Albanian born Ornela Vorpsi’s first novel, The Country Where No One Ever Dies, is a work of heartbreaking honesty. Albania, formerly one of the Easter Bloc’s most closed countries, is the backdrop to this novel, gives the story of a young girl dealing with youth in a severely oppressed nation. Her father is a political prisoner, her mother the emotionally distraught town beauty. The young protagonist herself appears to be levelheaded and strong, despite the surrounding tumult. Although her personality remains stable throughout the story, her name and age often change with the chapters, leaving one wondering if she views herself as solid or in constant flux.
The Country left me feeling as if I’d actually spent time in Albania, in a most difficult and painful era. I am most certain I gained a good look at truth, whether Vorpsi based her novel heavily on personal experiences or not. The truth lies in the spirit of the work no doubt, and no one can share such deep hearted feeling without having first tasted it for themselves.
For anyone wanting a book that sets you in a dark place, yet somehow edifies you for having been there, you’ll find The Country Where No One Ever Dies to be a worthwhile journey.
Ornela Vorpsi was born in Tirana, Albania and currently lives in Paris. The Country Where No One Ever Dies has won several prizes in Italy, including the Viareggio and Grinzane Cavour Prizes. It’s been published in fourteen languages, and the English version is published by Dalkey Archive Press.