Translated by Robert Elsieby Yiannis Baboulias / June 16, 2016 / Leave a comment
IB Tauris, £25
Blendi Fevziu’s biography of Enver Hoxha, the Albanian ruler from 1941 to 1985, is the biggest-selling book in the history of the Balkan country. Remarkably little is known about the Le Monde-reading communist dictator who ruled with an “iron fist,” besides his cold-blooded temperament and cruelty.
The world view he imposed an entire country into isolation and reshaped it into a land in which “he was the sun.” Fevziu’s dispassionate approach—drawing on a large amount of archival material, correspondences and testimonies—paints a picture of a man plagued by feelings of inadequacy and paranoia.
This less well-known side of Hoxha’s character is a focal point of the book: his obsession with crushing intellectuals came from his failed ambition to be accepted as one himself. Unlike Marshal Tito, his neighbouring socialist dictator in Yugoslavia who tolerated writers and artists up to a point, Hoxha went to great lengths to crush intellectual threats.
By the end of his life, Hoxha had become a lonely figure, his comrades having mostly met their end in front of the firing squad. Two strokes had left him a shadow of his former self, and his bloody way of holding on to power left Albania with no one to run it after his death. It took another decade and more blood for it to emerge a democracy.
Translated with astonishing clarity, this book goes deep inside the mind and life of the man who plunged Albania into a 50-year nightmare.