NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
From the acclaimed author of My Cat Yugoslavia: a stunning, incandescent new novel that speaks to identity, war, exile, love, betrayal, and heartbreak
The death of head of state Enver Hoxha and the loss of his father leave Bujar growing up in the ruins of Communist Albania and of his own family. Only his fearless best friend, Agim—who is facing his own realizations about his gender and sexuality—gives him hope for the future. Together the two decide to leave everything behind and try their luck in Italy. But the struggle to feel at home—in a foreign country and even in one's own body—will have corrosive effects, spurring a dangerous search for new identities.
Steeped in a rich heritage of bewitching Albanian myth and legend, this is a deeply timely and deeply necessary novel about the broken reality for millions worldwide, about identity in all its complex permutations, and the human need to be seen.
Two young Albanian men yearn to escape their fractured country in this disorienting but affecting novel from Statovci (My Cat Yugoslavia). Fourteen-year-old Bujar struggles to cope with his father's death in 1990, just as Albania lurches toward capitalism in the aftermath of communist leader Enver Hoxha's death. With his mother incapacitated by grief, Bujar and his best friend Agim, who is tentatively exploring his gender identity, decide to earn money any way possible in order to fund their dream of seeking asylum in Western Europe. They sell stolen cigarettes in the capital, Tirana, and then tourist trinkets in the port of Durr s. Their story of escape blends with the Albanian myths Bujar's father told and appears in between stories about the dizzyingly fabricated identities one of them takes on during a series of moves to Italy, Germany, Spain, and the United States. A final move to Finland in 2003 sets the stage for the deep betrayal of a new love interest and the shocking conclusion that explains why the two boys are no longer together. The matter-of-fact depiction of numerous traumas intensifies the impact. Statovci memorably portrays the struggles and dislocations of his complicated characters.