Reviews of Bolla by Pajtim Statovci

Bolla

by Pajtim Statovci

Bolla by Pajtim   Statovci X
Bolla by Pajtim   Statovci
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2021, 240 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2022, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of Crossing - a National Book Award finalist - comes a dazzling tale full of fury, tenderness, longing, and lust.

April 1995. Arsim is a twenty-two-year-old, recently married student at the University of Pristina, in Kosovo, keeping his head down to gain a university degree in a time and place deeply hostile to Albanians. In a café he meets a young man named Miloš, a Serb. Before the day is out, everything has changed for both of them, and within a week two milestones erupt in Arsim's married life: his wife announces her first pregnancy and he begins a life in secret.

After these fevered beginnings, Arsim and Miloš's unlikely affair is derailed by the outbreak of war, which sends Arsim's fledgling family abroad and timid Miloš spiraling down a dark path, as depicted through chaotic journal entries. Years later, deported back to Pristina after a spell in prison and now alone and hopeless, Arsim finds himself in a broken reality that makes him completely question his past. What happened to him, to them, exactly? How much can you endure, and forgive?

Entwined with their story is a re-created legend of a demonic serpent, Bolla; it's an unearthly tale that gives Arsim and Miloš a language through which to reflect on what they once had. With luminous prose and a delicate eye, Pajtim Statovci delivers a relentless novel of desire, destruction, intimacy, and the different fronts of war.

The Girl and It

For almost a year it hasn't felt sunlight on its skin, only the cold walls of its cave, which it scratches and gnaws incessantly, nervous and restless, its claws and teeth ground and blunt; it cannot distinguish night from day, sleep from wake, its wings from the pitch darkness, or its calloused body from the stones and boulders with which from force of habit it exchanges pleasantries.

They tell its story in grim tales that frighten little children. Finish your dinner, it loves leftovers, they say, it will think you are its friend, and while you are asleep it will steal in like a breeze through the window or rise up like steam through the floorboards, so slowly that you won't even notice, it will climb into your bed and quietly lie down next to you, then it will press its forked tongue in through your nostrils, your mouth, and your ears and out through your eyes, and with that you will die and won't live to see the following morning. Don't talk back to your parents, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

One of the novel's greatest strengths is the complexity of its characters. Though both men are capable of much tenderness and generosity when together, Statovci is not afraid to show their darker sides. It's a testament to the subtlety and realism of Statovci's style that despite the characters' undeniable flaws and inexcusable actions, we still find ourselves rooting for them to ultimately find happiness. The prose itself is gorgeous throughout; full of rich metaphors and seamlessly translated into English by David Hackston...continued

Full Review (598 words).

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(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Superb ... Bolla is a splendid achievement and Statovci a major talent.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Two men fall for each other in the wrong place at the wrong time in this bleak tale of love and war...An unflinching consideration of the long after-effects of an affair cut short.

Library Journal (starred review)
Winner of the Finlandia Prize, this novel by the Kosovo-born Finnish author Statovci vividly describes the devastating effects of war. A harrowing and breathtaking book about abandonment, cruelty, and desire.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Astounding writing distinguishes this portrait of love, loss, and war...It's an eloquent story of desire and displacement, a melancholy symphony in a heartbreaking minor key. Statovci is a master.

Author Blurb Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased
Bolla is a haunting, lyrical meditation on loss that manages, through the alchemy of Statovci's impeccable writing, to be a surprisingly hopeful book. There is also in these pages a deeply humane lens which asks the reader to understand and identify with the mistakes we often make as flawed humans. I loved this book for its deep, burning wisdom, and will return to it again and again.

Reader Reviews

Suraj

The boldness of Bolla
Two men fall for each other in the wrong place at the wrong time in this bleak tale of love and war. The third novel by the Kosovo-born Finnish novelist Statovci is structured around the alternating narratives of Arsim, a closeted gay man and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Bolla in Albanian Folklore

Gold-plated icon featuring St. George on horseback slaying dragon with a spearPajtim Statovci's novel Bolla takes its name from a creature in Albanian folklore. The narrative is interspersed with a reimagined version of this feared monster's origins, with thematic parallels to his characters' lives that enhance the emotional impact of their story while commenting on the importance of storytelling as a means of navigating our lived experiences.

The Bolla's story is one of metamorphosis, isolation and fear. It is usually said to begin its life rather unassumingly as a snake. If, however, this snake goes unseen by human eyes for many years, it will transform into a Bolla — a reclusive, dragon-like creature cursed by St. George to remain blind and hidden away from society for much of the year. This is likely the...

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