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Bolla by Pajtim Statovci review – illicit love in the shadow of war

A man flees the Kosovan war in this perceptive study of passion and terror Few authors today write about fear as vividly as Kosovan-born Pajtim Statovci. For Arsim, the Albanian protagonist in Statovci’s latest novel Bolla (translated by David Hackston), fear is not a passing impulse in his nervous system but its very substance. There are two types of people, Arsim suggests: “People who don’t need to fear anything and people who ought to fear everything.” He is one of the latter. “That’s how fear works,” he adds, “it arrives all at once, and it is indivisible.” Arsim’s fear could be attributed to environmental factors. It is 1995, and war is on the verge of breaking out in Pristina, Kosovo, where he lives with his devoted wife Ajshe, whom he doesn’t love. To make matters worse, he is a father-to-be, a future that fills him with dread. He embarks on a love affair with Miloš, which is doubly illicit, not only because he’s a man, but also because he’s a Serb. “We always exit the apartment at different times: once we’ve made sure, one ear against the door, that there’s nobody in the corridor.” Continue reading...

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