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My Cat Yugoslavia

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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,754 ratings  ·  385 reviews

An internationally acclaimed debut novel about war, family, love and belonging - and a talking cat

Yugoslavia, 1980s: a 16-year-old Muslim girl named Emine is married off to a man she hardly knows. But what was meant to be a happy match soon goes terribly wrong. Her country is torn apart by war and she flees with her family.

Decades later Emine's son, Bekim, has grown up a

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Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published September 7th 2017 by Pushkin Press (first published 2014)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  3,754 ratings  ·  385 reviews


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Trish
Years ago I remember wishing I could experience a bit of what immigrants experience, or that some could communicate their experiences in ways I could understand. They’d started out somewhere I’d never been, and they’d arrived somewhere they’d never imagined. Like Finland. Cold, white, communal, with few racial or religious tensions. I was eager to hear it all, but such stories, if they existed, were rarely published in the U.S. All that has changed now and I couldn't be happier.

This remarkable
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Warda
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would really like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of this book!

Translated from Finnish and set in the backdrop of the Yugoslav war, it follows two narrative that intertwine of a mother and son, where we get to know the rest of the family. Emine, who is married off to someone she barely knows and Bekim, her son, who's a gay Muslim and keeps a boa constrictor and cat for company.

This book was extremely thought-provoking. Honest and raw. I loved how the author delved into and
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Lark Benobi
Stavoci is remarkably confident. The writing zings. The novel begins with a gay hookup that was very well written, just a stunning use of a scene to create the inner life, very quickly, of an alienated gay man--who happens too to be a literal alien--from Yugoslavia to Finland. The smells in this book are brilliantly rendered. A snake and a cat figure prominently in the story and the relationship that the protagonist has with each is weird, unsettling, and perfect. I'm respectful of this author ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Shame on the publisher for inflicting this unripened novel on the world. The Kosovar mom's story is heart-rending and realistically told, but the interleaved narrative of her gay son, a refugee in Finland, is simply awful: he is nothing but a conglomeration of resentments, ideas, and neuroses. His pet is a boa constrictor; in the most unenjoyable, unreal, bizarre section, one of his boyfriends is a talking, racist, homophobic cat. Need I say more?
Basma
I struggled with this book at the beginning and then grew to love it. I wasn't sure what to make of it, especially when Bekim seemed to be talking to cat who was talking back. It felt like this part was out of the blue completely and that maybe I was reading a Murakami story. That part ended quickly which only made it even more strange.

But.. This story is about a family who moves from Kosovo to Finland for a better life, a better home and away from the war that was happening back there. It's
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Sumaiyya
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! I'm not sure if I would describe this as a book for cat lovers, though people who love cats and snakes will find it engrossing - this is a book for lonesome souls, of people who are struggling to build a life, a home.
Caroline
Definitely pulls you in. I finished it in one day. Both the Finns and the Kosovans take hits, but the core story is how hard it is to be an immigrant. There is a lot of humanity, but also a lot of violence and misogyny (in the characters; it clearly appalls the author). I would definitely read more by Statovci.
Ken
Recommended by the estimable (unless you're the Cheeto in Chief) New York Times, this debut novel by Kosovo-born Finn Pajtim Statovci is just plain weird. Odd, and uneven, which might mean the same thing, but in fact counts as two criticisms.

The plots, following Mom and son, stretch out over time. Mom's, the more pedestrian narrative of the two, is more conventional and slower paced. It's simply the tale of a young bride who marries a fellow Yugoslavian who is strong, handsome, and the worst
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Kelly
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Someone could tell me that this book is a work of genius, snakes represent this and cats represent that, and I would say, yes, of course, I see. Or someone could tell me that it makes no sense and I would say, sure, of course.

I enjoyed reading the two stories of mother and son, although it was about the 2/3 point that I realized I would most likely end the book as confused as I was at that moment. I'm planning to read some reviews to try to make sense of it, although that feels a little bit like
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Doug
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oddly, while reading this I kept thinking of the better known 'Exit West' - and how THIS does a much better job of delineating the immigrant experience AND integrating fantastic elements, than did Hamid's book. Statovci does not fall victim to those pitfalls of most debut novelists - his book is streamlined, fast paced, and even in translation the prose is remarkable. Although much of it is surely autobiographical, he maintains firm control over the material, even the more bizarre sections with ...more
Kathrin
There are good bones in this book, but in the end it's unpolished. I was set to give a higher rating, because of the strong storytelling when the author describes the refugee experience especially in the Emine storyline. The Bekim storyline was so discombobulated and I kind of hated the ending.
Shirley Revill
I listened to the audiobook version of this book and the narration was really good.
However,I really struggled with this book and halfway through the story I could not read anymore to preserve my sanity.
This is the weirdest book that I have ever had the experience of listening too.
Not my cup of tea I'm afraid but I did notice that some people really enjoyed reading this story.
Nikki Wolff
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really sure how to describe how important this book felt, except to say that each relationship points to how we can both respect and loathe, dream and relinquish hope- and at every moment feel torn between obligation to family and yourself. I loved it and mourned its ending.
freewayflowr
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was so conflicted rating this. I couldn't decide between 3/5 and 4/5, so I'll give it a 3,5. It's so hard to be objective about this book, because it's by a Kosovan author (from Finland), and I can't decide if I'm excited about the book because it's good or because it's cool that Albanians in the diaspora are finally writing novels and getting them published. I give it a 4 for all the relatable material and reading about familiar places, things and traditions. It's also well written. The use ...more
Siina
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Kissani Jugoslavia is a weird book that gets you thinking. It's well written and interesting - so very different to what Finnish books usually are. It was extremely great to read about the mother especially. Her narration was better than her son's. It's also more concrete as the son's was cryptic and full of secret metaphors. The mother was the reason, really. The Albanian culture was something that I wasn't familiar with and how it clashed with the Finnish culture was priceless. The mother is ...more
Amanda Jones
Thoroughly enjoyed. Stark, honest and holds nothing back. Cats and snakes were employed as brilliant metaphors and symbols that allowed the author to communicate a lot quickly; much faster than character development of non-fantastical human relationships would have allowed. It's a strategy that made the story neater (less bulky) and allowed us to focus on Bekim's struggles and those of his parents, whose story runs parallel.

Loved how the author was able to manage so smoothly his frequent
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Tuuli
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tuuli by: big sis
Odd. Simply a little too weird for me - I've always found it difficult to accept that there are no answers to be found, that I just shouldn't try to analyse something I can't be sure about.

While I liked to learn about Bekim's problems assimilating in Finland and the culture, I preferred her mother's parts, at least those made sense.

Undoubtedly very skilled and impressive, just a little too weird for me. Can't give it a three so a 3.5 rounded up. Hopefully Tiranan sydän will be more coherent and
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Heidi
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
A great book that opened my eyes about the conflicts in Balkan and how hard it can be to be a immigrant in Finland - The world's happiest country according to the UN Report. I'm amazed by Statovci's symbolism in this book and how he describes the reality of many relationship contexts as well. I look forward to read the second book written by the author and can highly recommend this book.
Laika
At first it was confusing. Then it was slow. Then at part II things started happening and the story was put in motion, and part III was my favourite part. I'm still not quite sure what exactly happened, though, but I do know what I think of the characters now and that'll do.

It's more of a 4 star book, but I'm still giving it three.

Helmet reading challenge 2017 42: A debut
Narges
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very nice book about identity, immigration, refugees, etc.
I did enjoyed it and somehow felt connected to the mother. I know many women experiencing the same shit as her
Maria
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book took me totally by surprise. This was way deeper than I anticipated.

I have to do some postreading about it, though.
Erin
It seems there's a popular understanding of this book as a disjointed repository of immigrant melancholy, an interpretation that scapegoats the book's absurdist elements while missing the real point. Readers, including the NPR critic whose review is the top Google result for author Statovci's name, dwell on the more violent and ire-filled passages, apparently shocked successively by the talking cat, pet snake, and domestic violence. So I'll encourage us all to take a deep breath and say ...more
Petra
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My Cat Yugoslavia is the debut novel of Kosovo-born Finnish author Pajtim Statovci. I remember this causing a lot of buzz in Finnish media and ever since it was published, I have been curious about it. Now that I have finished it, I feel pretty conflicted. On the one side, I think Statovci is a promising writer and I could imagine picking up something other by him. On the other, however, this feels that kind of Murakami-esque with a hint of magical realism kind of novel that I don't usually ...more
Dzemila
I enjoyed the book even though I didn't quite understand it. Maybe I'm just not the type of reader this book was meant for? Nonetheless, it was an interesting and enjoyable read.
Callum McAllister
It’s good to read about non-tragic queer characters, books with Muslim and refugee protagonists, books that document the cost of war on women, books that come from countries I’ve never read anything from before (Finland and Kosovo). Also it’s great to read really honest and realistic depictions of romantic love - how it flips and changes and includes multiple conflicts all at once.
Hazel
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quite a tour d' force of a first novel. The author does a great job enveloping the reader in the traumas of refugees, loves lost and found, war drama. The scenes in the former Jugoslavia are both beautiful, terrible, exotic, mundane and so true. The scenes in Finland are rife with the dislocations of refugees, cultural difference, anomie.
Laurie
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly don’t know how to review this book. There are two story lines. One is told by Emine, a young Muslim girl in Yugoslavia. The other line is told by her son, Bekim. Emine’s story is horrifying, but it’s realistic. When a young man notices her on the road, he requests her hand in marriage- basically, his family buys her with new clothing for her family, food, jewelry, and enough money to finish building their house. In installments, we follow her wedding and life with him through the ...more
Allie
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
CW: sexual assault; violence against an animal

It took me a while to get into this, despite it jumping out at me from the indie bookstore "In Translation" shelf. While it tells the story of a mother and her son in parallel, the stories - their content and tone, and even the lyricism of the writing - are so drastically different from each other that it was jarring at the start, but as the book continues, the storylines seem to veer closer to each other, and you start to understand the layers that
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Nini
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book was simply captivating. I love the original story and characters and the whole theme of this book fits today perfectly. I can see how it resonates with many people with the brutal truth about war and being a refugee in a country you don't feel welcome in. This is unfortunately reality to many and therefore I think everyone should read this book.
On a side note though, I can't help wondering has the author taken some inspiration from Sofi Oksanens writing. The structure and use of words
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Nordic Book Club: May 2017 - My Cat Yugoslavia 8 41 Aug 04, 2017 11:53AM  

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Pajtim Statovci is a Kosovo-born Finnish author.
“Jokaisen ihmisen pitäisi vähintään kerran elämässään jäädä ilman vaihtoehtoja, niin minä ajattelen, koska silloin sitä luulee tulevansa hulluksi. Vaan nyt minä tiedän, ettei se ole lainkaan vaarallista.” 2 likes
“Anyone can change the direction of his life, any time at all, if only he has enough motivation: that was the moral of the story. The cat found it easier to believe this than to think about what it actually meant: that the word anyone actually referred to a very small group of people, that time has no direction, and that motivation is rarely the salient difference between people.” 2 likes
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