Winner of the Finlandia Prize, this novel by the author of Crossing takes place in Kosovo, where Arsim, an Albanian university student, and Milos, a Serb, begin a torrid affair that is interrupted by the outbreak of the 1998 war. Entwined with their story is a re-created legend of a demonic serpent, Bolla, an unearthly tale that gives Arsim and Milos a language through which to reflect on what they once had.
... superb ... Statovci, in Hackston’s eloquent translation, evokes the affair with delicacy and precision ... Likewise, Statovci nails Arsim’s marriage to the tenacious, ultimately indomitable Ajshe, who practices a sort of conjugal aikido, calmly absorbing and assimilating transgressions that ought to estrange her, and are meant to ... surprise follows surprise; none feels willed or fanciful but rather received, as if Statovci is no longer the story’s author but its amanuensis. An occasional surfeit of similes is the prose’s one minor flaw. Bolla is a splendid achievement and Statovci a major talent.
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.
Miloš’ chapters are briefer and more impressionistic, suffused with horrific memories of war’s carnage ... Arsim’s chapters are more straightforward ... Statovci lets little sunlight into the narrative, the better to emphasize just how powerful homophobia and self-loathing can be, and Arsim is deeply unlikable ... But he comes undone in engrossing and complicated ways. Indeed, he’s so well drawn that Miloš’ portion of the narrative, however graceful, feels disproportionately thin. From either perspective, though, the mood is profoundly sorrowful. An unflinching consideration of the long aftereffects of an affair cut short.