Statovci is himself a former refugee, delivered to Finland as a toddler by his Kosovan mother and father. The protagonist of his excellent third novel, “Bolla,” is an aspiring author and younger husband who, shortly earlier than the outbreak of battle in Kosovo, begins an affair with a person, a Serbian medical scholar named Milos. Since Kosovo is deeply conservative and Arsim “an Albanian in a world run by Serbs,” it is a doubly forbidden love.
Statovci, in Hackston’s eloquent translation, evokes the affair with delicacy and precision. In one scene, Milos, finding out, asks Arsim to lie on the ground so he can discover his chest with “chilly, metallic fingers at the exact point where he would make an incision in a coronary bypass operation.” Likewise, Statovci nails Arsim’s marriage to the tenacious, in the end indomitable Ajshe, who practices a kind of conjugal aikido, calmly absorbing and assimilating transgressions that should estrange her, and are supposed to.
Forced to flee Kosovo, Arsim and his younger household discover refuge in an unnamed “city of millions” the place they reside in a high-rise amongst “identical-looking buildings” and Arsim works in a nondescript manufacturing facility. The unspecific, spectral nature of this existence is apt; in his coronary heart, Arsim nonetheless inhabits Kosovo and mourns Milos.
Italicized passages punctuating the primary story point out Milos has not forgotten Arsim both. But these are the febrile ruminations of a person destroyed by atrocities each dedicated and sustained: “How quickly the mind can crack, how suddenly evil can take the place of good, and how easy killing is then.”
When Arsim is arrested after a web based hookup gone incorrect, then declines to defend himself, we sense he’s hoping for deportation, each to flee his marriage and to seek out Milos. In the chapters that comply with, shock follows shock; none feels willed or fanciful however relatively obtained, as if Statovci is not the story’s writer however its amanuensis. An occasional surfeit of similes is the prose’s one minor flaw. “Bolla” is a splendid achievement and Statovci a serious expertise.