In This Review
Free: A Child and a Country at the End  of History

Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History

By Lea Ypi

Norton, 2022, 288 pp.

This prize-winning memoir recounts with wit, charm, and wisdom the author’s life before and after the fall of communism in Albania. Now a professor of political philosophy at the London School of Economics, she recalls her early youth in that hermetically sealed tyranny, when she embraced the cult of personality established by the country’s idiosyncratic despot, Enver Hoxha. It was a place where all truths were lies, including the Muslim heritage and secret anticommunist history of her own family—yet for an 11-year-old, the country was safe and reassuring. She was disappointed and displaced by the fall of communism, only to have her hopes dashed again when, as in so many postcommunist states, liberal parties advocating free markets and democratic politics allowed their ideals to be corrupted by the kleptocratic temptations of privatization. The government encouraged citizens to invest in a pyramid scheme, triggering a revolt and eventually a civil war—a process in which her family, along with many others, lost everything. After years of disorientation, she left the country and began the long path to her current position. Drawing philosophical lessons from her experience, she dismisses both socialists who cling to utopian ideals and libertarians who espouse a minimal state, opting for a more moderate commitment to social democracy.