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
When Hana's dying uncle calls her back from the city to the family home in the Albanian mountains, he tries to marry her to a local man who could run the household. Unable to accept the arranged marriage and determined to remain independent, Hana's only option is to follow tradition and vow to live the rest of her life in chastity as a man - and so Hana becomes Mark. For a sworn virgin, there is no way back.Years later, Mark - now a raki-drinking, chain-smoking shepherd - receives an invitation to join a cousin in the US.
This may be Mark's only chance to escape his vow. But what does he know about being an American woman?
|Publication date:||1st October 2015|
|Publisher:||And Other Stories|
|Primary Genre||Family Drama|
Elvira Dones is one of the most distinguished Albanian authors writing today. Astonishing, brilliant, and unabashed by taboos of any kind, she is as much at ease in Albanian as in the rest of European literature... The protagonist of this novel passes through all the tribulations of this frightening transformation like the actor in some extraordinary role in a classical drama that hurtles towards its denouement.
-------- 'Translated from Italian by Clarissa Botsford with effortless musicality ... I couldn't put it down. Dones's ability to tell a politically and psychically complex story with such lightness of touch is down to her flowing, spring-clear prose and slyly subversive vision.
Kapka Kassabova, Guardian
-------- 'This book by Elvira Dones grabs the attention with its subject matter even before you turn the first page ... As well as this unusual coming-of-age story, with its shadow of death and grief, Dones gives us a compelling portrait of life under communist rule, where anyone who owns a pair of jeans in Tirana is rich and powerful . ... a fascinating story'. Jonathan Gibbs, Independent -------- 'A subtle, teasing examination of gender identity, cultural disorientation, and language as the basis of authentic personhood...
Nat Segnit, Times Literary Supplement
-------- 'A subtle and provocative novel which leaves the reader full of admiration for the strength and stoicism of those who choose a path like Hana's. And bristling with questions about the hypocrisy of a society which treats women in skirts as intellectually, emotionally and physically inferior to men, yet accepts the total equality of a woman in trousers.
Helen Brown, Sunday Telegraph
-------- 'The author puts a light touch on the issues of culture, immigration, gender tradition and race ... The novel can be sensitive or brusque depending upon which sex is narrating.
Harriet Addison, The Times
-------- 'A vindication of the PEN Writers in Translation Programme, which supported the publication of this tender, funny and arrestingly original novel.
Jane Shilling, New Statesman
-------- '...a fascinating study in duality and blurred identity which takes as its subject-matter imposed gender realignment ... a brave book which tackles big themes such as tradition and modernity, exile and belonging while never losing sight of the individual faced with life choices that are constantly opening up certain freedoms while closing the door on others.
Born in Durres, Albania, Elvira Dones is a novelist, screenwriter and documentary film-maker currently dividing her time between the US, Switzerland and Albania. 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 six survivors of the practice, one of whom emigrated to the US like Hana in the novel. A film adaptation of the novel Sworn Virgin was released in 2015.More About Elvira Dones