His story, as Bujar tells it, is unique -- an examination of the search for a home and gender identification, transcending borders. Starting in Albania and wending his way through, among others, Italy USA and Finland, it is almost a tryptik examination of various national attitudes toward Bujar and his gender fluidity. Some is devastating and some humorous, but for the most part, harrowing, and Bujar is not always sympathetic which makes it even more interesting. Sprinkled throughout are fables and tales of the supernatural, casting a mythic dust over Bujar's quest. The writing at times falls a bit flat, but that may be due to the fact that it has been translated from Finnish, a notoriously difficult language to reconcile.
I've never read a book like this. It's a beautiful, painful look at queer and trans love and living life as a refugee in the often indifferent EU. I read it in a weekend and clutched it to my heart when I finished.
I read this book after seeing a review in the New Yorker by Garth Greenwell. The review also discusses Statovci's first novel, 'My Cat Yugoslavia'. This novel may be partly auto-biographical but whether it is or not, it is a story about states of mind, how the author's mind is first formed by fables and stories of valor, honor and national pride in Albania, and than after his father's death, the dissolution of Albania. Bujar, the narrator, leaves his mother and homeland with his friend Agim, to try to go to Italy. Now he is like human rubbish, more or less, like gypsies, African migrants, and all his notions of himself as someone who was intelligent, as someone who had some special qualities and something to give the world, are flipped over. He assumes a fluid identity as he crosses borders, becoming whatever it is others seem to want him to be, including female. In the end, it seems only people who already believe that they are worthy will fight for 'rights'. Bujar loses his hope or sense of self while living in the (self-described) civilized world of Western Europe. The style is beautiful and poignant at times. It was written in Finnish and translated into English (Statovci went to Finland with his family when he was two).