A review by abbie_
My Cat Yugoslavia, by Pajtim Statovci

adventurous challenging emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


This is one of the best translated books I've read recently! The translation from Finnish by David Hackston read like a dream, and the story itself was so compelling. I'm a huge fan of dual narratives that eventually intertwine, with an added bonus if I enjoy both narratives equally, as was the case here.
One story is told from the POV of Bekim, a young man originally from Kosovo who immigrated to Finland with his family as a young boy to escape the mounting tensions in their country. The other is told by Emine, a young woman in Kosovo who suddenly finds herself married off, raising kids and keeping house with her unpleasant husband. I've never read anything set in Kosovo before, or a book about immigration to Finland. It was eye-opening to see the treatment the family received upon entering Finland. Xenophobia and discrimination are rife, making it impossible for the family to fit in and call it home.
Statovci muses on belonging a lot during the book. Although Emine's husband is not a likeable character, he raises an interesting point about belonging. He's not welcomed in Finland, but now he's not welcome back in his home country either, as his former friends and acquaintances think he's turned his back on them and Kosovo, that he's 'too good' for them now.
Bekim, as well as being treated with hostility because of his 'outsider' status, is also gay. The anxieties and fears he experiences become a living breathing thing in the form of a talking cat he meets in a nightclub. This talking cat moves in with him, a homophobic, xenophobic tyrant who takes over Bekim's life, tormenting him and his pet boa constrictor. I am not the greatest at interpreting symbolism in novels, and some of the snake metaphors were a bit lost on me, but overall I loved it.
This is a book I would definitely want to reread in the future, so clever and powerful! I will definitely be picking up Statovci's latest novel, Crossing, too.