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  • Published: 28 October 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141995113
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

Free

Coming of Age at the End of History




An unforgettable coming of age story exploring the meaning of freedom - personal, collective, political - from an extraordinary new voice

Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope.

Then, in December 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, everything changed. The statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled. Almost overnight, people could vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished. There was no longer anything to fear from prying ears. But factories shut, jobs disappeared and thousands fled to Italy on crowded ships, only to be sent back. Predatory pyramid schemes eventually bankrupted the country, leading to violent conflict. As one generation's aspirations became another's disillusionment, and as her own family's secrets were revealed, Lea found herself questioning what freedom really meant.

Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.

  • Published: 28 October 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141995113
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

Praise for Free

A lyrical memoir, of deep and affecting power, of the sweet smell of humanity mingled with flesh, blood and hope

Philippe Sands, author of East West Street

A new classic that bursts out of the global silence of Albania to tell us human truths about the politics of the past hundred years. . . It unfolds with revelation after revelation - both familial and national - as if written by a master novelist. As if it were, say, a novella by Tolstoy. That this very serious book is so much fun to read is a compliment to its graceful, witty, honest writer. A literary triumph

Amy Wilentz, author of Farewell, Fred Voodoo

A probing personal history, poignant and moving. A young life unfolding amidst great historical change - ideology, war, loss, uncertainty. This is history brought memorably and powerfully to life

Tara Westover, author of Educated

Lea Ypi has a wonderful gift for showing and not telling. In Free she demonstrates with humour, humanity and a sometimes painful honesty, how political communities without human rights will always end in cruelty. True freedom must be from both oppression and neglect

Shami Chakrabarti

Lea Ypi is a pathbreaking philosopher who is also becoming one of the most important public thinkers of our time. Here she draws on her unique historical experience to shed new light on the questions of freedom that matter to all of us. This extraordinary book is both personally moving and politically revolutionary. If we take its lessons to heart, it can help to set us free

Martin Hägglund, author of This Life

Remarkable and highly original . . . Both an affecting coming-of-age story and a first-hand meditation on the politics of freedom

Caroline Sanderson, Editor's Choice, Bookseller

Free is astonishing. Lea Ypi has a natural gift for storytelling. It brims with life, warmth, and texture, as well as her keen intelligence. A gripping, often hilarious, poignant, psychologically acute masterpiece and the best book I've read so far this year

Olivia Sudjic, author of Asylum Road

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, author of The Light that Failed

A young girl grows up in a repressive Communist state, where public certainties are happily accepted and private truths are hidden; as that world falls away, she has to make her own sense of life, based on conflicting advice, fragments of information and, above all, her own stubborn curiosity. Thought-provoking, deliciously funny, poignant, sharply observed and beautifully written, this is a childhood memoir like very few others -- a really marvellous book

Noel Malcolm, author of Agents of Empire

I haven't in many years read a memoir from this part of the world as warmly inviting as this one. Written by an intellectual with story-telling gifts, Free makes life on the ground in Albania vivid and immediate

Vivian Gornick, author of Unfinished Business

Illuminating and subversive, Free asks us to consider what happens to our ideals when they come into contact with imperfect places and people and what can be salvaged from the wreckage of the past

Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran

Lea Ypi's teenage journey through the endtimes of Albanian communism tells a universal story: ours is an age of collapsed illusions for many generations. Written by one of Europe's foremost left-wing thinkers, this is an unmissable book for anyone engaged in the politics of resistance

Paul Mason, author of Postcapitalism

This extraordinary coming-of-age story is like an Albanian Educated but it is so much more than that. It beautifully brings together the personal and the political to create an unforgettable account of oppression, freedom and what it means to acquire knowledge about the world. Funny, moving but also deadly serious, this book will be read for years to come

David Runciman, author of How Democracy Ends

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