Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History

Norton. Jan. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9780393867732. $27.95. MEMOIR
Ypi (political theory, London Sch. of Economics; Architectonic of Reason) draws on her academic work for this memoir, which was originally intended to examine overlapping ideas of freedom in liberal and socialist traditions. As she wrote the book, however, the work transformed into one about people and how they are affected by changes in political systems and beliefs—all grounded by Ypi’s personal history and her childhood in a repressive regime in Albania. After the 1985 death of Labor Party Secretary Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania for 40 years, Ypi discovered that her parents had been hiding the truth about the regime from her. “Uncle Enver,” as he was known to Albanians, was feared, not worshipped; relatives of Ypi’s who were said to be at university were actually in prison, and their supposed teachers were actually their jailers and torturers. As Albania spiraled toward civil war, Ypi’s world became filled with unrest. The memoir ends with Ypi, as a young woman, leaving to study in the United States. “I never returned,” she writes.
VERDICT This astonishing memoir is a lively and subtle reflection on the relation between personal and political, in a world where neither old nor new fit without personal loss. Ypi’s writing sets itself apart.
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