light under torture — that cost the Turk his neck. During the trial, he asserted that he had wanted to become a Christian upon seeing the cross above the Plains of Kosovo. But the Islamic faith was not prepared to leave his body without a struggle, which was why he continued praying to his prophet. “And why are you drawn to the Jewish faith? Are not the other two enough for you, eh?” the judge yelled.
    A faint murmur rose from the crowd.
    The Turk tried to explain that he had only listened to Heiml the Jew out of curiosity, but the crowd was already growing wild.
    He was to be burned at the stake, for it was certain that he had entered into a pact with the devil. “Had he kept to his Muslim belief, he would have remained unscathed,” the judge pronounced. “And had he converted to our faith, we would have welcomed him with open arms, like a brother. But he did neither the one nor the other,” the judge continued. “He has attempted to do the impossible, to waver between two faiths, doubtless following the devil’s counsel.”
    The judge spoke at length of the holy and immutable principles of the church. The antichrist was attacking from all sides, but the church was unshakable. The creation of men of two faiths was only the most recent of Satan’s inventions.
    The judge glared menacingly at the small group of Balkan men who were huddling together like sheep, and spoke harsh words of warning to those who undertook to turn Europe’s Christian traditions into pagan infamy.
    The Turk was burned in front of the cathedral the following day at noon. As the smoke began to envelope the convicted man, the others remembered the

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