The University of Wisconsin Press

Autobiographical Fiction / Slavic & Balkan Studies

My Father's Books
Luan Starova
Translated by Christina E. Kramer

My Father’s Books, with its hypnotic repetitions and its varied meditations on one and the same theme, is like an extended prose poem, an elegy in the form of a novel. Beautifully translated, it is a book to be savored.”
—Madeline G. Levine, translator of Milosz’s ABC’s

In My Father’s Books, the first volume in Luan Starova’s multivolume Balkan Saga, he explores themes of history, displacement, and identity under three turbulent regimes—Ottoman, Fascist, and Stalinist—in the twentieth century. Weaving a story from the threads of his parents’ lives from 1926 to 1976, he offers a child’s-eye view of personal relationships in shifting political landscapes and an elegiac reminder of the enduring power of books to sustain a literate culture.

Through lyrical waves of memory, Starova reveals his family’s overlapping religious, linguistic, national, and cultural histories. His father left Constantinople as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, and the young family fled from Albania to Yugoslav Macedonia when Luan was a boy. His parents, cosmopolitan and well-traveled in their youth, and steeped in the cultures of both Orient and Occident, find themselves raising their children in yet another stagnant and repressive state. Against this backdrop, Starova remembers the protected spaces of his childhood—his mother’s walled garden, his father’s library, the cupboard holding the rarest and most precious of his father’s books. Preserving a lost heritage, these books also open up a world that seems wide, deep, and boundless.

Portrait of author Luan StarovaLuan Starova is a novelist, poet, scholar, diplomat, and literary translator. An Albanian from the Republic of Macedonia who writes in both the Albanian and Macedonian languages, he has served as the Republic of Macedonia’s ambassador to France, Spain, and Portugal, and was formerly professor of French at the University of Skopje. His books have been translated into many languages. Christina E. Kramer is professor of Slavic and Balkan languages and linguistics at the University of Toronto. She is the author of the language textbook Macedonian and co-translator of the novel Bai Ganyo: Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian, both published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

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Of Related Interest:
The Time of the Goats
Luan Starova
Translated by Christina E. Kramer

“Starova shows the Balkans in all their beautiful complexity. The novel weaves together the personal, political, ethnic, national, and, at times, international, in ways that speak both to the little-known realities of the early postwar Yugoslav experience and the human condition in general.”
—Victor A. Friedman, University of Chicago

Old portrait of a family from the Balkans

May 2012
LC: 2011046137 PG
136 pp.    5 1/2 x 8 1/4

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-28794-8
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First English translation. Wisconsin edition not for sale in Macedonia.

"Powerful, articulate, subtle, and moving, My Father’s Books goes beyond the genre of memoir—it is at once a meditation on life and a history of the Balkans in the twentieth century told from a unique point of view with universal values. Kramer’s translation renders Starova’s language with accuracy and grace."
—Victor A. Friedman, University of Chicago

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Updated May 16, 2013

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