Free is a fascinating memoir told by Le Ypi, who grew up in Albania during the 80s. There she learned about the history of her country, socialism, and soviet-style communism from teachers, friends, and community members who either believed in the state’s propaganda or had to pretend to believe in it. The community and educational system held Soviet-style communism in high regard in the educational system, and Ypi grew up waiting for a revolution that would bring about the arrival of “true” communism and not the “communism lite” that Enver Hoxha and his regime set up after WW2.
When my father spoke of the revolution in general, he got as excited as my grandmother did when she spoke about the French Revolution in particular. In my family, everyone had a favorite revolution, just as everyone had a favourite summer fruit. My mother’s favourite fruit was watermelon, and her favourite revolution was the English one. Mine were figs and Russian. My father emphasized that he was sympathetic to all our revolutions, but his favourite was the one that had yet to take place. As to his favourite, it was quince–but it could choke you when it wasn’t fully ripe, so he was often reluctant to indulge. Dates were my grandmother’s favourite fruit; they were hard to find, but she had enjoyed them when she was little. Her favourite revolution was, of course, the French one, and this annoyed my father to no end. “The French Revolution has achieved nothing,” he said now. “Some people are still extremely rich and make all the decisions, and others are very poor and can’t change their lives.” He shook his head. “They are trapped, like this fly,” he went on, pointing at a fly buzzing noisily against the glass in our kitchen window. Then he thought some more about it and added something he always added, as if it had only just occurred to him, even though he said it every time to explain why his favourite revolution did not exist: “Just look at the world, Brigatista, look at the world.
Currently, Dr. Ypi is a Professor of Political Theory at the London School of Economics and an Associate Professor in Philosophy at the Australian National University, with many academic books to her credit. She clearly points out that “Free” is not a scholarly account of the period or events but her perspective as a child and young woman. I found it a thought-provoking narrative that weaves together the political history and personal biography of a young person in a complex society.