Synopses & Reviews
For precocious 11-year-old Lea Ypi, Albania's Soviet-style socialism held the promise of a preordained future, a guarantee of security among enthusiastic comrades. That is, until she found herself clinging to a stone statue of Joseph Stalin, newly beheaded by student protests.
Communism had failed to deliver the promised utopia. One's "biography" — class status and other associations long in the past — put strict boundaries around one's individual future. When Lea's parents spoke of relatives going to "university" or "graduating," they were speaking of grave secrets Lea struggled to unveil. And when the early '90s saw Albania and other Balkan countries exuberantly begin a transition to the "free market," Western ideals of freedom delivered chaos: a dystopia of pyramid schemes, organized crime, and sex trafficking.
With her elegant, intellectual, French-speaking grandmother; her radical-chic father; and her staunchly anti-socialist, Thatcherite mother to guide her through these disorienting times, Lea had a political education of the most colorful sort — here recounted with outstanding literary talent. Now one of the world's most dynamic young political thinkers and a prominent leftist voice in the United Kingdom, Lea offers a fresh and invigorating perspective on the relation between the personal and the political, between values and identity, posing urgent questions about the cost of freedom.
"Written by an intellectual with storytelling gifts, Free makes life on the ground in modern-day Albania vivid and immediate." Vivian Gornick, author of The Odd Woman and the City
"The author's narrative voice is stunning, expertly balancing humor, pathos, and deep affection for the characters and places that defined her past. She is adept at immersing readers in her childhood experiences of unquestioned loyalty to 'The Party' while also maintaining a tongue-in-cheek, critical distance from what she now recognizes as a tyrannical regime." Kirkus Reviews
"Free is one of those very rare books that shows how history shapes people's lives and their politics. Lea Ypi is such a brilliant, powerful writer that her story becomes your story." Ivan Krastev, coauthor of The Light That Failed
"A lyrical memoir, of deep and affecting power, of the sweet smell of humanity mingled with flesh, blood, and hope." Philippe Sands, author of The Ratline
"This extraordinary coming-of-age story is like an Albanian Educated, but it is so much more than that." David Runciman, author of How Democracy Ends
About the Author
Lea Ypi is professor of political theory at London School of Economics, and adjunct associate professor of philosophy at the Australian National University, with expertise in Marxism and critical theory. She lives and works in London.