From the author of National Book Award finalist Crossing comes an unlikely love story in Kosovo with unpredictable consequences that reverberates throughout a young man's life - a dazzling tale full of fury, tenderness, longing, and lust.
April 1995. Arsim is a 24-year-old, recently married student at the University of Pristina, in Kosovo, 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 recreated legend of a demonic serpent, Bolla; it’s 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.
“Superb...Bolla is a splendid achievement and Statovci a major talent.” (Steve Heighton, The New York Times Book Review)
“Devastating...Statovci considers the horrors of the Balkan conflicts as he recounts the lovers’ diverging paths in a story of loss and thwarted opportunities.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“Pajtim Statovci’s Bolla abounds with harrowing situations, from its narrator’s struggles with a homophobic and repressive society to the longstanding effects of conflict in the Balkans at the end of the twentieth century. The incorporation of mythic elements contrasts with the specificity of the main plotline, but neither aspect of this novel winds up where you expect it to.” (Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders)