In spite of what the title may lead us to believe, The Siege is an average-length novel which, while the Ottoman Turks in the story persist in their assault on a Christian fort, insinuates itself into our imagination with skilful ease. Without drawing heavily on dreary details of life during a siege (from the point of view of the attackers), Ismail Kadare presents a colourful weave of military and social life that carpets the terrain surrounding the enemy walls.
What I appreciated most about this book was that until almost the final page the outcome of the battle remained a question mark. Will they take the fort, won’t they take the fort, played a teasing game in my mind. There was absolutely no way for me to pre-read the end result by how or what the author had written earlier. As an aside, what I learnt from this story is that the Maltese expression, “Qisek il-paxa” (“You are like the Pasha), used to describe a person’s comfortable lifestyle, can be somewhat off the mark.