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Biografi: A Traveler's Tale de Lloyd Jones
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Biografi: A Traveler's Tale (edição: 1994)

de Lloyd Jones (Autor)

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813266,186 (3.46)7
"In 1991 Lloyd Jones, bestselling author of Mister Pip, travelled through Albania. It was six years since the death of the dictator, Enver Hoxha, but Albania was still one of the most isolated and secretive societies on the planet. Under Hoxha, all Albanian citizens had their own biografi, a file that was maintained (and often falsified) by the secret police. Jones heard rumours of a village dentist who, resembling Hoxha in looks and build, had been forced to give up his identity and undergo extensive plastic surgery to become the dictator' s double. What would it take to remove a man from his own identity and give him a new one? What kind of life would this man live now? Who would he be? In Biografi, Jones intertwines a fictional account of Petar Schapallo, the man with the fabricated identity, with a travelogue of great insight into life in Albania after the fall of Hoxhas regime."--Provided by publisher.… (mais)
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1991 was a time of internal collapse in Albania. It's fortunate for us that Jones was free to travel there then. For the most part this can be read as a travel book and a quick history of Twentieth Century Albania. It's also a piece of fiction, centred on the proposition that Enver Hoxha had a double who would appear at times when the sociopath president was indisposed.
The characters are all groping for survival in an economy that exists only through basic imports from Italy. The country has been emptied out as the able-bodied flee civic break-down. The characters are not drawn well; the reader is left to try and distinguish them.
The paranoiac state apparatus could determine one's fate by way of one's "biografi", where unfavourable associations, rumour, and betrayals were all noted. The outcome was often internal exile to labour camps, metallurgical factories and prison. Jones finds a population that has been too fearful to speak out, and inured to being targets for condemnation. Jones' visit coincides with the Albanian realization that they have been sold down the river by a cult dictator. For that reason, this is worth reading because it is contemporaneous with Albania being at rock bottom. A quarter of a century later, life is more pleasant there.
  ivanfranko | Jan 18, 2018 |
Lloyd Jones (author of the excellent Mister Pip) visited Albania for six weeks in 1991, a country that is, as he put it, an hour’s flight from Italy and a hundred years behind Europe. Albania suffered long under Enver Hoxha, the Communist leader who broke with the Soviet Union, moved to the Chinese camp and then broke with them and throughout it all built the most isolated, paranoid and backward country in Europe. Hoxha died in 1985 and Albania gradually moved towards greater openness, but in the context of social and economic collapse. Jones describes well the incredible backwardness of the country in the cities, towns, and villages, the lack of any amenities and most services (virtually none outside of the capital), terrible housing, the completely intermittent supply of food especially in the countryside, the lack of any jobs or prospects, the flood of refugees onto boats to Italy to find varying degrees of success but most not good, a countryside and beaches bedecked with thousands of concrete firing bunkers to repel invasion, the primitive 19th century life in many of the country villages and farms, an essential warmth of many people but so many traumatized and stunted by their experience under Hoxha and his iron grip on society. The title of the book—biografi—refers to the individual biographies maintained by the security police on every individual in the country, biographies that determine and could ruin a life if even a distant relative had any questionable associations or behavior, even those of the most innocent or innocuous nature. It is impossible for those who have never lived under such a suffocating regime to appreciate the controlling nature of the system….one couple that Jones met had the chance to move to a larger apartment on the ground floor of a building but they refused because they were afraid that people on the street might overhear conversations in the apartment and report them to the police.

A focal part of the book is Jones’s search for a man named Shapallo who was snatched from anonymity to become a double for Hoxha in public events. In the book, Jones does track down Shapallo and spends time with him….but in fact, Shapallo never existed, he is an invention by Jones. This caused some consternation with publishers (one of which cancelled a contract); many were not sure how to characterize the book and some criticized Jones for being dishonest. It is an interesting combination of fact and fiction, but the reader is not aware of it until he/she reads the afterword to the book. In a sense, Shapallo represents the ultimate falsity of the regime, a world where no external representations can be taken as real, where everything and anything can be manipulated and faked and made “real”.

An interesting and entertaining read about a world in Europe that existed in its own bubble of time and space.
1 vote John | May 7, 2009 |
A story so strange you could not make it up (except, in a bout of revisionism, the author eventually admits that he did). After the fall of Communism, the author travels through Albania in search of a man who was abducted one day by Government agents from his job as a rural dentist to fill a more important task - body double to the nation's leader, Enver Hoxha. He finds him.

Along the way, we find out all sorts of interesting things about the region little appreciated in the West. For example,. the author visits the village in the north-east of the country where the body double came from. The village's oldest residents greet him by saying "You're the first foreigner we've seen here since 1910!" When he asks who the last foreigner was, he's told "Oh, that was when Serbian soldiers crossed the border and burnt the village down!"

Those soldiers crossed the border from the disputed province of Kosovo, now given de facto independence. And this book, by describing the ethnic make-up of Albania and Kosovo, gives a chilling insight into international relations in the area. It makes no bones that the movement for Kosovar liberation had powerful backers with vested interests in America amongst the Albanian diaspora (especially its monarchist wing). I always wondered how the Kosovo Liberation Army got such nice, smart, new uniforms - and now I know.

But I digress. This book fills in a useful piece in the jigsaw of European history; even if its central premise turns out to be an urban myth, the experiences and stories that came out in the making of the book are salutary. ( )
  RobertDay | Sep 4, 2008 |
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alternate title: Biografi : an Albanian quest
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"In 1991 Lloyd Jones, bestselling author of Mister Pip, travelled through Albania. It was six years since the death of the dictator, Enver Hoxha, but Albania was still one of the most isolated and secretive societies on the planet. Under Hoxha, all Albanian citizens had their own biografi, a file that was maintained (and often falsified) by the secret police. Jones heard rumours of a village dentist who, resembling Hoxha in looks and build, had been forced to give up his identity and undergo extensive plastic surgery to become the dictator' s double. What would it take to remove a man from his own identity and give him a new one? What kind of life would this man live now? Who would he be? In Biografi, Jones intertwines a fictional account of Petar Schapallo, the man with the fabricated identity, with a travelogue of great insight into life in Albania after the fall of Hoxhas regime."--Provided by publisher.

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