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My Cat Yugoslavia

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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  6,274 ratings  ·  571 reviews
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 social outcast in Finland; both an immigrant in a country suspicious of foreigners, and a gay man i
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 19th 2018 by Pushkin Press (first published 2014)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  6,274 ratings  ·  571 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
Shelves: lgbtqia
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 explo
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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 a ...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? ...more
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 together ...more
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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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. ...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 nar
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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 kin
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Caroline-not-getting-updates
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.
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.
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Hannah
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars - Stunning book!

Statovci tells the story of a family of Albanian refugees in Finland by weaving the story of the matriarch, Emine, and youngest son, Bekim. This is a story about immigration, love, acceptance, violence, and so many other things.

It’s very clear that Statovci was influence by Mikhail Bulgakov(this article says that his favorite book is The Master and Margarita). This influence is most obvious by the appearance of a rude, homophobic, obnoxious, and conceited cat. He constan
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Ari Levine
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, translation, balkans
When I started this, I was concerned that this would be another Murakami-esque tale of Bekim, an emotionally-stunted bland urban millennial in IKEAville living with whimsical giant-sized pets and in deep alienation from his Kosovan immigrant parents. But this developed into something much more unsettling and uncomfortable and ugly, as the narrator-protagonist's possessive, abusive, and manipulative behavior became ever more apparent, and as his roommate (or something furrier and kinkier?) relati ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
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.
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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
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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. ...more
Radvilė
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finnish-fiction
I recall my lecturer briefly mentioning this book during Finnish literature course, but it never occurred to me that I should read it, as judging by the cover it seemed weird and uninteresting, yet another odd "Finnish queer" book. Three years later, when Patim Statovci won the Finlandia award for Bolla I finally decided to pick it up and see for myself what's so special about this author. Now I only wish I had done that earlier. Had my lecturer highlighted what a great book Kissani Yugoslavia i ...more
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. ...more
Dustin
Mar 24, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-translation
Over the Christmas holidays I spit into a plastic tube and mailed it off to a lab in California. When I received the DNA test results, I learned that I had Finnish ancestry. This wasn't something my family had ever mentioned, so I wanted to learn more about the culture. I decided to start with this book by Pajtim Statovci. Queer Helsinki with a talking cat? Yes, please.

Unfortunately, that was not the right frame for approaching this novel. Half of the novel takes place in 1980s Kosovo, and to my
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Ivana
Oct 27, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know
The first half of this book feels like a fever dream. The second half was at least easier to understand.
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Sportyrod
Apr 28, 2021 rated it liked it
A man walks into a bar and meets a talking cat. He says to the cat....

This book was whacky. A cat that acts like a human and a boa constrictor that acts like a boa constrictor are central characters in the story. There are two related perspectives alternating between chapters: a mother and son who have left Kosovo just before the war/crisis and move to Finland. They both divulge a snippet of issues relating to the husband/father.

I was hooked on this book during “the cat” (don’t want to spoil) p
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Jane
Nov 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eesti-keeles, 2017
Honestly? Was not a fan of the writing style nor the story itself either. Reading this book was a chore, and not a very enjoyable chore. I kept pushing and pushing, hoping for it to get better. Hoping for the story get more engaging for me, but I fear that the opposite happened. The more I read, the less interested I was.

Maybe I'm not intelligent enough for this award-winning debut novel full to the brim of metaphors as I felt a lot of the context went over my head.

Like a lot of other readers, I
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Liridona
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 o ...more
Karen
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My Cat Yugoslavia was a unique and interesting way to portray an immigrant experience.
Liridona Shala
Jul 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: albanianauthors
A strange, haunting and original book of displacement and desire. The return of the old Albanian symbols of the snake and the cat in relationship with the life of the characters it makes even more compelling. The author has created a work of art.
Susan Brown
Overall I really like the book, however, it is a tad confusing at times.
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 v ...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 transi
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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
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Pajtim Statovci is a Kosovo-born Finnish author.

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