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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, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 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.
'Funny, moving but also deadly serious, this book will be read for years to come. . . Beautifully brings together the personal and the political to create an unforgettable account of oppression, freedom and what it means to acquire knowledge about the world' David Runciman
© Lea Ypi 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
A lyrical memoir, of deep and affecting power, of the sweet smell of humanity mingled with flesh, blood and hope
This extraordinary coming-of-age story is like an Albanian Educated but it is so much more than that. It beautifully brings together the personal and the political to create an unforgettable account of oppression, freedom and what it means to acquire knowledge about the world. Funny, moving but also deadly serious, this book will be read for years to come
I haven't in many years read a memoir from this part of the world as warmly inviting as this one. Written by an intellectual with story-telling gifts, Free makes life on the ground in Albania vivid and immediate
Lea Ypi's teenage journey through the endtimes of Albanian communism tells a universal story: ours is an age of collapsed illusions for many generations. Written by one of Europe's foremost left-wing thinkers, this is an unmissable book for anyone engaged in the politics of resistance
A young girl grows up in a repressive Communist state, where public certainties are happily accepted and private truths are hidden; as that world falls away, she has to make her own sense of life, based on conflicting advice, fragments of information and, above all, her own stubborn curiosity. Thought-provoking, deliciously funny, poignant, sharply observed and beautifully written, this is a childhood memoir like very few others -- a really marvellous book
Free is one of those very rare books that shows how history shapes people's lives and their politics. Lea Ypi is such a brilliant, powerful writer that her story becomes your story
Lea Ypi is a pathbreaking philosopher who is also becoming one of the most important public thinkers of our time. Here she draws on her unique historical experience to shed new light on the questions of freedom that matter to all of us. This extraordinary book is both personally moving and politically revolutionary. If we take its lessons to heart, it can help to set us free