Day 19: The Country Where No One Ever Dies

Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.

From Albania, The Country Where No One Ever Dies by Ornela Vorpsi (tr. Robert Elsie & Janice Mathie-Heck) is a totally unique, short novel which will both make you laugh and grimace.


a nutshell: alternating between the hilarious and the harrowing, a girl shares fragments of what it was to grow up in Albania’s crumbling communist regime

a line: “He wasn’t a political prisoner, though – just a common criminal – and so posed no danger to society”

an image: the girl’s recollection of discovering mortality, realising with devastation that her mother was vulnerable – just flesh & blood, strikes a tender note in an otherwise fairly loveless landscape

a thought: many disturbing scenes are conveyed here via a child’s-eye-view, but acutely unnerving for me was the youthful acceptance of adults’ sexualisation of kids

a fact: the girl’s family repeatedly refer to her as Mata Hari, who I hadn’t previously heard of – a Dutch dancer convicted of spying for Germany during WWI

want to read The Country Where No One Ever Dies? visit here

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