WINNER OF THE ONDAATJE PRIZE
THE SUNDAY TIMES MEMOIR OF THE YEAR
‘Wonderfully funny and poignant. . . a tale of family secrets and political awakening amid a crumbling regime. One of the nonfiction titles of the year’ Luke Harding, Observer
‘We never lose our inner freedom; the freedom to do what is right’
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, 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.
WINNER OF THE SLIGHTLY FOXED BEST FIRST BIOGRAPHY PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION
CHOSEN AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN, FINANCIAL TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, TLS, DAILY MAIL, NEW STATESMAN AND SPECTATOR