Translated from Finnish by David Hackston, Statovci’s writing is slyly artful. By September 2001, Bujar is in New York, where a drag artist nicks the money he’s saved from 80-hour-weeks of pot washing; 9/11 isn’t mentioned, which only underlines Bujar’s position on the margins. Next to nothing is said about his sister, who goes missing before he leaves Tirana. Bujar later admits he “consciously avoids” the likelihood that she’s fallen victim to people traffickers...Added complexity comes from how his time-hopping casts doubt over quite how he got to Italy in the first place. That question keeps you reading even when you feel daunted by his gruelling narrative. The answer is a shock, but one that befits the harsh perspective on show in this cruel odyssey.
Crossing finds new ways of bringing the question of who belongs, and who is cast out, to an exquisitely painful point. This is an archetypal human issue we must all face in this century, if not individually then as communities. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The brutal beauty of Crossing comes from its almost cellular understanding of belonging and exclusion, love and cruelty. It is a powerful phoenix of a book that rises from the ashes of the previous century. It speaks to the sins of the fathers, which the children must transcend by crossing to the other side – or perish.