cover image Biografi: A Traveler's Tale

Biografi: A Traveler's Tale

Lloyd Jones / Author, Bertrand Piccard / Author, Diaz Criss Jones / Auth

In prose clear as window glass, sharp-eyed New Zealand novelist Jones (Splinter) recounts his journey through Albania in 1991, just as the poor, isolated country stumbles into a chaotic, post-communist future. Biografi (the title comes from the word for the security dossiers kept by the secret police on each citizen) is equal parts travelogue, political reportage and mystery: the author's search for Petar Shapallo, a dentist whose face had been surgically altered so he could serve as a double for the Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, gives the book its considerable narrative thrust. Deftly, Jones etches memorable images of the country and its people: ``The notion of clouds gives way to layers of hill; their tops are darkly pencilled and fold back on one another''; a ``pale and thin'' man, fueled by his volatile convictions; the official ``state farms''-in reality desolate exile camps-dotting what was once the food bowl of Albania. Never intrusive, always curious, Jones is the perfect conduit for stories that are by turns horrifying and comic, tragic and heroic, each depicting yet another life stunted by repression. Biografi is a gem: sympathetic and informed, as enlightening as it is entertaining. First serial to Grand Street; QPB selection. (Oct.)