A Short Border Handbook is a cogent and comical journey into the depths of dictatorship, migration, and borders from an Albanian who grew up in Enver Hoxha’s Stalinist madhouse, longing for the West, only to find yet more visible and invisible borders on his arrival.
After spending his childhood in Stalinist Albania during the Cold War, and fantasizing about life across the border, the unnamed protagonist (based closely on the author) flees to Greece, the only country in the Balkans that belonged to the “Western bloc”⎯only to get banged up in a detention center. As he and his fellow immigrants try to make sense of the new world, they find jobs and plan their future lives in Greece, imagining success that is always beyond their grasp. The sheer absurdity of both their plans and their new lives is overwhelming. In a narrative both 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. And an ever timely one at that.
"Kapllani treats the absurdities of nationalism in the Balkans - and everywhere - with mischief, wit and insight" -- Boyd Tonkin, Independent (UK)
"A telling reminder of how the borders that many of us are lucky enough to regard as bureaucratic inconvenience often form unimpeachable barriers and of how the way they are policed can be ruthless and absurd." -- Laurence Mackin, Irish Times
"Thought-provoking and blackly comic stuff in what it means to be an immigrant." -- Bookseller
"A brilliant, wry and playful memoir about migration. Kapllani tells it as it's never been told before." -- Lisa Appignanesi
"As a student of borders, I was fascinated and impressed by A Short Border Handbook. It is an autobiographical meditation by a wise Albanian of what it means to be an immigrant at a time when this has become such an important part of our world, causing heart-wrenching problems for so many. With great insight, through his personal story, Gazmend Kapllani has enabled us far better to understand and enter into this overwhelming problem of our times." --Peter Stansky, author of Edward Upward and Professor of History, Emeritus, Stanford University