My Cat Yugoslavia
In 1980s Yugoslavia, a young Muslim girl is married off to a man she hardly knows, but what was meant to be a happy match quickly goes shockingly wrong. Soon thereafter her country is torn apart by war and she and her family flee.Years later, her son, Bekim, grows up a social outcast in present-day Finland, not just an immigrant in a country suspicious of foreigners, but a gay man in an unaccepting society. Aside from casual hookups, his only friend is a boa constrictor whom, improbably - he is terrified of snakes - he lets roam his apartment. Then, during a visit to a gay bar, Bekim meets a talking cat who moves in with him and his snake. It is this witty, charming, manipulative creature who starts Bekim on a journey back to Kosovo to confront his demons and make sense of the magical, cruel, incredible history of his family. And it is this that, in turn, enables him finally, to open himself to true love - which he will find in the most unexpected place.
A strange, haunting, and utterly original exploration of displacement and desire ... a marvel, a remarkable achievement, and a world apart from anything you are likely to read this year. -- Tea Obreht The New York Times Book Review This dark debut has a daring, irrepressible spirit The Atlantic [A] compelling and altogether beautiful debut novel... Inventive and playful... At a time when there is a shortage of empathy for refugees both here and in Europe, Statovci's queer perspective on the search of rootedness in My Cat Yugoslavia is wonderful and original - and much welcome, too Slate Spry and warm ... Statovci's surreal, arresting novel suggests that ... love and identity have many reflections, many destinies, many languages. Sometimes, a broken mirror reflects something truer-as does the kind of love, drawn from the deepest sunken places, that tries to put it back together. New Yorker An elegant, allegorical portrait of lives lived at the margin, minorities within minorities in a new land... [My Cat Yugoslavia] a fine debut, layered with meaning and shades of sorrow Kirkus Reviews (starred review) Compelling ... [an] important exploration of the aftershocks of war. Publishers Weekly Powerful... Dramatic... Statovci is a tremendous talent. This debut novel - a deserved winner of the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for Best First Novel in 2014 - has an intensity and power that demands a second reading. Library Journal (starred review) It is so beautifully written & observer - so so perfect Jeff VanderMeer (Twitter) Anyone who writes as naturally and powerfully as Statovci surely has models, but they're not apparent in My Cat Yugoslavia, and he's one of those rare performers in language who puts you out of mind of all others while you're reading his charged, bounding prose... [A] remarkable book The Bay Area Reporter This beautiful novel is about a great many things ... Pajtim Statovci is a writer of brilliant originality and power, and his debut novel conveys as few books can what life feels like now. -- Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You A gripping and ambitious novel ... explores refreshing literary paths, and Pajtim Statovci is a voice to remember. Elle, France After this superb debut it's safe to say: this is a literary voice to follow -- Sofi Oksanen My Cat Yugoslavia operates on so many levels. It completely enraptures me. The boldness of its structure, prose, wisdom and sorrow. ... It is brutal, painful, and utterly topical. Sveriges Radio, Sweden An utterly brilliant debut ... This little gem truly does have everything. Intelligence, warmth, love and pain woven together into an elegantly composed novel about solitude, pets, and the tragic fate of the Kosovo Albanians during the Balkan war in the nineties. Sydsvenskan, Sweden I cannot but heap praise upon Statovci's debut novel. It is entertaining, engaging and ingenious. Ystads Allehanda, Sweden Poignant and sorrowful, sometimes harrowing, while in a strange way also entertaining, almost carefree. Above all it feels real, true. It captures a feeling which I imagine many migrants and refugees can identify with - and that the rest of us can actually understand too. Goteborgs-Posten, Sweden A multifaceted tale of migration, love, family and - let's just call it "animal husbandry". An impressive novel by a 24-year-old debutant. Tidningen Kulturen, Sweden An insanely great debut in all its rattling, imaginative chaos ... a terrifically openhearted, wild and gentle tale of what the hell it means to fit in in an average Nordic "lottery country" when you're neither very average nor lucky in lotteries. It's written with a young, vibrantly hot hand. Politiken, Denmark Fascinating and heartbreaking. The young debutant Pajtim Statovci, who himself came to Finland as a two-year-old, addresses the material of which alluring human fates are woven. The detail is impressive; one is truly caught and wants to follow Emine till the end. ... My Cat Yugoslavia cuts quickly between Emine and Bekim's stories. Both are well-told, both fascinate, and both engage. Jyllands-Posten, Denmark A dark, Finnish sensation. ... Rarely have I read such a dark novel simultaneously characterized by playfulness and hope. If in the future Statovci is to follow in Sofi Oksanen's steps when it comes to portraying the challenges of being bicultural in Finland, then his humor and inventiveness are surely his strongest assets. Dagsavisen, Norway A lion of a writer. ... Pajtim Statovci's first novel will be remembered. We can expect great things from him. Helsingin Sanomat, Finland Pajtim Statovci's debut novel is the most breathtaking reading experience I've had in years! My Cat Yugoslavia draws you in instantly and offers a reading adventure in which the fate of individual and ethnic group, along with friendship, love, fear, extended family and immediate family, and the turmoils through history of both a single person and a whole country, are all inextricably intertwined. Hameen Sanomat, Finland Beyond the success and international resonance of his debut novel, Statovci inspires conversation with his boldness...With a sensual realism imbued with fantastical elements and popular tradition, Statovci confronts the fundamental themes of the bildungsroman. Il Venerdi di Repubblica, Italy Take one part Bulgakov, one part Kafka, one part Proust, and one part Murakami; shake and pour over an icy wit; and you have the devastatingly tart My Cat Yugoslavia. This book is a rallying cry for breaking conventions of structure and characterization, and it marks the debut of an irresistible new talent. I cannot wait to see what Pajtim Statovci does next. -- Rakesh Satyal, author of Blue Boy and No One Can Pronounce My Name
Pajtim Statovci (b. 1990) moved from Kosovo to Finland with his family when he was two years old. My Cat Yugoslavia, his debut novel, was first published in Finland in 2014 to widespread critical acclaim and won the Helsingin Sanomat Prize for 'Best Debut'. His second novel Heart of Tirana won the Toisinkoinen Prize in 2016. He studies comparative literature at the University of Helsinki, and screenwriting at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.