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04May

Lea Ypi wins Ondaatje prize for ‘deeply serious’ memoir, Free

Award given for books that evoke the spirit of place goes to work that chronicles the author’s coming-of-age in Albania during the fall of communism

Academic Lea Ypi’s “darkly humorous and deeply serious” memoir, Free, which speaks “so resonantly to our lived moment”, has won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje prize.

The award is given for books that “best evoke the spirit of a place”. Free chronicles Ypi’s coming-of-age in Albania at a time when it was one of the last Stalinist outposts in Europe. In December 1990, statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled, and life changed overnight for people, who were now able to vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished.

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