The Country Where No One Ever Dies

Ornela Vorpsi, Author, Robert Elsie, Translator, Janice Mathie-Heck, Translator , trans. from the Italian by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck. Dalkey Archive $12.95 (109p) ISBN 978-1-56478-568-8

This slender sendup of life in rural Albania under the Communist regime offers a hilarious look into a simple, uneducated people's mores and passionate natures. Narrated by a girl who lives with her beautiful, unhappy mother while her father is imprisoned for absurd “political” reasons, the punchy vignettes treat aspects of village life that center on a sunny lassitude and a preoccupation with ensuring a girl preserves her “immaculate flower”; the local school, where the narrator is punished by her zealous Communist teacher; the sad fates of neighbors; and the narrator's uneasy relationship with her absent father, whom she recalls as brutal and a slobbering kisser (“Why did I bother giving you life if I can't even give you a kiss?”). Books offer her the prospect of escape, and our intrepid protagonist procures them by offering a venal elementary school teacher her mother's jewelry in exchange for access to “the great stockpile of dreams.” Vorpsi cleverly melds old wives' tales, a child's naïveté and sharp-edged irony for a not-so-gentle skewering of her homeland. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/21/2009
Release date: 11/01/2009
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