On July 20 at 7 PM ET, join us for a pre-recorded book talk with Finnish-Kosovan author Pajtim Statovci (National Book Award finalist, Crossing) on his new novel Bolla. With moderator Bethanne Patrick, he’ll discuss the writing of the novel, available on July 6 in translation by David Hackston from Pantheon.
An unlikely love story in Kosovo with unpredictable consequences that reverberates throughout a young man’s life, Bolla is a dazzling tale full of fury, tenderness, longing, and lust. In April 1995, Arsim is a 24-year-old, recently married student at the University of Pristina, 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 — 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 book talk will take place as a Virtual Premiere on this page at 7 PM ET on July 20 via YouTube and Facebook, and remain available to stream here through July 25.
“Engrossing . . . Statovci lets little sunlight into the narrative, the better to emphasize just how powerful homophobia and self-loathing can be . . . An unflinching consideration of the long aftereffects of an affair cut short”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Pajtim Statovci was born in Kosovo to Albanian parents in 1990. His family fled the Yugoslav wars and moved to Finland when he was two years old. He holds an MA in comparative literature and is a PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki.
His first book, My Cat Yugoslavia, won the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for best debut novel; his second novel, Crossing, was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Bolla was awarded Finland’s highest literary honor, The Finlandia Prize. In 2018, he received the Helsinki Writer of the Year Award.
About the Moderator
Bethanne Patrick is a writer and book critic whose work appears frequently in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and many others. She features literature in translation in her LitHub column “Books You May Have Missed” and is a board member of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and at 1455 Literary Arts.
Patrick, who has visited and loves Helsinki, also belongs to the Finnish Embassy’s Platinum Diplomatic Sauna Society as well as its new Diplomatic Sauva Society. Her book, LIFE B, will be published in 2022. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @TheBookMaven