Modern Albania comes to terms with change in this complex
weaving of characters who cross the central square of
Tirana, Albania's capital. THE DEVIL I PAID FOR ADVICE is a
detailed, professionally translated novel which examines
the good and the bad that change has brought to people in
the Central European country.
Sharing borders with Greece and Italy, the small nation
boasts mountains and coastline, and its citizens often go
to work in Italy. Money has come to Tirana and
modernisation has wrought changes in communities. Jeta
Vojkollari examines intergenerational conflicts and
aspirations through her characters. Sabrina Arberia is a
psychotherapist who is fighting off the flab, while her
boyfriend Tom Xhoxha eyes up younger, bleached-blonde
girls. Other characters in Tirana include dominant
patriarchs, drug dealers, film makers and prostitutes.
Moza is a woman forced to work as a prostitute by a man who
has violently abused her. She sees a poster Sabrina has
placed to encourage women who are the victims of domestic
abuse to come forward and break the chain. Does Moza dare
to contact her? After all, how could her life get any
worse? This woman could be seen as a symbol of the people,
who have emerged from a dictatorship into a confusing
democracy. They still don't like finding out that a son is
gay, or that there are no jobs for architects. Having
endured hardships, they are finding the courage to step
forward into an increasingly brash and tawdry world, where
business, power and money are in the hands of men. Yet when
Sabrina earns the money in the family, her insecurity sees
her paying her user boyfriend's bills. Men unable to earn
feel valueless and become more controlling and angry. Yet
there are a few sympathetic folks who run groups to help
the homeless, who stop to help a child.
With scenes of mental and physical abuse, and some strong
language, Jeta Vojkollari is writing for adults. She says
that her work, while set in Albania, could have a universal
setting. Her stories of disparate characters are
confrontational and depict a society that has not matured,
suddenly without constraint and tragically without support
for the weak. I've read similar attitudes in memoirs of
Kosovan women, who never knew that men could behave in
responsible, kind ways until they came to America. The
men who came with them didn't seem to change. Domestic
abuse in any country, including as an inherited behaviour,
has to stop. Anyone working with survivors or those still
undergoing this abuse will find THE DEVIL I PAID FOR ADVICE
a fascinating read. And if it hits too close to home, seek
help. Life doesn't have to be this way.
What if your psychotherapist can’t even help herself?
Sabrina, a psychotherapist, has a convoluted relationship with her shallow boyfriend, Tom. The relationship has filled her with hate for all men and causes her to twist the advice to her clients while living her life vicariously through them. Her counselling sessions are ruthless and her advice nothing less than poisoned knives that lacerate each client’s soul.
In the turbulent post-communist capital of Albania, values have been contorted and the old ways lost. Decency lives side by side with manipulation and deceit; a fantasy life that blurs the distinction between glamour and reality, fiction and truth. In her difficult journey of self-discovery, Sabrina struggles to remain objective as a psychotherapist, often leading her clients dangerously astray.