Crossing by Pajtim Statovci
Borders, bodies, identities and genders are all crossed in Pajtim Statovci’s new novel Crossing
Borders, bodies, identities and genders are all crossed in Pajtim Statovci’s follow-up to his literary prize-winning debut novel, My Cat Yugoslavia. In terms of plot and theme, Crossing remains close to My Cat Yugoslavia with both novels exploring mixed nationalities and heritages.
Initially set in Albania, and then expanding into West Europe and across the Atlantic to New York, Crossing follows a young boy, Bujar, who leaves home after his father dies and his best friend, Agim, is beaten for cross-dressing. Set in the 90s, Europe is a hotpot of political and social unrest and Statovci takes lengthy portions of Crossing filling in the social, political and historical context, using Bujar’s surroundings to embody the boy’s uneasy turmoil about his own gender identity.
The result is a dense novel that occasionally weighs itself down with its own self-importance, although short chapters and constantly changing locations keep Crossing moving. The portions of the novel exploring childhood in Albania are genuinely thrilling, yet oddly it's when Statovci begins exploring Bujar’s transcending gender identity in adulthood that the writing becomes more threadbare, loosening and losing momentum.
As a piece of literary fiction Crossing is an absolutely fine read, but with ideas this provocative, it should be tenfold more stimulating than it ends up being.