UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Free: Coming of Age at the End of History

12 May 2022, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Book cover of Free by Lea Ypi

A seminar co-organised by the SSEES Southeast European Studies series and the Anglo-Albanian Association

This event is free.

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Please join us for a discussion with Professor Lea Ypi who will talk about her philosophical memoir "Free: Coming of Age at the End of History". This book provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the Ypi family in Enver Hoxha's Albania.

'I never asked myself about the meaning of freedom until the day I hugged Stalin. From close up, he was much taller than I expected.'

Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope.

Then, in December 1990, everything changed. The statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled. Almost overnight, people could vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished. There was no longer anything to fear from prying ears. But factories shut, jobs disappeared and thousands fled to Italy on crowded ships, only to be sent back. Predatory pyramid schemes eventually bankrupted the country, leading to violent conflict. As one generation's aspirations became another's disillusionment, and as her own family's secrets were revealed, Lea found herself questioning what freedom really meant.

Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.

Copies of "Free: Coming of Age at the End of History" will be available for sale at the event. The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

About the Speaker

Lea Ypi

Professor in Political Theory at London School of Economics and Political Science

Lea Ypi
Lea Ypi is Professor in Political Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Honorary Professor in Philosophy at the Australian National University. She is the author of Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency, The Meaning of Partisanship (with Jonathan White), The Architectonic of Reason, all published by Oxford University Press. Her latest book, a philosophical memoir entitled Free: Coming of Age at the End of History published by Penguin Press was recently shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize, the Costa Prize, the Ondaatje Prize and won the Slightly Foxed First Biography Award. It is being translated into twenty languages.