Author: Fatos Kongoli
Translator: Robert Elsie
Original language: Albanian
Published by: Seren, 2007
Set in 1991, when over 10,000 Albanian refugees escaped to southern Italy following the collapse of the Hoxa regime, The Loser centres on Thesar Lumi who decides at the last minute to step off the boat and return to his family. Why? The novel returns to the numbing years of the Hoxha dictatorship and the climate of terror and despair which characterized daily life in Albania. Lumi was born in the shadow of a state cement factory, which produced more dust than cement. Despite an uncle who had fled the country, he manages to get himself registered at the university, and penetrates briefly into a milieu which he can never truly join, that of the ruling families of Albania’s red aristocracy. Guilty by association with one of these families during an internal purge Thesar, whose fate in Albania’s suffocating society has been irrevocably sealed, returns home to live a life of futility and despair as childhood events also haunt him. Stifled by the hold of the state, Lumi is incapable of action and of living. His is the voice of all the ‘losers’ who glimpse silver clouds on the horizon and know they are unattainable.
'Flawless precision, beautifully elegiac scenes… Kongoli's growling voice creates a dark and bitter novel.'