The Country Where No One Ever Dies by Ornela Vorpsi (tr. Robert Elsie & Janice Mathie-Heck)

a nutshell: alternating between the hilarious and the harrowing, a girl shares fragments of what it was to grow up in Albania’s crumbling communist regime

a line: “He wasn’t a political prisoner, though – just a common criminal – and so posed no danger to society”

an image: the girl’s recollection of discovering mortality, realising with devastation that her mother was vulnerable – just flesh & blood, strikes a tender note in an otherwise fairly loveless landscape

a thought: many disturbing scenes are conveyed here via a child’s-eye-view, but acutely unnerving for me was the youthful acceptance of adults’ sexualisation of kids

a fact: the girl’s family repeatedly refer to her as Mata Hari, who I hadn’t previously heard of – a Dutch dancer convicted of spying for Germany during WWI


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