by Fatos Lubonja, translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson
Winner of the PEN PROMOTES Award
With a foreword by the Guardian/Huffington Post journalist and author, Andrew Gumbel
This unique and disturbing work concerns the events of 1997, a tragic year in the history of post-communist Albania. After the world’s most isolated country emerged from Stalinist dictatorship and opened to capitalism, many people fell prey to fraudsters who invited them to invest in so-called ‘pyramid schemes’. At the start of 1997, these pyramids crumbled one after another causing wide-spread demonstrations and protests. The conflict became increasingly violent, leading to the collapse of the state and of the country’s institutions. Prisons were opened, crowds stormed arms depots, and the country was abandoned to anarchy and gang rule.
Lubonja has chosen to tell this incredible story through a narrative technique that operates on two levels: a third-person narrator, who describes the large-scale events that made international headlines, and the narrative of Fatos Qorri, the author’s alter ego, who describes his own dramatic experiences in a personal diary. The book begins with the synopsis of a novel entitled “The Sugar Boat” that Fatos Qorri intends to write about the spread of a small pyramid scheme luring people to invest supposedly in a sugar business. However, as the major pyramids collapse, real events overtake anything he has imagined and Fatos Qorri finds himself in the midst of a real-life tragedy.
Lubonja’s telling of the events are gripping, and we learn that below any surface visible to outsiders, there was an intelligentsia, silenced by covert violence. If only their voice could have been heard and supported, how very different Albania would be today.
Antonia Young, Cental & Eastern European Review
''The cinematic effect of Lubonja's description is enhanced by his narrative deivces... In setting himself the task of exposing vested interests and corruption, Fatos Lubonja show's that Albania still needs people of his intellectual and moral calibre.''
Morelle Smith, Times Literary Supplement
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