Monday, 20 January 2014

Grjasnowa, Olga "All Russians Love Birch Trees"

Grjasnowa, Olga "All Russians Love Birch Trees" (German: Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt) - 2012 

I heard about this book on the German radio, a journalist (Christine Westermann) who talks about special books recommended it. I love her suggestions and I liked the title, so I wanted to read the book.

The protagonist is a young woman not unlike the author. She grew up in Azerbaijan and speaks several languages. So does Masha, our main character. She lives in Frankfurt with her boyfriend. After a tragedy, she goes to Israel where she tries to settle. Her home could be everywhere, yet, she finds it is nowhere. She has to come to terms with being from an immigrant family from the big Soviet Union, being Jewish and all that involves including her family's history both in Azerbaijan as well as in Germany, But she also describes the way she is treated in Germany, how her family lives there. Should be an interesting read for young people.

It is not the story as such that is so extraordinary, it's the sequence of events and the dreams of a woman, the search for happiness. A story well worth reading. That is probably the main reason why this has not just been translated into various other languages but that one of the languages is English.

A captivating story that I read in the original German.

From the back cover: (contains spoilers)

"Set in Frankfurt, All Russians Love Birch Trees follows a young immigrant named Masha. Fluent in five languages and able to get by in several others, Masha lives with her boyfriend, Elias. Her best friends are Muslims struggling to obtain residence permits, and her parents rarely leave the house except to compare gas prices. Masha has nearly completed her studies to become an interpreter, when suddenly Elias is hospitalized after a serious soccer injury and dies, forcing her to question a past that has haunted her for years. Olga Grjasnowa has a unique gift for seeing the funny side of even the most tragic situations. With cool irony, her debut novel tells the story of a headstrong young woman for whom the issue of origin and nationality is immaterial—her Jewish background has taught her she can survive anywhere. Yet Masha isn’t equipped to deal with grief, and this all-too-normal shortcoming gives a particularly bittersweet quality to her adventures."

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