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June 04 , 2010

A Short Border Handbook


It is not a recognized mental illness like agoraphobia or depression ... It's largely a matter of luck whether one suffers from border syndrome: it depends where you were born. I was born in Albania.' After spending his childhood and school years in Albania, imagining that the miniskirts and quiz shows of Italian state TV were the reality of life in the West, and fantasizing accordingly about living on the other side of the border, the death of Hoxha at last enables Gazmend Kapllani to make his escape. However, on arriving in the Promised Land, he finds neither lots of willing leggy lovelies nor a warm welcome from his long-lost Greek cousins. Instead, he gets banged up in a detention centre in a small border town. As Gazi and his fellow immigrants try to find jobs, they begin to plan their future lives in Greece, imagining riches and successes which always remain just beyond their grasp. The sheer absurdity of both their plans and their new lives is overwhelming. Both detached and involved, ironic and emotional, Kapllani interweaves the story of his experience with meditations upon 'border syndrome' - a mental state, as much as a geographical experience - to create a brilliantly observed, amusing and perceptive debut.
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