Bolla is 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 twenty-four-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 re-created 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.
“Bolla is a haunting, lyrical meditation on loss that manages, through the alchemy of Statovci’s impeccable writing, to be a surprisingly hopeful book. There is also in these pages a deeply humane lens which asks the reader to understand and identify with the mistakes we often make as flawed humans. I loved this book for its deep, burning wisdom, and will return to it again and again.” —Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased
“Astounding writing distinguishes this portrait of love, loss, and war. . . . [Bolla is] an eloquent story of desire and displacement, a melancholy symphony in a heartbreaking minor key. Statovci is a master.” —Publishers Weekly, (starred review)
“Engrossing. . . . Statovci lets little sunlight into the narrative, the better to emphasize just how powerful homophobia and self-loathing can be. . . . An unflinching consideration of the long aftereffects of an affair cut short.” —Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)