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Born in Durres, Albania, Elvira Dones is a novelist, screenwriter and documentary film-maker currently based in the US. After seven novels in Albanian, she wrote the two most recent in Italian, her adopted language: Vergine giurata (Sworn Virgin, 2007), and Piccola guerra perfetta (Small Perfect War, 2010) about the Kosovo war. In her prize-winning documentary on the phenomenon of 'sworn virgins' in Albania, Dones interviews twelve survivors of the tradition, one of whom has recently emigrated to the US, like Hana in the novel. A film of the book is due out in 2014. Clarissa Botsford studied Italian at Cambridge and Comparative Education in London before moving to Rome, Italy. She has worked in the fields of teaching, intercultural education and publishing and is also a musician. She currently teaches English and Translation Studies at Rome University and translates contemporary Italian fiction and poetry.
Author photo © Elvira Dones
A provocative, engaging and absolutely fascinating novel about one woman’s decision to move from a struggling post communist Albania, to the complexity of America, after she has spent years living as a man. We join the intriguing Hana as she begins her journey, we ponder her decision to adopt a rare custom that allowed her to remain independent as Mark. We watch as her move offers her freedom, allows her choices; can she learn, grow, rediscover her voice? The eloquent yet simple writing style that accompanies this complicated subject matter highlights the contrasts in Hana’s two worlds. This is a stimulating, thought-provoking read that will pique your interest and leave you wanting to know much, much more. It’s worth noting that although there are two extreme obscenities on the first page, they are not littered throughout the rest of the book and do help set the scene. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'When the manuscript for Elvira Dones’ Sworn Virgin, in Clarissa Botsford’s translation, landed on our desks, a buzz went round the team. The subject matter is immediately gripping: young Albanian mountain woman takes a vow of chastity and lives as a man for fifteen years, then breaks vow and emigrates to the US, where she must learn to live as a woman again… Elvira Dones handles the topic with masterly care. She rejects all traces of sensationalism or showiness, opting instead to just get on with telling us the protagonist’s incredible story. With Dones’ straightforward style comes an absolute dedication to emotional honesty – and it was this that really cinched it for us. Sworn Virgin is a page-turner without any of the throwaway associations that term carries; Hana’s story stayed with us long after we first read it. This an important book, and one we’re proud to have published. ' Ana Fletcher - Editor, And Other Stories